LeBron James is sitting at home during the playoffs for only the fourth time in his illustrious career.
So, why is that the case?
Many people deserve blame for the Los Angeles Lakers’ disastrous season. The front office put together a dumpster fire of a roster; James and Anthony Davis played a role in the team trading for Russell Westbrook, and Davis and Westbrook were both catastrophic disappointments. (Davis missed more than half the season due to injury, and Westbrook just didn’t look like, well, Westbrook.)
However, LeBron haters use this past year as an argument against his GOAT case. How did a 37-year-old not carry a trash team to the playoffs? It’s inexcusable. He did it in his 20s and early 30s. Why didn’t he do it during a season in which Father Time got another step closer? Michael Jordan would have gotten them there. He missed the playoffs with the Washington Wizards, but he still would have done it! (Yes, this is sarcasm.)
James’ teammate on the Lakers, Kent Bazemore, recently addressed a question about The King receiving significant criticism, and he made sure to defend the four-time Finals MVP. LeBron still had a heck of a year and didn’t look anything close to 37. So, what more do people want?
Kent Bazemore defended LeBron James
After playing 23 games for the Lakers in 2013-14, Kent Bazemore returned to the team in 2021-22, likely hoping to chasing a title with LeBron James and company.
Things didn’t work out that way, but Bazemore still has nothing but good things to say about James.
“Dude was third in the league in scoring,” Bazemore said to TMZ (James was actually second with 30.3 points per game, but he couldn’t qualify for the league scoring title due to him only playing 56 games). “What else you want him to do? He put his body through a lot this year to be there for us. So, dude has done a lot. He’s chasing Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] (for the all-time scoring title). He’s done a lot for the game.”
So, for anyone who wants to blame James for the Lakers not making the playoffs, Bazemore doesn’t want to hear it. LeBron had an incredible season.
LeBron James deserves blame but not as a player
When the Boston Celtics swept Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets last week, I tweeted, “Can we stop putting Kevin Durant in the same category as LeBron now?” Many LeBron haters or KD defenders brought up how James didn’t even make the playoffs this year. But what many critics don’t realize is that LeBron deserves blame for his influence in the front office, not his play on the court.
He played a significant role in the Lakers trading their depth from their championship run for Russell Westbrook. That can’t be overlooked. But if we just judge his play, James is still one of the league’s top talents, and he likely wouldn’t have allowed the Celtics to sweep him had he been on the team Durant was on (and if he were KD’s age of 33).
LeBron had a tremendous season. He averaged 30.3 points, the most since his third year in the league. He also recorded 6.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game, and he shot 52.4% from the field, his highest mark since joining the Lakers.
As Bazemore said, what else is there for him to do? He played at an unreal level, especially for a 37-year-old, so it’s time for his haters to quit criticizing his play. James’ personnel influence is fair game, but performance-wise, the four-time MVP is still one of the best players in the world.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference