LeBron James returned from a foot tendon injury to help the Los Angeles Lakers make a final push for the play-ins.
Although one doctor suggested “season-ending surgery”, the 38-year-old decided to finish the season on the court after getting a a third opinion from an unnamed foot specialist.
James returned to the Lakers on Sunday after a month-long absence with what he revealed was a significant tendon injury.
He wasn’t in the starting line-up for only the second time in his 20-year NBA career, but he still led the Lakers with 19 points in their 118-108 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
James also said his doctors told him that he was “healing faster than anybody they’ve seen before with the injury”.
One more factor contributed to his decision: James got a third opinion from an unnamed foot specialist.
“I went to the LeBron James of feet, and he told me I should [delay possible surgery],” James said, declining to name the doctor.
The NBA’s leading scorer hadn’t played since February 26, when he complained of right foot soreness after a win at Dallas.
James considered surgery after getting the sobering diagnosis, but his team-mates’ outstanding play down the stretch and his own inner determination contributed to his decision to keep playing.
“They go 8-5 and obviously had a chance to – the hell with the play-in, we actually can be a top-eight seed,” James said. “It definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this”.
“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.”
James returns with eight games left in the Lakers’ regular season as they attempt to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year and the third time in James’ five seasons in Los Angeles.
The Lakers provided few updates on James’ condition during his absence, and James kept the details of his recovery firmly under wraps on social media.
The 38-year-old said he doesn’t know whether he’ll need surgery after the season, but he expects to have an MRI exam after he’s done playing for the summer. He said he would be at full strength for training camp in the fall even if he has the surgery.
He’s now looking healthy at a key point for the Lakers, who could finally have their full roster available for the final games of the stretch run.
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