As sports fans, we often get tired of something being the same for so long.  Whether it’s a dynasty winning year after year, or in this case, a player dominating a league for more than a decade.  When that certain team loses a couple of games or when a player doesn’t necessarily meet past expectations, fans love to quickly write them off as "washed up" or "declining" because they want to see someone new on top.  Fans sometimes start ignoring amazing numbers or great performances from that player and start becoming irrational because they don’t want the athlete to be on top again. That athlete is LeBron James. Last season was the first season in fourteen years that James missed the playoffs, despite missing 27 games due to injury.  A lot of fans irrationally considered him “washed up” or not a dominant player in the NBA anymore. Earlier this week, All-Star guard Damian Lillard said on the Joe Budden Podcast that LeBron was still the best player in the league. And he couldn’t be any more right.  

LeBron James has ruled the NBA for more than fifteen years.  His reign in the league has been one of the greatest in basketball history.  Last season (his washed-up year), James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game.  That would have finished 5th in PPG, 22nd in RPG, and 3rd in APG in the league. Before his groin injury, the Lakers were sitting at the four-seed in the Western Conference.  When he returned, the Lakers were the tenth seed fighting for a chance to creep into the playoffs, but they failed.  In his remaining games, James averaged 28 points per game. Sure, you can call it a down year for him, but the numbers proved he is still on top.

Coming into this season, James will have had the most rest he has gotten since his second year in the league.  This gives him more time to train and rehab that injured groin that kept him out of those 27 games. LeBron has shown no signs of decline despite this being his seventeenth season.  Nobody in the history of the game has played at a higher level than James has played on a consistent basis throughout his career. This is the first offseason since 2010 that James has not played in an NBA Finals.  The King should be fully rejuvenated after a full offseason to focus on his game. James will also be playing with a chip on his shoulder this season after many questioning his status as the world’s best player.  

The question for the world's best player has not been up for debate until this season.  A healthy Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard make strong cases from the seasons they put together.  Although, until LeBron has a drastic drop in production, the crown for the world’s best belongs to him. Durant and Leonard are great, but neither can control all aspects of a game like James can.  We have not seen such a physical specimen with a skill set like him. If you line up the three players' numbers from last season, you’ll see that a “washed up” LeBron is actually more productive than both.

LeBron James Kevin DurantKawhi Leonard
27.4 PPG26.0 PPG26.6 PPG
8.5 RPG6.4 RPG7.3 RPG
8.3 APG5.9 APG3.3 APG

 

As the most scrutinized player, James has a wave of hate throughout the nation that also drives him.  The standards he has set for himself have been the highest we have ever seen. It’s rare to see a player get criticized for great performances as much as LeBron James does.  Like I said earlier, people get tired of watching LeBron rule for so long, so every time he doesn’t live up to those impossible standards, they tend to tear him down every chance they get.  Whether it’s close-minded Michael Jordan fans that feel insecure about the fact that James could indeed be better or Kobe Bryant fans that know Bryants not better, so they irrationally critique everything he does, the amount of hate that LeBron James receives across the world is absolutely ridiculous. 

So as we head into the 2019-20 NBA season, look for a rejuvenated King James to dominate the league with his sidekick, Anthony Davis.  No matter what James does, he will always be unfairly critiqued. But bringing a championship to LA would quiet a lot of those doubters. The game of basketball will not be the same once this man decides to hang it up.  Instead of hating and critiquing him constantly, appreciate LeBron’s greatness and all he has done for the game we all love. Coming into his seventeenth season, it’s still King James’ world, and we’re all living it in.