Defeat to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of this season’s playoffs was a seismic shock for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ahead of the start of this season, the Lakers were heavy favorites with the majority of sports betting providers to retain their crown and once again lift the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.
Their failure to overcome Monty Williams’ doggedly, determined Suns side has led to several questions being raised about the future of LeBron James.
Should The Akron Hammer look for pastures new? Is his seemingly unbreakable grip on the NBA loosening? Well, the 36-year-old answered some of those questions earlier this month when he told the Smartless podcast that he hopes to finish his career with the Lakers.
Is that the right decision for the legendary player and the LA Lakers? Does King James have what it takes to go back to the well one more time and come up big for his team? Read on to find out.
(The Lakers loss to the Suns felt like an epochal moment for LeBron James, but was it really?)
Reports of LeBron James’ Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
To borrow the phraseology of Mark Twain in describing the hysteria surrounding LeBron James’ most recent season seems quite apt.
If we are to believe the overreactions of many in the media, LeBron James has just had one of the worst seasons in living memory.
Whilst it’s true that he hasn’t hit the heights of previous seasons and has spent longer than he would have liked on the sidelines, there are reasons for that, reasons that are not linked to James’ demise.
The biggest and most pertinent of those reasons is the impact that Covid-19 has had on this most recent season. Whilst the havoc wreaked on this season has been minimal in comparison to last season, the toll of 2020 has still been felt far and wide across the NBA.
The Lakers and LeBron only had 60 days between Game 6 of last season and their first preseason game in the middle of December last year. The mental and physical toll that the NBA Bubble placed on the Lakers and many of the other teams involved have clearly had an impact on this season.
Physically the Bubble left the Lakers short, contributing significantly to the injury problems suffered by both LeBron and Anthony Davis. Mentally, it also robbed the team of the opportunity to decompress after a crazy season and return to tip-top condition for this campaign.
LeBron, who is part owner of English soccer side Liverpool need only look to the example of their performances this season to realize the impact that the Covid disturbances can have on the very best.
Coming off the back of a phenomenal title-winning season in which they racked up 32 wins in 38 games, Liverpool struggled for form in the following campaign, only scraping into a top four position on the final day of the season.
With a proper offseason to recover and regroup, LeBron James, the Lakers, and that Liverpool side will come back next season stronger, fitter and more determined to succeed than ever.
(The NBA Bubble took its toll on LeBron and the Lakers.)
The Lakers Still Need LeBron
Much has been made about the Laker’s salary cap and whether or not they would be better off spreading it more evenly.
Last season and for large parts of the previous season, the Lakers struggled with their three-point shooting. This season many are calling for the franchise to rectify this by bringing in a quality player to boost their shooting statistics.
According to some, this will only be possible if either LeBron or Anthony Davis are removed from the team to free up some of the salary caps.
Whilst it would be a good thing for the Lakers to improve their three-point accuracy, losing LeBron to do so would be criminal.
The 36-year-old’s vision and passing skills are still second-to-none in the NBA and if the Lakers were to lose him, they would lose the beating heart of both their offensive and defensive games.
Away from the technical side of the game, the Lakers will also need LeBron next season to lead by example and show his teammates how to respond to the disappointment of their first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns.
After all, if there is one person currently playing basketball that has the mental fortitude and determination to respond to setbacks it is LeBron James.
(LeBron’s vision can still be the difference-maker for the Los Angeles Lakers next season.)
LA Makes Sense
At the age of 36, any professional athlete would need to start thinking seriously about their life after retirement. Fortunately for LeBron, there will be no shortage of options to choose from when the time comes to step away from the court.
He has most recently starred in the reboot of the Box Office hit Space Jam and effectively has everything the media has to offer at his feet for when he retires.
In that regard, Los Angeles is the best place to be, from there he can branch out and expand his horizons.
In summary, then it makes sense for LeBron to stay in LA, not only from an individual and collective sporting viewpoint but for the good of his post-basketball career as well.