The NBA Playoffs are without Lebron James for the first time in 13 Years. Wikimedia Commons.
Few things are certain in life, and for the past 13 years, having King James in the NBA playoffs has been a certainty for basketball and sports fans alike.
Whether it was for the wine and gold of his hometown Cavaliers or the black and red of the star-studded Miami Heat, LeBron James has found a way to propel his teams to postseason year after year. And as every fan knows, each and every time the four-time MVP has suited up come springtime, there’s no stopping him.
This year marked his first as a Los Angeles Laker, and the season was marked by twists and turns, filled with injuries and a struggle for team chemistry down the stretch. Their squad had a chance coming off the All-Star break to make a run for the playoffs, but as the season came to a close, it became clear that LA was not one of the eight best teams in the Western Conference.
Regardless, not seeing the King in the postseason feels nothing but strange.
It feels strange because it’s all I have known. After all, for the past 13 years, Lebron has been a part of the playoffs for one team or another. It feels strange because we won’t see him shut down all social media, entering his renowned “Zero-Dark-Thirty 23” mode. We won’t see his dazzling dunks and clutch shots down the stretch as we have year after year, series after series. But most importantly, for the first time in nine years, there will be an Eastern Conference champion that doesn’t have the kid from Akron on their roster.
This change comes as a relief to many, whether it be the casual fans who enjoy the power switch occurring in the ever-changing league, or for the fanbases who have been devastated year after year by the King’s stellar play.
The Toronto Raptors will not have to worry about Lebron taking their group out of the playoffs for a fourth straight year, and now two rounds into the playoffs, their squad along with the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics are in positions to make a run for the Eastern Conference title.
Whether you are a fan of Lebron or not, his absence from this year’s playoffs is having a clear-cut effect on TV viewership.
According to MSN, some first-round games had a mere 50% of their viewership compared to 2018, with seven of the eight games in the first weekend having declined ratings compared to last year.
The numbers speak for themselves in saying that the Lebron effect is real, and whether you hate him or love him, he makes people want to watch the game of basketball.
This issue is all too familiar with the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose ticket prices have skyrocketed downwards each of the two times the 3-time NBA champion has left their city.
The future of Lebron is uncertain, but I believe that he will be back for the 2019-2020 NBA season refreshed and ready to lead his Lakers to heights they haven’t experienced since the Kobe era.
Don’t be too quick to count out #23, he always finds his way back to the top.