LeBron James’s disappointing first season as a Los Angeles Laker ended abruptly on Saturday when the team announced that it would hold him out of its final six games as a health precaution.
James, 34, had said on numerous occasions since the Lakers’ elimination from the playoffs on March 22 that he hoped to play the rest of the schedule. But the Lakers decided to shut him down after James posted 27 points, 9 assists and 3 rebounds Friday night in a victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season,” the Lakers said in a statement distributed on Saturday afternoon.
“This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”
After Friday night’s victory, which nudged the Lakers’ home winning streak to three, James told reporters: “After the game, I said we picked a hell of a time to have a good rhythm. But at the end of the day, we’re having fun. We’re playing the way we wanted to play all year.”
Little has gone right for the Lakers this season. Amid much fanfare, James announced on the first night of free agency last summer that he was leaving his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time to sign with the Lakers. His first season in Hollywood, however, was marred by injury and various dramas, with James ultimately missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, his second season in the N.B.A.
The strained left groin James sustained in the third quarter of a rousing Christmas Day victory over the Golden State Warriors caused him to miss 17 consecutive games and 18 of the next 19. No injury had ever sidelined the ultradurable forward for longer than the eight games James lost to a back ailment during the 2014-15 season.
James thus ends his debut season as a Laker with just 55 of a possible 82 games played. His previous single-season low was 62 games — but that was in lockout-shortened 2010-11, a season that lasted just 66 games.
The Lakers were 28-27 this season with James in uniform but 6-15 without him. He averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists and moved into fourth in career scoring — ahead of Michael Jordan — with 32,543 points.
James sits 1,111 points shy of passing Kobe Bryant, one of the most popular Lakers ever, for third place behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928).