LeBron James and the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar becoming the NBA's all-time scoring leader excites current recordholder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Abdul-Jabbar sits atop the throne for most points in the NBA with 38,387 following a Hall of Fame career that featured six championships, six MVP awards and 19 All-Star selections among other honours during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers.

James (35,367) is third on the all-time list entering his 19th season, behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar – the four-time champion and four-time MVP still needs 3,020 points to break the record.

Abdul-Jabbar, who spent 14 years with the Lakers from 1975 to 1989 before returning as an assistant coach between 2005 and 2011, was asked about James' pursuit of history.

"I'm excited to see it happen," Abdul-Jabbar, 74, told Marc Stein in his substack newsletter. "I don't see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements.

"If one person can do something that's never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It's a source of hope and inspiration.

"Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less.

"We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on."

James and the Lakers were unable to defend their NBA title in 2020-21 as they crashed out in the first round of the playoffs.

The 36-year-old James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last season.

James' field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

A whirlwind day last Friday saw Manchester United reach an agreement with Juventus to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club.

The deal was confirmed just hours after it had looked likely the Portugal star would be heading to Premier League champions Manchester City instead.

According to reports, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged the club to enter the race when it began to seem inevitable Ronaldo would head to the Etihad Stadium. Contact from Bruno Fernandes, Rio Ferdinand and even Alex Ferguson helped persuade Ronaldo that a return to Manchester could mean only one thing.

It all made for a short-lived but extraordinary transfer saga that ended with United re-signing a player who made history with the club between 2003 and 2009, winning three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Here, Stats Perform looks at some other deals that caused a shock in the sporting world...

 

Lionel Messi: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2021

In the most sensational free transfer of all time, PSG again laid down a marker to the football world with the signing of Lionel Messi on a two-year contract. Just as he looked to sign a new Barcelona contract, the club informed him that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous deal expired in June. A tearful Messi said farewell to the only club he had ever played for before heading to the fanfare of Paris and a reunion with Neymar.

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out.

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move.

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers did not mount much of a title defence last season, but he is already working with one of their high-profile reinforcements as they prepare to try to regain the crown in 2021-22.

James and the Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Phoenix Suns having defeated the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament.

They rarely looked a threat to defend the Larry O'Brien Trophy, with an injury-hindered season for James not aiding their cause, but the Lakers responded to last season's disappointment by making a number of major additions.

Westbrook's acquisition via a five-team trade was the one that grabbed the headlines, the former MVP arriving after a hugely productive season with the Washington Wizards.

He finished tied with MVP Nikola Jokic for the league lead with 45.5 combined points, assists and rebounds per game.

Westbrook and James are already focused on developing their connection, with LeBron sharing photos of the two working out together on Instagram.

James is entering his 19th season in the NBA and, in addition to a fifth title, will have his sights set on surpassing 36,000 career points and moving closer to Karl Malone, who occupies second on the all-time list.

LeBron has 35,367 to his name, 1,561 shy of two-time MVP Malone on 36,928. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the standings with 38,387.

After 13 NBA seasons, Russell Westbrook finally made it home Tuesday. 

The nine-time All-Star fulfilled a childhood dream in joining the Los Angeles Lakers after a trade from the Washington Wizards. 

The 32-year-old was born in nearby Long Beach and grew up a fan of the team, but admitted he was not sure he would get the chance. 

“Being from LA, you always wish that you could play for your home team,” Westbrook said at his introductory news conference. 

“That’s definitely something that always circled around in my mind. Maybe one day? But I always would come back and be like, ‘Ah, that probably won’t happen.’ I just had to wait and see.

"But now that we’re here, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

Considering who he will be playing alongside, there's every reason to believe he will. 

Westbrook joins LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a remade Lakers team that will also feature Carmelo Anthony – an impressive array of star power even for a franchise long associated with glamour. 

After averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons, Westbrook knows he will not have to focus as much on scoring as he has in the past. 

Likewise, his arrival will take some of the ball-handling and distribution load from James, ideally freeing him up on the offensive end. 

"I'm coming to a championship-caliber team and my job is to make sure that I'm able to make his game easy for [James]," Westbrook said. "I'll find ways to do that throughout the game."

That philosophy does not stop with helping the already exalted James elevate his game, either. 

Westbrook is already excited to get in the gym with a group of incoming veterans including Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza and Kent Bazemore.

“The roster is great,” Westbrook said. “A bunch of guys that I’ve already known previously, which is even better.

"As I come into the season, I’m always looking at the roster and figuring out how I can make other guys better, simple as that.

"I want to be able to leave an impact on people when they either play with me or come across me, and I’ll find ways to do that with our roster. I’m really looking forward to getting together with all the guys and figuring it out.”

Paris Saint-Germain have once again rocked the world of sport after they confirmed the signing of Lionel Messi.

As bizarre as that may look written down, the deal is complete with the Argentina forward signing a two-year deal following his Barcelona departure.

Barca announced last Thursday that their dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions after his previous contract expired in June. He had spent his entire career at Camp Nou.

But the Parc des Princes now beckons and he will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

It's with the Brazilian where Stats Perform starts in this look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world.

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of French domestic football but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and then failed to inspire the team in the 2021 semis as Manchester City knocked them out. But maybe Messi will be the final piece of the puzzle...

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and instantly guided them to glory, leading the Buccaneers to the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy with a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Russell Westbrook is preparing for life on a fourth different team in as many years, with LeBron James welcoming his new running mate to the Los Angeles Lakers following a blockbuster trade.

The Lakers overshadowed the NBA Draft by completing a deal to get Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, who receive Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in return.

The Wizards also got the 22nd pick in Thursday's first round – Isaiah Jackson was taken at that slot, then traded to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for point guard Aaron Holiday – while the Lakers gained two second-round selections in future drafts, according to reports.

For Westbrook, it means yet another fresh start. The 32-year-old ended his long association with the Oklahoma City Thunder when reuniting with James Harden at the Houston Rockets in 2019, only to then leave for Washington a year later.

Despite only spending one season with the Wizards, Westbrook declared his appreciation for all connected with the franchise in an Instagram post after news of the deal had emerged.

"Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one," he wrote.

"Everyone from the front office to the training staff, the coaches, my team-mates, and the fans. I’m grateful y'all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.

"I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organisation. It didn't take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organisation. Thank you."

LeBron, meanwhile, used his Instagram account to put up a picture of himself and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis standing either side of the team's latest recruit, along with the caption "Brodie", which is Westbrook's nickname.

The addition is a move aimed at getting the 2019-20 NBA champions back into contention. The title defence did not go to plan last term, long-term injuries to their two stars leading to a struggle just to make the postseason. While they did qualify, the holders were knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

As for Westbrook, his year with the Wizards included a key role in a late charge to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, though they were beaten 4-1 in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, after which it was announced head coach Scott Brooks would be leaving his role.

Westbrook had broken an NBA record that had stood for 47 years during the regular season, moving beyond Oscar Robertson to top the list for career triple-double games.

He led the league for assists with 11.7 per game, as well as shooting 31.5 per cent from three-point range - his best return from deep sine the 2016-17 season. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into the Lakers' current roster, though it remains to be seen if they are finished making offseason moves just yet, considering free agency is around the corner.

There was speculation L.A. were also in negotiations to bring in Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old would add some much-needed outside scoring, seen as he is a career 40.6 per cent shooter from deep.

The Lakers finished at 35.4 per cent as a team from three-point range, ranking them 21st in the entire league. Caldwell-Pope was one of their more successful players when it came to taking aim from distance, finishing up at 41.0 per cent, but he has been moved on in order to add a new playmaking presence.

Westbrook, who is from California and played at UCLA during his college career, will earn $44.2million in 2021-22, then has a player option worth $47m for the following year.

LeBron James' days of representing his country in the Olympics likely are finished. 

Jerry Colangelo, long-time USA Basketball managing director, told ESPN he does not expect the Los Angeles Lakers star to compete in the Games again. 

James opted out of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after skipping Rio five years ago. 

He will be 39-years-old for the next Summer Games in Paris, and Colangelo said he does not expect the NBA legend to return to international duty. 

"You know, Father Time takes its toll," Colangelo told ESPN on Wednesday. "If you're a human being, your body is built to go so long depending on what your sport is, and then it's a downhill situation.

"LeBron made choices these last couple of Olympics not to participate because he's got a lot of things going on in his life.

"So he put in his time, he made a contribution that is appreciated, but I think his time is over."

James previously helped Team USA to gold medals in the London and Beijing Olympics and bronze in Athens. 

With James and numerous other NBA stars skipping the Games this summer, head coach Gregg Popovich's 12-player squad for Tokyo will feature only three returning Olympians: Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Kevin Love. 

 

Kevin Durant fired back at Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen's criticism following the Brooklyn Nets' Eastern Conference semi-finals exit in the NBA playoffs.

Chicago Bulls great and six-time NBA champion Pippen gave a blunt assessment of superstar Durant, who was unable to guide the Nets to the Conference Finals.

Durant averaged a career-high 34.3 points, a career-best 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in this season's playoffs, but the second-seeded Nets fell to the Milwaukee Bucks after overtime in Game 7 in the second round.

His 48 points in the series decider were the most scored in a Game 7 in NBA history, but that did not spare him of criticism from Pippen – who referenced Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

"He needs to learn how to utilise his teams," Pippen, who played alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago, told GQ. "He has to learn how to set up his team-mates to be better. That's it. As great as he is, there's a [cap] to his [talent].

"He could've easily made that three, killed them in regulation, and we wouldn't have been talking about this. But I knew going into overtime, he wasn't gonna make it. He was taking all the shots. You done played the whole game, bro! And they've got guys physically wearing you down. You gonna lose."

Pippen added: "KD can score better than LeBron, probably always have been able to. But has he surpassed LeBron? Naw. He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilising his team. You see what I'm saying?

"LeBron James would've figured out how to beat them and he wouldn't have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot. But LeBron ain't KD, and KD ain't LeBron. KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn't have what LeBron has."

Durant, who shouldered the load in the Nets-Bucks series as James Harden struggled with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving missed time due to an ankle problem, called out Pippen on social media.

A two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP and 2014 NBA MVP, Durant wrote via Twitter: "Didn't the great Scottie Pippen refuse to go in the game for the last second shot because he was in his feelings his coach drew up the play for a better shooter??

"This guy Scott also wanted to enjoy his summer so he chose to rehab during the season lol yo @ScottiePippen THEY FOLLOWED PHIL [JACKSON], NOT YOU!!!"

LeBron James will move away from his famous number 23 jersey in 2020-21 to again wear the number six, as he did with the Miami Heat.

NBA great James has long been synonymous with the number 23, wearing the jersey in two spells with the Cleveland Cavaliers and now with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But he was the Heat's number six between 2010 and 2014, a hugely successful stretch.

James was a two-time champion, two-time MVP and two-time Finals MVP in Miami, averaging 26.9 points per game over this period – second only to Kevin Durant (29.0).

Notably, James will also wear six for the 'Tune Squad' in upcoming film 'Space Jam: A New Legacy'.

The 36-year-old reportedly intended to change shirts when Anthony Davis – 23 with the New Orleans Pelicans – moved to the team in 2019 but ran into complications. Davis is set to keep his new three jersey.

James was restricted to 45 games – the fewest of his career – in 2020-21 due to injury, while Davis played only 36 games in another career low.

Former Heat superstar James has ruled himself out of the Tokyo Olympics, preferring instead to promote his film after a gruelling season.

The Los Angeles Lakers will strive to keep the core of their roster together for next season after fluffing their lines in this year's playoffs. 

Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka pledged the team would come back ready to fight for the championship after suffering a 4-2 series loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Thursday's 113-100 home defeat sealed the Lakers' fate, with their hopes dealt a blow when Anthony Davis' comeback from a groin injury lasted only five minutes.

The Lakers were 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000 but the Suns blew them away with a 36-14 opening quarter on the road.

Phoenix carried a 60-41 advantage into half-time and while LeBron James tried to spark a Lakers rally with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, it was not enough.

However, far from going back to the drawing board, the 17-time NBA champions want next season to be business as usual, with a largely familiar-looking roster to call upon.

"I think when you fall short of the goal that you set, it has to drive you," said Pelinka.

"It has to be the fuel that drives your passion, and I think us falling short as a team, that in some sense is going to be part of our motivation and putting in the work to getting back at it, and start training camp next year with a strong roster.

"I'm convinced that, again, without some of the unforeseen circumstances this year, the challenges that we had to face, that we'd be a championship-calibre team.

"So the goal is to try to keep that core group together."

The franchise already has over $100 million earmarked for James, Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma next season, but Pelinka is confident that other star talents will be retained.

"Jeanie [Buss] and the ownership group has empowered the front office to do one thing and that's to smartly build a roster to win championships," he said.

"I think next year, of course, hopefully, with all of our fans being able to come back and be a part of the building, we owe them the work to start the process of retooling and have a championship-calibre team that can do special things next year.

"That's the driving passion and there's alignment there between Jeanie, the front office, the coaches. That will always be the goal.

"We have an insatiable desire and passion to bring banner number 18 here."

LeBron James has ruled himself out of competing for the United States at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

The 36-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star has represented his country at three Olympics, but he did not feature at Rio 2016. 

Earlier this year James had suggested he was considering playing for the USA in Tokyo.

However, following the Lakers' first-round playoff series defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, he said he would instead spend the next few months promoting his new movie 'Space Jam: A New Legacy', which is scheduled to open in July. 

Asked if the Olympics were a possibility for him, James said: "Nah, I think I'm gonna play for the Tune Squad [the name of the team in the film] this summer instead of the Olympics.

"I think that's what my focus is on, on trying to beat the Monstars – or the Goon Squad we call them now.

"I didn't have much success versus the Suns, so now I am gearing my attention to the Goon Squad here in July, in mid-July.

"So I'm going to let the ankle rest for about a month and then I'm going to gear up with Lola, Taz, Granny, Bugs and the rest of the crew. So, hopefully I'll see you all at the match."

Asked how the Lakers' early exit – the first time James has been on a losing side in a first-round playoff series in his NBA career – would benefit his body, he said: "It's going to work wonders for me. Obviously during the season I don't talk about rest, I don't even like to put my mind in that frame, it makes me weak.

"But in the off-season I've got an opportunity to rest. I've got like three months to recalibrate, get my ankle back to 100 per cent, where it was before that Atlanta game.

"That's the most important thing for me. Everything else feels extremely well. My ankle was the only thing that was bothering me in the latter stages of the season.

"It never fully got back to before the injury. But I'm happy I was able to go out there and at least try to help our team win."

LeBron James paid tribute to the improvement and maturity shown by Devin Booker after he was beaten in a first-round playoff series for the first time in his NBA career.

The Los Angeles Lakers saw their hopes of repeating as NBA champions ended as they lost 113-100 in Game 6 to the Phoenix Suns, who progress with a 4-2 triumph.

Anthony Davis had to leave the court after only five minutes of his return from a groin injury as Booker produced a stunning performance to finish with 47 points for the Suns.

By the end of the first quarter, Booker had 22 points and had converted all six of his three-pointers, eventually finishing 8-of-10 from behind the arc.

His 47 points, recorded in 46 minutes, were the most to eliminate a defending champion team on their home court in NBA postseason history. 

The surging Suns also won Game 5 by 30 points and led this one by 29 in the first half before James - who had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists - helped to make the score more respectable.

But his amazing 14-0 steak in the first round of the playoffs was brought to an emphatic halt and all the plaudits went to Booker.

"I love everything about D-Book," said James. "I've had numerous conversations with him in the past. He continues to make the jump.

"When you want to be great in this league, and as Kobe told him, if you want to be legendary in this game you've got to continue to improve, not only your game but you as a man.

"You have to improve everything, both on and off the floor. And all the conversations we have had over the years, I can tell he's soaked them up and is using them to his advantage.

"Everyone sees what he's able to do on the floor right now, but I think his maturity, him as a young man, is what I'm most impressed about. So I love everything about Book."

Getting himself and the rest of the Lakers team back to full fitness was a bigger concern to James than the end of his playoff streak.

Reflecting on the Lakers' exit, he added: "The season started so fast after leaving the bubble, obviously. 

"I was talking to [Wes Matthews] in the locker room just a few minutes ago, and I said the one thing that bothers me more than anything - we never really got an opportunity to see our full team at full strength, either because of injury or COVID.

"We could never fully get into a rhythm and never really kinda see the full potential of what we're capable of. Listen, as I tell you all throughout the season, every season is different, every challenge is different.

"But they [the Suns] were excellent throughout the series, all of them. Much respect.

"To be able to put myself where I can even have accomplishments – to either be broken or to be able to continue it – it's all though the grace of the man above and me just putting a lot of hard work in, having great team-mates, having great coaching staff, things of that nature.

"So records – if that's a record – they’re always meant to be broken.

"So in that fashion it doesn’t matter to me in so far as not making it out of the first round, what matters to me is getting this team back healthy.

"Me not being able to be at my full strength throughout this series, that’s my main focus. But time to readjust and think about what the off-season has in store."

Past discussions between Booker and late Lakers great Kobe Bryant - also referenced by James - were firmly on the mind of the Suns' star guard after his impressive display.

"Honestly, I was thinking about Kobe and the conversations we had," Booker said.

"About what we went through, and the postseason, and being legendary and taking the steps to get there.

"Seeing that 8 and 24 up there, with the lighting Staples has, it's like it was shining down on you. I know he was here and I know he was proud."

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