Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James conducted a Twitter Q&A on Monday ahead of the conference finals. Of course LeBron and the Lakers did not make the playoffs this season. It’s the second time he’s missed the playoffs with the Lakers and the fourth time he’s failed to make the postseason in his 19-year career. FS1’s Skip Bayless, a noted LeBron critic, says this was a “look at me” moment for LeBron who can’t stand not being the center of attention. Does Bayless have a point?
“It’s eating LeBron alive that he’s not involved in these playoffs,” said Bayless. “He sees the light at the end of the tunnel of his career. LeBron has to remind everybody: ‘I’m still here.'”
"It's eating LeBron alive that he's not involved in these playoffs. He sees the light at the end of the tunnel of his career. LeBron has to remind everybody: 'I'm still here.'"
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 17, 2022
LeBron has been famous since he was 16 years old. He’s been the face of the NBA for the past 14 seasons. He is the sun at the center of the solar system that is the league. But these playoffs have been some of the best in recent memory, and LeBron isn’t starring in them.
NBA playoff ratings have been very good so far. Playoff ratings are up 23 percent from last year and up 29 percent from 2019, according to Sports Media Watch.
🏀ABC's broadcast of the #Celtics victory over the #Bucks in Game 7 on Sunday was the most-watched Eastern Conference Semifinals game since 2012. It averaged 7,481,000 viewers, peaking with 9,559,000 viewers at 6 p.m. (Nielsen). pic.twitter.com/NabNed1sBK
— Ben Cafardo (@Ben_ESPN) May 17, 2022
These playoffs are featuring the league’s younger superstars. Headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Jayson Tatum. Add in Nikola Jokic, Trae Young, Devin Booker, Ja Morant, and the league is moving further away from the LeBron and the millennial generation and closer to Gen Z.
As we look at the conference finalists the two favorites to advance to the NBA Finals according to FiveThirtyEight, the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, are led by 24-year-old Jayson Tatum and 23-year-old Luka Doncic respectively.
Basketball is a young man’s game, and with the amount of talent spread across the league it is going to be increasingly difficult for LeBron and his generation to maintain a stranglehold on things.
This happens to every great superstar of an era. You can’t play forever and your greatness inspires the youth coming behind you to try and ascend to greater heights.
We’re not quite putting LeBron and his era out to pasture just yet. The other two conference finalists, the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat, are led by grizzled millennial veterans in 34-year-old Stephen Curry and 32-year-old Jimmy Butler.
LeBron and the players of his generation are still capable of greatness and maybe even winning a championship if things break right. It just gets increasingly difficult as each year passes.
We’ll never really know if LeBron conducted the Twitter Q&A for attention, but he definitely realizes he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
He’s still chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, which he should break next season, barring any long-term injury, and we know he wants to play basketball with his son Bronny, who is currently a high school junior.
But in terms of dominance and remaining the undisputed king of the league? Those days have passed. There are too many young, talented and ultra-competitive players who want that crown.