In light of them embarrassingly missing the playoffs, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been the butt of every joke. They had championship expectations at the start of the year with the numerous Hall of Famers on their roster. However, they instead became one of the worst teams in basketball.
Not even getting a chance to compete for a spot in the playoffs in the NBA Play-In Tournament has to be one of the biggest disappointments of James’ legendary career.
But it also proves his greatness.
The King’s latest failure highlights why he’s arguably the greatest player of all time.
LeBron James’ embarrassing defeat proves his greatness
This will only be the fourth time LeBron James has missed the playoffs in his career. However, it’s the second time in the last four seasons. He fell short during his first year with the Lakers in 2018-19.
But not making the playoffs means James is also missing the NBA Finals this year. It’s the second consecutive season we won’t see LeBron in the Finals after the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
And that’s what proves his greatness.
Wait, what? James’ failure to make the Finals is why he’s such a great player?
Not exactly, but this fact recently became true: James is missing the Finals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09 and 2009-10 (h/t Reddit).
So, it has been over a decade since the NBA Finals haven’t featured James in two straight years. He was still amid his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers during that time and just 25 years old.
James then went on to play in eight straight Finals with the Miami Heat and Cavs between 2010-11 and 2017-18. The four-time champ then made the series for the ninth time in 10 years when he reached it with the Lakers in 2020.
Want some more context as to how long it has been since this last happened? The late great Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to the championship that year, and Tyreke Evans won the Rookie of the Year Award. TiK ToK wasn’t a social media platform, but it was the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts (yes, the bop by Ke$ha). The iconic TV series Scrubs had also just aired its final season.
LeBron James is one of the NBA’s greatest postseason players ever
LeBron James haters will look at the fact that he missed the Finals the last two years or that he is 4-6 in 10 appearances as to why he’s not the GOAT.
And perhaps he isn’t the GOAT. I go back and forth on the debate all the time. Tomorrow, I might give him the title, but I’ll probably say Michael Jordan if you ask me next week.
But his epic runs to the Finals (whether they resulted in titles or not) should help his case, not hurt it.
LeBron is tied for third all-time in most appearances with 10. He trails only Bill Russell (12) and Sam Jones (11). James is also second all-time in total Finals points with 1,562, and he’s No. 1 in playoff scoring with 7,631 career postseason points. The four-time Finals MVP also ranks second in total playoff assists (1,919), first in playoff steals (454), and sixth in postseason rebounds (2,391).
He doesn’t appear to be slowing down, either. Despite the Lakers’ disappointing season, James had one of the greatest campaigns of his career, averaging 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists at 37 years old.
LeBron James may be missing the playoffs this season, but he has already proven his greatness over the years. He was in the NBA Finals almost every season for a decade and won the championship four times during that stretch.
This latest failure just highlights how great The King has actually been throughout his career.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference