LOS ANGELES, CA – In a game that was hardly competitive from start to finish, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs in a 113-100 loss to the second-seeded Phoenix Suns. Despite a strong effort, is this the beginning of the end for LeBron James?
James, who single-handedly carried an otherwise listless and punch less Lakers squad through the regular season before going down with an ankle injury, looked like a shell of his soon-to-be first-ballot Hall-of-Famer self in laboring up and down the Staples Center hardwood to the tune of 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes.
Unquestionably this generation’s greatest and most influential player and icon, James wasn’t helped by his so-called supporting cast that could have easily been mistaken for the many wide-eyed hopefuls hoping to make it big in the City of Angels.
Already shorthanded with an injured, and clearly compromised Anthony Davis, who valiantly tried to give it a go in coming back from a groin injury, barely mustered five minutes before having to leave the game.
Outside of James, the only starters to score in double figures for the Purple and Gold were point guard Dennis Schroder (20 points, three rebounds and three assists) in 38 minutes and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19 points and three rebounds) in 39 minutes.
The Lakers bench was as stale and bland as a day-old In-And-Out Burger with shooting guards Wesley Mathews (12 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes) and Tyler Horton-Tucker (12 points and two rebounds in 19 minutes) being the only two reserves to score in double-digits.
In Hollywood, optics matter and style points are currency. Sadly, the Lakers and their supporting cast looked like a badly written Ed Wood movie directed by Michael Bay-level gone tragically wrong.
Thanks to their so-called performance Thurs evening, in getting dump-trucked by 30-plus points the whole night on their home floor, the entire Lakers team earned my Razzie vote for “Worst Performance In A Comedy”.
Much praise goes to the Suns and their young rising star in Devon Booker—a.k.a. Mr. Kendall Jenner—and savvy veteran point guard in Chris Paul, who looked and played like Chris, and not his State Farm alter ego twin, Cliff in serving up timely assists and making dagger after dagger mid-range jumpers, as he finished with a mere eight points while dishing out 12 assists in 29 minutes, while nursing a nagging shoulder injury.
While the vast legion of LBJ haters are openly relishing in seeing King James suffer his first-ever first round exit, they seem to have clearly forgotten that he missed the playoffs in his first year in SoCal and that he still has more money and NBA rings than they can ever dream of.
For I wish to channel my inner William Shakespeare in paraphrasing Roman general, Marc Antony in saying that I have not come to bury The King, but to praise him. What many so-called “fans” and trolls are clearly missing is that the NBA dropped the ball in cancelling—and then resuming the 2020 season after a four-month break, only to start the 2021 season, not even two months later.
It is no coincidence that the two NBA Finals contestants in both the Lakers and Miami Heat are now making travel plans for the summer, but if you look deeper, teams that played in “The Bubble” down in Lake Buena Vista—my adopted second home—have seen their title hopes burst.
With James playing the most minutes of any NBA player ever, appearing in ten straight NBA Finals, combined with all the wear and tear of a regular season, it should come at no surprise to see even the modern-day G.O.A.T. gasping for air, and looking mortal and vulnerable.
To burrow from Eminem’s rap song “Kings Never Die”, featuring Gwen Stefani from the boxing movie, “Southpaw”, James is here to stay and even when he’s done, when we all close our eyes and reflect on his brilliant and storied career and the legacy that he will leave behind, through the passage of time, kings never die.
James and the Lakers can hear the proverbial drummer of free agency and the off-season drumming. And the trumpets of the critics crowing and clawing at his fallen corpse, as they are trying to summon someone new to rule over his domain.
He may be older, he may be graying, but even he knows his end is coming.
But till then, the crown is still his, as kings thru the divine right of sovereignty never die. For his head, may be bloody, but it’ll never be unbowed, as he is and will always be The King, but almost just a humble kid from Akron.