Without Kevin Love, LeBron James’ Perfect World Is Playoff Panic City 

LeBron James is somewhat human, but he has a close relationship with the basketball gods. They lifted the future Hall of Famer out of Cleveland when he was thought to be cursed, placed him in Miami and blessed him with two other demi-gods to relieve the burden and it resulted in back-to back chips and a permanent place among basketball’s supreme ballers. Returning to Cleveland was probably just part of the deal he made with whoever the Zeus of the NBA is.

Early on in the season, LeBron wasn’t happy with that deal because it was clear that he didn’t have the squad that could take him back to the top of NBAs Mt. Olympus — even with bucket-splashing Kyrie Irving and multi-dimensional forward Kevin Love.

Moreover, LBJ’s body was nicked up and he needed some chill time. During those two weeks of rest at the end of December 2014 , LBJ spoke to the basketball gods and demanded some more upgrades and a better team for the sacrifice he made by returning to a franchise that has never won an NBA championship and spit in his face on his way out of the door.

He wasn’t on that martyr tip. After signing his two-year deal with Cleveland, his motto became: Triumphant hero returns home and leads the hood to glory or bust.

It seemed as if the gods appeased James because when he returned from his hiatus, he had a reinvigorated body and three new players on his roster in JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and center Tim Mosgov.

Cleveland soared down the stretch and everyone slowly started believing in the Cavs’ new “Big Three.”

LBJ was orchestrating and overwhelming. Irving was “dishing and swishing” as Walt “Clyde Frazier” would say and Love was learning how to channel his inner James Worthy (the ultimate third-option).

In fact, Love was developing into the X-Factor for Cleveland, with LeBron eventually singing his MVP praises. People considered that statement a joke because of the players’ supposedly “rocky” relationship and struggle with developing chemistry early on, but LBJ doesn’t usually talk for the heck of it and he knew that with teams focusing on him and Kyrie as first offensive options, Love would get a chance to carry a huge load and make some historical plays during these playoffs.

It appeared as if LeBron was once again in the basketball gods’ favor. The stars were aligned for a “Miracle in Ohio.”

Then, just as quickly as Ares (the Olympian god of war, violence and destruction) can shift calm and confidence into major damage, the balance of the NBA playoffs was flipped upside down in Game 4 of Cleveland’s warmup series against against the overmatched Celtics. Kelly Olynyk, acting as the monster Typhon, attempted to ruin Cleveland’s hoop dreams by ripping Love’s arm out of its socket and deading him for the remainder of the show.

LeBron James can say, “Next man up,” and “There’s no excuses” all he wants. The injury was like Nino Brown having to torch The Carter in New Jack City. It’s debilitating and you try to move on from it, but you may never be the same or get the same opportunity as a team. 

In a 99-92 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the absence of Love was immediately evident. The Cavaliers got off to a sluggish start and allowed the Bulls to go up by as many as 16 in the first half. They started the game 1-of-8 from the field and it resulted in an early 18-5 lead for the Bulls.

Cleveland would have had a heck of a time with a loaded Chicago squad even with Love in full swing ( A Bulls squad that features D Rose as the “second” – best guard !).

Without Love’s various services and with the forward’s future as a Cavalier in doubt, it’s not premature to say that LeBron may have been double crossed by some basketball deity. To have one of your wings clipped just before takeoff is terrible. It’s almost like some cruel joke being played on James. Sort of like the one he played on a bunch of teams some years ago with “The Decision.”

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.