By Rob Lep
LeBron James is great. No, LeBron James is more than great. Other than Michael Jordan, the argument cannot be rationally made for anyone to have ever played the game of basketball better. He’s the GOAT or the GOAT #2.
He’s a 3x NBA Champion, 4x NBA MVP and 15x NBA All-Star among many other achievements. I don’t need statistics to prove to you how amazing he is. You already know that.
Here comes the BUT!
James is more than just a basketball player. He runs the show: both on and off the court. Player personnel. Coaching staff. Plays during games. TV shows and movies. Mr. Hollywood.
He flexed his GM muscles with Paul Silas, Mike Brown and David Blatt in Cleveland, ending with all of them being fired as his head coach. The same will be done with current Lakers head coach Luke Walton this summer if not before the end of the season.
He orchestrated the 2014 trade of Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love to put the Cavs in a position to win immediately.
This year, he wanted to do the same with Anthony Davis, along with GM Magic Johnson basically putting the entire Lakers roster on the trade block in a deal to get him. A la carte. Buffet. Take your pick.
Back in 2015, tied at 84-84 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Chicago Bulls, LeBron even changed Blatt’s final play call that wouldn’t give him the final shot. “Give me the ball” was his quote during the postgame press conference. We all laughed about it.
The Lakers (31-39) are currently 11th place in the Western Conference. They’ve lost eight of their last nine. They have a better chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft than grabbing the final playoff spot in the West. LeBron “activated” playoff mode two months early this year. They still can’t win games.
James just had the worst quarter of his entire career - missing 11 shots in the fourth quarter of a 124-123 loss to the New York Knicks at MSG Sunday afternoon.
He had his potential game winning shot blocked by Knicks forward Mario Hezonja as the clock expired. Yes, the fricken Knicks. The worst team in the NBA. A 5-40 record in their last 45 games. Hezonja stared down LeBron after the win and shouted “This is my city!”
When asked after the game, James compared the Lakers to the Knicks. Because that’s exactly what everyone expected coming into the year.
“What's the difference between their record and our record? Two teams out of the postseason,” James said. “So there's no difference. We have a couple more wins than them, but both teams right now are on the outside looking in, so it's not much of a difference."
The Lakers lost to the worst team in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns back on March 2. You know, the team that is TRYING to lose. Two weeks before that, they lost to the Pelicans WITHOUT Anthony Davis, the player who started this whole mess in the first place.
Before these trade rumors, the Lakers were looking like a playoff team. Before LeBron’s Christmas Day groin injury, they were a top four seed in the Western Conference. LeBron and the young Lakers with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram were must see TV.
Now, James has lost that locker room. They don’t want to play with him. It’s only fair. Not only do these young players get to suit up for the Lakers, along with the Celtics the most successful organization in NBA history: they get to play with James, who many of them grew up idolizing. What did they get in return? Your idol wants to ship you off to New Orleans to play for a bottom dweller. The entire world knew about it too.
Maybe James has overplayed his hand here. Between his decision making on all team matters, his various business ventures outside of basketball and never really buying in to his head coach and teammates this season, LeBron hasn’t focused on the most important thing: winning basketball games.
Do we dare ask: could it possibly be the inevitable decline of the NBA’s king? His points, assists and rebounds are basically the same as last year. The eye test states otherwise. James looks tired. He’s lost a step. Can’t quite turn the switch on like he has in the past. He also looks uninterested. Checked out. Just wants this season to be over. Talking about free agency after losses.
Coming into 2018-19, James had been to eight consecutive NBA finals and 14 straight playoff appearances. That will come to an end in May. As will another year of his James’ prime. He turned 34 in December.
Movies. TV Shows. Music. Other non-basketball business ventures. All things that can be done when he ultimately calls it a career. Or when he’s sitting on the couch for two months in May and June watching Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third consecutive season.
Your move, King James...