LeBron’s first NBA playoff absence since 2005 opens the door for others to capture the media spotlight.
It’s inconceivable to today’s millennials that a world without Facebook, Drake and LeBron James in the NBA playoffs ever existed. Facebook launched in 2004. Drake didn’t drop his first album yet but in 2004 he was a burgeoning, young Canadian TV star. During that same period, a 20-year-old basketball phenom named LeBron James would fail to make the NBA playoffs in his second season with Cleveland in 2004-05. The Cavs went 42-40 that season.
For the next 14 years, James would build a controversial, criticized and celebrated playoff legacy. When he won two championships with Miami, it cemented his legend as one of the greatest. When he defeated a 73-win Golden State squad with Kyrie and Cleveland, it elevated him into The GOAT conversation (so he says).
Fast Forward past the LeBron injury, the failed Anthony Davis trade and locker room drama and the struggling Lakers are 32-41 and in 11th-place in the Western Conference. With less than 10 games remaining, LeBron James will be going home early, for the time since his rookie year.
So far King James’ power move to LA has fallen short of expectations. When he joined the franchise this offseason, no logical basketball mind thought that he’d be making a ninth-straight trip to the Finals, but most assumed that the Lakers would at least make the playoffs.
The playoffs will look significantly different without King James. Win or lose, the NBA postseason has been his personal playground for over a decade. During that run, he dominated the media spotlight and the brunt of the social media banter.
Each playoff season, the narrative centers around LeBron and his chase of Kobe’s 5 titles and MJ’s six. His absence, while torturous for some fans, offers a space for other elite players to grab the spotlight.
These three players are likely candidates to fill the vacuum created by Bron’s playoff absence, similar to how Hakeem Olajuwon and Houston capitalized on Michael Jordan’s hiatus from the Chicago Bulls, due to his baseball experiment back in 1994-95.
The Beard’s Time To Shine
With King James getting an early vacation, NBA MVP James Harden steps to the forefront. Harden has been a huge part of Houston’s seven-straight playoff appearances, but if he wants recognition as the league’s best, now is the time to seize the moment.
The Beard’s unbelievable scoring season (36.4 ppg) has overzealous folks calling him the greatest offensive force ever. Harden has to dominate in these playoffs and have a few LeBron James-type moments in the clutch if he wants to keep that conversation going.
All Eyez On KD
Kevin Durant has already dominated LeBron James 1-on-1 and defeated him in the Finals twice. Unfortunately, he still gets slighted for stacking the deck by joining a Golden State squad that was already championship caliber.
Despite his Conference Finals MVP’s, Durant remains in King James’ shadow as the No. 2 player in the game. These playoffs — may be the last run for Durant in Golden State — are an opportunity for him to be the main attraction as the premier player in the NBA. It’s his Tupac Time.
The Greek Freak’s Takeover
Greek Freak has established himself as the East’s best player and a serious MVP candidate. It’s unlikely that LBJ will ever return to the East, so this is the perfect time for Giannis to captivate the playoff stage and become the new beast of the East.
Not having to go through a LeBron James squad to capture an Eastern Conference title has surely opened things up and we are in store for one the most competitive playoffs in years. At least four teams EC squads have a legit shot at advancing to the Finals now that LeBron has taken is act out West. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have filled the void during the regular season, rising to a Conference-high 55 wins. The crown is there for the taking.