The date was April 22, 2006, when this stout 21-year-old man-child from a small town in Northeast Ohio made his debut NBA Playoff appearance. LeBron R. James, Sr. was three seasons into his NBA career already experiencing the immense pressure of living up to the number “23” dawned on the back of his Cleveland Cavalier’s jersey. The Washington Wizards led by the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer and offensive assassin, Gilbert Arenas along with a hard nose veteran group with the likes of Caron Butler, had no answer to the company LeBron James joined that night by putting up a stat-line only achieved by the Earvin “Magic” Johnson in his debut playoff game for the 1980 Los Angeles Lakers.
A walk in the park triple-double, 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists to put away the visiting Wizards was a sight that the NBA world grew accustomed seeing for over the next decade. From the infamous “Decision” in 2010 when James joined the Miami Heat resulting in two NBA Championships in four years to a return home to Cleveland to defeat the greatest regular season team of all time in the 73–9 Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, it was a proven anomaly to see LeBron not in the playoff hunt to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Boom…the year is 2019 and it is LeBron’s 16th season playing for one of the two most storied NBA franchises with the Los Angeles Lakers. In a tumultuous season in comparison to the precedence James has provided the NBA world, we still witnessed “The King” average 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists for an injury-laden ball club. Injuries are a natural part of sports yet completely unnatural to what we grew to see from the NBA’s “Ironman”. A groin injury that some believed to be much worse than reported, side-lined James midway through a Christmas Day showdown game against his arch nemesis, the lauded Golden State Warriors. LeBron went on to miss the next 18 games resulting in a drop from the number four team in the Western Conference, in the race to be a top seed in the NBA Playoffs, to barely sniffing the eight seed upon his return. This was conflated with NBA rumors of an Anthony Davis trade from the New Orleans Pelicans to Los Angeles which would have reportedly separated a young core of talented Lakers. The Los Angeles ball club was ready to go fishing by the All-Star break.
Fast-forward to the 2019 LeBron-less NBA Playoffs. NBA fans and supporters from all over had no idea what to expect this post-season without such a familiar face leading the charge. A dozen of new playoff first-timers + exciting talent lined up to carry the slack that placed fear in many execs and TV rating buffs. For all we knew, the NBA Playoffs would be a long-sigh with the Golden State Warriors parading the Larry O’Brien Trophy for their fourth championship in five years. But oh contrary! The NBA Playoffs have shown the most parity we have seen as fans in recent memory.
This post-season we have witnessed teams such as the Houston Rockets rival the three-point shooting of the best shooting backcourt in the history of the game in Steph Curry & Klay Thompson. We were blessed to witness a walk-off buzzard beater by the multi-talented Dame Lillard waving “bye-bye” to a raunchy Oklahoma City Thunder team led by a cold shooting Russ Westbrook and seemingly injured Paul George, a history-making Game 7 dagger from the silent assassin that is Kawhi Leonard to put away the young 76ers, and non-stop jaw-dropping dominance from Greece’s savior in Giannis Antetokounmpo a.k.a. “The Greek Freak”. There are so many dope storylines from this postseason that have made many forget that LeBron James hasn’t been one of them.
The battle of the best in the Eastern and Western Conference is still upon us with the Golden State Warriors dominating a once-surging Portland Trailblazers team led by Dame Lillard and C.J. McCollum & a showdown between two of the NBA’s most “interesting” men playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, respectively. From all assumptions, it seems as if we will be seeing a familiar team this year in the NBA Finals but what we do not have to assume is that one of those teams will be led Lebron R. James, Sr. and that’s ok. The NBA is in good hands and it’s refreshing to see a non-LeBron postseason but let’s hope that next season the NBA Playoffs gets their “King” back…until then let’s continue to enjoy this anomaly.