Column: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 27, 2017, in San Antonio. (Darren Abate/AP)

The king is dead—LeBron James and his team no longer have a chance to make a run in the NBA playoffs, let alone win another championship. He’s not the best player in the league anymore, as that honor clearly goes to Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and others.

Or at least that’s what we’ve said about James and his teams every February and March ever since he made the Second Decision to come back and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Two years ago, the Atlanta Hawks were poised to overtake the Cavaliers and win the Eastern Conference, with their frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford as well as all-around point guard Jeff Teague and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

Last year it was the Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were on fire late into the regular season and into the playoffs, while Bismack Biyombo was blocking shots into the upper decks.

All the while, the greatest player of our generation just seemed out of it. He posted corny mirror-selfies on Instagram, took unnecessary potshots at his teammates in the media and even possibly got a coach fired.

But each of those years, a Herculean effort from LeBron in the postseason got his team to the NBA Finals. Two years ago, James valiantly led a Cleveland team missing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in a futile effort against the Warriors. Last year they won it all, famously coming back from down three games to one against the greatest regular season team of all time.

It’s a series that cemented LeBron in the land of basketball giants, putting him in direct conversation with Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. And still, in 2017, we doubt his ability to get it done.

The problems facing the Cavaliers this year are very real, however, particularly on the defensive end. In the month of March, with their “big three” of James, Love and Irving mostly healthy, the Cavaliers have given up 117 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark in the league over that time span.

Monday night, they even got replaced at the top of the East by this year’s ‘team to unseat the Cavs in the East, the Boston Celtics, a team of role players led by diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is having a career year, averaging career-high marks in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.

All of this adds up to the real possibility that James and the Cavaliers might not get to the NBA Finals in 2017, the first time in six years. This would certainly be a disappointment by King James’ standards.

And yet, LeBron is having statistically the best all-around year of his entire career. He’s averaging 8.4 assists and 8.8 rebounds per game, both the best in his career. He’s “only” scoring 26 points per game, but he’s doing it efficiently, on both the third best field goal percentage and three-point percentage of his career.

The King may be on the decline, but he’s not going down without a fight. So, instead of arguing about his team, and whether he has what it takes to load them all up on his back once again, appreciate what might be the last great season of LeBron we ever see.

Watch as he cements his legacy as one of the greatest passing forwards of all time.

Watch as he, at the age of 32, is still just as able to get up for a huge dunk as he ever was.

Because this might be the last season we get to see him go as hard as this ever again. So, Long Live the King.


Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at luke.swanson@uconn.edu