We have all witnessed the highs and lows of LeBron James’ career after he entered the National Basketball Association in 2003, when he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If we’ve ever seen a low point in James’ career—on the court—it was in his first year with the Miami Heat in 2010, or in the Eastern Conference finals, when James and the Heat faced off against the Boston Celtics in game five.
The inhuman prodigy in his athletic prime, who averaged over 25 points per game that season, made only three shots in game five, as the Celtics would go on to cruise to a 120-88 victory in 2010. The Heat would continue on to defeat the Celtics and eventually lose to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the NBA finals.
Speculation after these playoffs occurred due to the supernatural expectations of James, especially now that he was on this ‘super team.’ Was there an injury that we did not know about or some off the court distraction that James had endured? What if there was an easier explanation? What if James was just tired?
The man who basically made the Cavalier organization relevant again, taking them to their first NBA finals in team history in 2006-07, may have just been tired.
The fact was that after James chose to leave Cleveland, his own city, most of all of the sports world hated him. That would take a lot out of most people, but he dealt with it, going on to win two NBA championships with the Heat and once with the Cavs.
And as the King gets older, currently at age 32, we have to ask the question again: does he have enough left in the tank?
The Cavs bragged earlier this season about having a cutting-edge system that put players into various categories of fatigue, which we should believe was mainly for James. It was supposed to be a way to manage his minutes and to keep him healthy so that come playoff time, he would be ready.
But as the Cavs dwindled in the East, James did everything but rest. Losing 15 of their last 26 regular season games, the team was on edge. By the end of the season, James led the NBA in minutes per game, the opposite of Cleveland’s stated goals. Not only does he play a high number of minutes, but also when he’s out there, it’s arguable that no team relies more on a player than the Cavs depend on James. The Cavs win with James and they lose with James.
Sure, they have Kyrie Irving, who is inevitably one of the best—if not the best—point guard in the NBA. They have knock-down shooters on the wing with Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith. And then they have Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson working low on the boards, both being able to step out of the perimeter and to knock down jumpers.
When push comes to shove, if James doesn’t show up, the Cavs might be able to win a few games, but it is very unlikely that they will be able to win another NBA championship.