Ever since the 2006-2007 season, when LeBron made his NBA playoff debut, there have been many great moments and some ultimate failures that he has endured during the playoffs. He has grown as a player and as a man in front of national audience and after capturing 3 championships on top of all his other accomplishments, he has become one of the best players we have ever seen. This season though, things went south for the Lakers and he is missing the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever. LeBron missing the playoffs actually does wonders for the NBA and we shall dive deep as to why that’s so.
WIthout LeBron, most of the average fans now believe that the Eastern Conference is more competitive than before. From 2010-11 all the way until last season, he was able to dominate the conference like no ever has and reached 8 straight finals appearances. This sort of feat is something unlikely to be achieved again. With LeBron out of the East, there is more drama now and entertainment, which brings more excitement for the average fans. Many fans have complained for many years about how LeBron has dominated the East for too long and they feel that the competition was too easy for him. It came to the point where people thought there was no balance of competition and the idea of eliminating conferences has come up. Now that LeBron is out of the picture, the talks have calmed down because of the fact that the East has now become more entertaining for the fans. The Bucks, 76ers, Raptors, and Celtics all have a legitimate shot at making the NBA Finals and there is a lot at stake for all these teams as free agency is impending and stars like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler could be on the move this offseason. USA Today gives their input about the NBA playoffs so far, “With James and his Los Angeles Lakers on the sidelines, the first round has not inspired the casual sports fan to tune in as of yet. Second-round matchups between teams like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks as well as the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, however, could potentially reverse the current trend.”
Without LeBron this year, there is more exposure for other stars in the league. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic are young stars who are potential MVP candidates this year. Giannis this past season averaged 27.7 points while hauling down 12.5 rebounds and dishing out 5.9 assists while shooting 57.8% from the field in 32.8 minutes per game and Nikola Jokic averaged 20.1 points while grabbing 10.8 rebounds and distributing 7.3 assists while shooting 51.1% from the field in 31.3 minutes per game. These two players have evolved in front of our eyes over the years and have now become superstar players on championship contending teams in the Bucks and Nuggets respectively. With LeBron out of the picture, these stars can grab attention in the playoffs and give us a glimpse of the future. As LeBron’s time as the best in the league is coming to an end, the torch needs to be passed onto someone else for the next decade of basketball and all of these young stars are ready to go right ahead and battle each other on the court for that torch.
Even though the NBA’s ratings have been down 18% without LeBron according to USA Today, this is an opportunity for different stories about the NBA playoffs. We as fans and the media get this opportunity to see who’s the “polarizing star” after LeBron inevitably retires. The media has always had one star in which all the stories and the drama revolves around. This is the player who grows in front of the national audience and the player that everyone scrutinizes for his failures and is loved for all of his achievements. This is the player that everybody in the entire world knows regardless of if you watch basketball or not. Without LeBron in these playoffs, we as fans and the media get a chance to see if such a player is there for the future and we can see if this player fits in that role. The NBA has always thrived as a league when there is that polarizing figure and will continue to do so.
Overall, we as fans should appreciate the fact that every year, there is good basketball that will be played regardless if certain players are in or not. We as fans should take the time especially this season to appreciate the talent that the NBA has to offer and upcoming stars that need more exposure from the fans. When a player like LeBron is there, it takes away that aspect and all of the fans and media are only focused on LeBron, but with him not in the picture, the opportunity is there for fans and media to get more exposure of other players and appreciate the game as a whole and not just its parts.