The Beginning Of The End Of LeBron James?

LeBron James Soars For A Dunk. Photo Credit: Dan Fornal | Under Creative Commons License
LeBron James Soars For A Dunk. Photo Credit: Dan Fornal | Under Creative Commons License

Los Angeles Lakers superstar forward LeBron James was recently convinced by head coach Luke Walton and the training staff to shut down for the season with six games remaining. Having suffered a groin injury during the 2018 Christmas Day game, James missed the next 17 games recovering.

When James returned from this injury, the Lakers were again hit with the injury bug, as both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram suffered injuries which led to their being shut down for the season.

LeBron’s season comes to a close with the following stat tally: 55 games played, averages of 27.4 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 8.3 assists per game, 51% field goal percentage, 33.9% three-point field goal percentage, 66.5% free throw percentage and a player efficiency rating of 25.7.

Undoubtedly impressive numbers for sure. However, given the length of his injury recovery, in addition to the Lakers missing the postseason for the sixth consecutive year, there are/will be many that will consider this season a failure, impressive numbers be damned.

With James completing his 16th season, there are those of the opinion that we may be witnessing his decline. James’ accomplishments include three Finals MVP trophies, three All-Star game MVP’s while being selected to 15 All-Star games, four MVP trophies, 14 All-NBA teams, six All-Defensive teams, 2003-04 NBA Rookie of the year, 2007-08 scoring champion, not to mention two Olympic Gold medals.

Quite an extraordinary list of achievements for one person to have to his credit and James has them all. The previous list doesn’t mention the fact that he has ascended up the all-time career scoring and assist lists, and is presently in fourth place in points scored with 32,543 (and counting) along with 8,880 assists (and counting), good for tenth place, making him the only player in NBA history to rank in the top 10 in each category.

With the tremendously high standards that he has set, there are those that feel as if James can/should have done more to get the Lakers to the postseason. The 2007 NBA Finals matched James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against the San Antonio Spurs, which proved to be quite the mismatch. LeBron was able to lead a cast of teammates consisting of Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Sasha Pavlovic, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, etc., to the championship round, where they were defeated in four consecutive games. Laker Nation was hopeful that given James’ personal streak of eight consecutive Finals trips, they would at least make the postseason. Unfortunately, this didn’t occur.

With three-years remaining on his contract, the clock is ticking for James to lead the Lakers back to the postseason and overall prominence. President of Basketball Operations/Hall of Fame Laker Magic Johnson is on record as saying he needed two summers to get the players in place to get the Lakers back to their glory days. This upcoming summer will be the second summer for him to accomplish his goal. If he proves unable to do so, Magic has said he would step down from his post. Hopefully, for Laker Nation, this won’t be the case, as a top tier free agent (or two) comes on board to help the Laker cause. For now, they are playing second fiddle to the Los Angeles Clippers, as they, and not the Lakers, will be in the postseason party this year.

While hopeful that a high-profile free agent chooses to join them, Lakers fans are hopeful that the talk of James’ decline is premature. While the numbers James posted are truly remarkable, the Lakers are accustomed to having perennial All-Star caliber players. They want and crave championships. Seeing the Clippers in the playoffs, while being on the outside looking in has to be difficult. Getting back to the top of the Western Conference will require LeBron to perform as he did this past season and perhaps even better. Hopefully, for the Lakers, James is closer to the beginning of his Hall of Fame career rather than the end, putting talk of his decline on the backburner while putting Lakers success in the forefront.