There may be no athlete on the planet more scrutinized than LA Lakers star LeBron James. No matter what he does, perhaps with the exception of founding the I Promise School in Akron, people are ready to pounce.
When he left Cleveland the first time, he was branded as a traitor, although as a free agent he had every right to leave the Cavaliers. And, seriously, can you really blame LeBron for leaving when the second-best player on his team in 2009-2010 was Antawn Jamison? Is that Dan Gilbert giving him a real chance to win?
When he announced “The Decision” on ESPN to join the Miami Heat, people said it was egotistical, although he did it that way to raise $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club. Would LeBron have gotten that much backlash had he done things the exact same way but announced he was staying in Cleveland? Probably not.
When he finally did win an NBA title in Miami, people wouldn’t recognize it, saying he didn’t really earn it because he joined up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, which is just a horrible argument to make. He was a free agent, signed with a team, and they won two titles. It’s as simple as that. But he wouldn’t have that second one without Ray Allen’s shot, right? Okay, then Michael Jordan doesn’t have two of his titles without John Paxson and Steve Kerr. Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?
Unfortunately, LeBron James finds himself in yet another no-win situation this season with the LA Lakers, assuming this season resumes anyway.
LeBron James was having a phenomenal season before the NBA shut down
Before the NBA shut down in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, LeBron James had the LA Lakers in a great position to make a serious run at an NBA title. The Lakers were 49-14, had a 5.5-game lead in the Western Conference, and LeBron was having a fantastic season, averaging 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds. And this is his 17th year in the NBA, folks. Yes, it certainly helps to have a guy like Anthony Davis on your team but LeBron is undoubtedly the leader of this Lakers team and was right there, as usual, in the MVP conversation.
Most reports these days seem to suggest that the NBA will return in July with teams (likely just playoff teams) reporting to Florida to finish the season at Disney World. And there is no player and no team that will be scrutinized more than LeBron James and the Lakers when the league starts back up.
If the Lakers don’t win an NBA championship, LeBron will take all of the blame
If Giannis Antekounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks don’t win the NBA title, it won’t matter. People will say they’re young and inexperienced. If Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the LA Clippers don’t win the NBA title, it won’t matter. People will say that they’ve still got time. if James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the Houston Rockets don’t win the NBA title, it won’t matter. People will say that they’re in a bit of a transition phase. If LeBron James and the LA Lakers don’t win the NBA title, watch out.
If the Lakers lose at any point in the postseason this year, the firestorm that will come LeBron’s way will be brutal. I mean, he’s already had shots fired at him over the last two months without even playing a single game simply because The Last Dance aired. The usual talk for not being the winner Michael Jordan was will only get worse if he can’t lead the Lakers to a title, even if he performs to the best of his abilities and plays beautifully. He could go out and average a triple-double for the entirety of the playoffs and still get burned if LA doesn’t win a title.
But what’s crazy is that even if the Lakers do win a 17th NBA title, LeBron James still won’t.
Even if the Lakers do win a championship, James won’t get the credit he deserves
So we know that LeBron James will take the blame if the LA Lakers don’t win an NBA title. But what might be even worse is that he won’t get as much credit as he deserves even if they do. You know what will happen, don’t you?
So let’s run through this scenario in which the NBA season resumes in July at Disney World with no fans in attendance. As the NHL has done, it’s likely the rest of the regular season will be canceled, right? So now only playoff teams are playing and it’s looking more and more like teams will be seeded 1-16 with conference not being taken into account. Now let’s say that LeBron James and the Lakers just dominate and win the title. You know what happens then? People will say that it doesn’t count, that there should be an asterisk next to this season, that this wasn’t even a full season, that LeBron still only has three rings to Jordan’s six, etc.
But I can almost guarantee you that talk like that won’t be as big if anyone besides LeBron James and the Lakers win a championship. And, like it or not, you know that’s true. Such is the curse of being the best player in the world, I guess.
*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference