A mysterious swollen right elbow might fuel LeBron James to the best shooting season of his 15-year NBA career.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star is currently shooting 61.4 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three and 88.2 percent from the free-throw line to begin the 2017-2018 campaign. For his career, James has averaged 50.1 percent from the field, 34.2 percent from deep and 74 percent at the free-throw line. So yeah, LeBron is on fire.
But there might be something more to his improved shooting than a simple hot streak. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Finals, James began experiencing swelling in his shooting elbow. It eventually reached the size of a tennis ball, and LeBron wisely chose to get X-rays and an MRI to see if there was any structural damage. There was not, so—LeBron being the machine he is—he elected to just continue working out.
He naturally began using a higher release during his daily shooting drills, since the motion minimized discomfort in his elbow. To his surprise, James found that the motion also resulted in better shooting percentages from all parts of the floor. The elbow swelling eventually subsided, but LeBron kept the higher release.
"I shoot it higher," James told ESPN. "When the swelling went down I just continued to do the same motion, the same motion. My free throws, my 3s, my pull-ups, all that." Take a look at his new form in this recent clip:
Cavaliers shooting guard Kyle Korver has taken note of LeBron's new stroke. "His hand is real strong on the ball and his form is more compact than it's ever been before," Korver told ESPN. "So it's just much more compact and strong than I've seen from him on a consistent basis."
While his numbers will likely cool off a bit over time, James is determined to keep his free-throw percentage above 80 percent. The highest free-throw percentage he's managed over a full season is 78 percent. During the 2017 NBA Finals, he shot 64.9 percent from the charity stripe. Compared to all the other superhuman aspects of LeBron's game, free-throw shooting might be his biggest weakness.
"I want to shoot 80 (percent) from the free-throw line, man," James told ESPN. "That's my only goal. That's my last goal of my NBA career. That's my last one. I've done everything else.