Los Angeles: LeBron James made a triumphant return to the court on Thursday, breathing new life into the floundering Los Angeles Lakers with a 123-120 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

James, who missed 17 games due to a groin injury, scored a team-high 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and delivered nine assists in his first NBA game since Christmas Day.

Showing no sign of the injury that resulted in the longest absence of his 16-year career, James played 40 minutes and scored the go-ahead basket with 1:15 left in overtime after the Lakers blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.

James called the 36-day absence some of the darkest days of his career.

“I worked to get back to this point,” James said. “It was the toughest stretch of my career not being out on the floor.”

James said he is at “80 per cent” fitness and will see how he feels. He played more than he expected with the game going into overtime.