LeBron James said he visited the “LeBron James of feet” to evaluate his injury – and now he’s back on the court.
The 38-year-old had missed 13 games and four weeks of action after tearing a tendon in his right foot on February 26 against the Dallas Mavericks.
But James returned to competitive action on Sunday night, scoring 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench in a 118-108 home loss to the Chicago Bulls.
And he revealed afterwards that he was advised by two doctors to have season-ending surgery on the injury, before he saw his namesake in the world of podiatry.
“I went to the LeBron James of feet, and he told me I should (delay possible surgery),” James told the media, choosing not to name the doctor.
James said the doctor said he was “healing faster than anybody they’ve seen before with the injury.”
He was non-committal about having foot surgery during the offseason.
James said the team’s success in his absence – the Lakers went 8-5 without the four-time NBA champion – inspired him to put in long days of rehab to work towards a return to the court.
“It definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this,” he explained, saying he was working 12 hours a day to get over the injury.
“Well, I don’t even want to say (it) changed my mindset. It just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything. They played such great basketball. I was just ecstatic, from me being in a boot to me getting out of the boot, you guys saw me on the sideline, just so happy about what the guys are doing.”
It was just the second time in his 20-year career that James came off the bench to appear in an NBA game – the other coming on December 11, 2007.
He finished with eight rebounds, three assists and five turnovers to go with his 19 points and admitted afterwards that it will take him some time to fully get back up to speed.
Arguably the most memorable moment from James’ return came with 1:12 remaining when former Laker Patrick Beverley hit a jump hook to extend the Bulls’ lead.
Beverley made a gesture which has commonly associated with players calling opponents “too small” and slapped the floor in celebration. “I was just playing basketball,” Beverley said afterwards. “Obviously, it’s good to see some old teammates, old coaching staff.”
The Lakers fell into a big deficit on Sunday night against the Bulls and, despite their best efforts, were unable to complete a comeback.
Zach LaVine led the way for the Bulls with 32 points, with Demar DeRozan adding 17 points and 10 assists.
Following Sunday’s game, the Lakers have seven games remaining in the season to book themselves a ticket to the postseason.
They sit ninth in a congested Western Conference, one and a half games outside of sixth position – and an automatic playoff spot – but one game from falling out of the play-in tournament all together.
If the Lakers were to miss the playoffs, it would be for the second consecutive season and the third time in James’ five years in California.