LeBron James is out of the game for the Los Angeles Lakers following a painful ankle injury during Saturday’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.
James, 36, screamed out in agony after Hawks forward Solomon Hill smashed into James’ right ankle while attempting to steal the ball. The playback of the incident shows James’ ankle rolled over inward before he hit the ground and crawled off the court.
The 4-time NBA champion attempted to stay in the game following the awful injury — even hitting a three-pointer — but a timeout was called on his behalf before he officially exited the game. As he walked toward the locker room, a frustrated James was seen knocking over a chair.
According to ESPN, James underwent X-rays and an MRI on his ankle before he was declared out of the game indefinitely. The Lakers went on to lose against the Hawks 99-94.
James’ teammate Kyle Kuzma spoke of the 18-year basketball veteran’s obvious anguish following the on-court collision, saying “I haven’t necessarily seen him scream and scowl like that probably ever.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of James’ mood after the injury: “I won’t disclose what any mood of LeBron was like internally … it’s in-house.”
Other teammates took issue with the Hawks’ Hill for his involvement in the play.
“A guy dove for a loose ball, took his leg out from up under him,” said Lakers center Montrezl Harrell. “I really don’t feel like it was one of those loose-ball plays. He had to go through his leg to get the ball, man. He was turned sideways. The ball was behind him. I mean, you’re jumping at an angle, going across this way, I mean, I don’t know how you feel that’s a loose ball.”
“That’s an unnecessary play to dive in the leg like that,” said point guard Dennis Schroder.
Hill responded to the criticisms that came his way, tweeting he “would never disrespect the game and take a player out purposely… he knows that. that’s all that matters to me. praying for a speedy recovery.”
James also took to social media to address the fans after the disappointing outcome and projected an optimistic tone.
“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates!” he tweeted. “I’m hurt inside and out right now. The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”
Despite his current fate, James reportedly still traveled with the Lakers to their next on-the-road game in Phoenix, where they will play against the Suns on Sunday. Teammates expressed confidence in James’ ability to bounce back from his unfortunate injury.
“He’s bounced back before and he will in a couple of days,” said Schroder. “So, I’m not worried.”
Harrell echoed those sentiments. “This guy is a pro, man. I don’t think it’s going to set him back too much, but he is human, man,” he said.
The LA Lakers are currently the defending NBA champions. James’ ousting comes after another Lakers star, Anthony Davis, missed 14 games and counting due to a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg. Lakers center Marc Gasol also missed the past seven games due to COVID-19 protocols, but has been cleared to return.
Despite two of their star players now on the injury list, Lakers coach Vogel expressed faith in the team’s ability to still score wins.
“We have enough offensive firepower and we have a defensive mentality with our group so to me, we have enough to win,” he said.
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