LeBron James is arguably the greatest of all time. He’s a three-time NBA champion, and he’s fourth all-time in scoring and tenth in assists. There are multiple career-defining moments for James. A lot of people forgot when he scored twenty-five straight points against the Pistons in the 2007 playoffs. He led the Miami Heat on a 28 game winning streak. James led the Cavaliers to a championship against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors despite being down 3-1 against the first-ever unanimous NBA MVP.
James is entering his 17th year. If he’s able to lead this team to a title, it should be there with his greatest accomplishments. This is a better team than any he’s been a part of during his first tenure in Cleveland. But, he isn’t that same dominant player. The circumstances in which the team was built were not ideal either.
The way the off-season transpired put the Lakers in a difficult spot, and it’s stacked the odds against James that would make success that much more impressive. What I mean by that is: nearly everything that could have gone wrong did. Bringing a championship to LA under these circumstances may further cement his standing as the greatest of all time.
Anthony Davis’s acquisition should be celebrated. Laker fans are rightfully excited about bringing in the Chicago native to pair him in the frontcourt with James. But, if you recall, there was a proclamation from Magic Johnson that the Lakers would bring in two stars and retain the young core. The Lakers got their two stars, but the acquisition of one of those stars cost them most of their team. Kyle Kuzma is a player that will be able to contribute but to say he is better than Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball would be kidding yourself.
There was a real possibility of Ty Lue being the head coach with Frank Vogel being an assistant to help with the defensive side of things. The negotiations fell through with Lue, Vogel became head coach, and ever-threatening presence of Jason Kidd is around for some reason (it’s to recruit Giannis. That’s the reason). Kidd’s reputation of a bad coach and shady past should have deterred the Lakers but he seems to be around for everything. Lue would eventually find himself in Los Angeles, just with the Lakers cross-hallway rivals.
Free agency did not pan out the way the Lakers wanted either. The 2019 free agency class had a slew of talent. They had their sights set for Kawhi Leonard, and for some time it looked like he might have joined the Lakers. But we know how the story goes. Paul George ends up on the Clippers and everything changes. This is just one summer after choosing to not play with James in the purple and gold. Each day passed with the Lakers waiting on Leonard and more free agents coming off the market.
One of the free agents they did sign tore his ACL. This led to the return for NBA want-away, Dwight Howard.
This is the year following James’ first major injury. The groin tear on Christmas Day led to a career-low 55 games played in the regular season. His body is showing signs of 16 years in the NBA. This injury is a manifestation of his time in the league dwindling.
James still averages 27 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists through those 55 games he played. The “what-ifs” will remain if that team stayed healthy. He still showed that he is still LeBron James even if he is not reaching the heights he had during his peak with Miami.
Many are wondering: is he still as good as advertised? Is it time to crown another player as the best on the planet? Can he still play defense? Many fans are wondering: is his career done?
LeBron James has faced skepticism from basketball fans since signing in July 2018. The NBA is as wide open as it has ever been. Things have poorly for the Lakers the past few months as stated above. There will be load management. The Western Conference is as tough as it has ever been. In spite of this, James can prove everyone wrong in his 17th year.
If he can bring number 17 to the Lakers against all odds, it could be his crowning achievement.