LeBron James won four NBA regular season Most Valuable Player awards in a five-year stretch from 2009 to 2013. With just over two weeks remaining until pre-season basketball, I can tell you right now that he’s going to have his fifth once this upcoming season is in the books.
Write it down, tell your mother, tweet it, get it tattooed, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you know that it’s happening. LeBron James is going to be the MVP next season.
Photo via John Bazemore/AP
As we look back on James’ first season in the purple and gold, despite all the drama that came with the ‘LeBron Show’, it was underwhelming, to say the least. The Lakers were the fourth seed in the Western conference before Bron went down with a groin injury on Christmas day against the Warriors. This would force him to miss a career-high 17 consecutive games and finish the season playing a career-low 55 games.
For the Lakers, the injuries didn’t stop with the King, and as we all know the injury-plagued team would find themselves as an unimpressive 10th seed come playoff time. The biggest story after their below-average 37-win season was that LeBron, after going to eight straight NBA finals and winning 3 NBA championships in that span, would miss the playoffs entirely for just the third time in his career and the first since 2005 (the same year YouTube went online).
Was last season the beginning of the end? Had the player that had been outrunning father time for 16 seasons finally started his decline? Is his multi-million-dollar body care routine not enough? Are the Lakers going to be mediocre forever?
No. Quite the opposite, actually.
Photo via NBA
In the 55 games he appeared in, Bron averaged 27.4 points per game (2nd best in his last 9 seasons), 8.3 assists per game (4th best in his career), 8.5 rebounds per game (2nd best of his career) and looked as healthy as ever until Santa brought him a freak injury for Christmas. He shot 51% from the field, 34% from three, and 66% from the foul line (a career-low, I can’t defend that one, consider it an anomaly).
If averaging 27/8/8, in both seasons 16 & 17, for the first time in his career wasn’t enough for you to be convinced LeBron hasn’t fallen off, he passed the eye test with flying colors. Throwing down tomahawk dunks like there was a ‘6’ on his jersey, dropping 51 in Miami like old times, and notching eight triple-doubles in a career-low 35 minutes a game leaves it safe to say he’s doing just fine.
If it’s injuries you’re concerned about, you can lay that to rest. As previously mentioned, he spends millions of dollars a year to remain one of the best athletes of all-time. Last season he played less than he ever had before, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s been aging like fine wine. In fact, he played an 82-game regular season for the first time in his career just the season before last.
The fact that he’s had so much time to recover from the first ‘major’ injury of his career is where the MVP narrative solidifies.
Photo via Klutch Sports
For the eight seasons prior to signing with Los Angeles, LeBron James played in an average of 95 NBA games a year. Yes, you read that correctly. You don’t coast your way to eight straight finals; there are countless hours of back-breaking work that go into a record that will probably never be broken.
With that being said, James’ offseason would typically end in late June or early July. After nearly completing a hundred games in one season and with training camp starting in September for the next, there hasn’t been a lot of time to really get better. Yet, he kept getting better.
Ready for the kicker?
From reinventing ‘Taco Tuesdays’ to bringing back Space Jam to supporting his sons too much (that’s a writing technique called ‘sarcasm’), LeBron James has had a very eventful offseason. He’s also had the longest offseason of his career.
Since his last season ended early, when the Lakers take on the Warriors on October 5th, James’ will not have played an NBA game for over six months. Ladies and gentlemen that’s over half a calendar year. When it comes to the average NBA player, that could mean rust, setbacks, or a shooting slump. For LeBron, it could mean a better version of himself than we’ve ever seen before.
Photo via KingJames on Instagram
Six straight months of top-of-the-line chefs, the best treatment money can buy, and unlimited access to any and every gym on the planet sounds like the perfect combination for a historic season. To top it all off, the key ingredient to this MVP recipe is vengeance.
Between missing the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade and arguably the most disappointing season of his career, the Akron native is hungrier than ever. The drive that is pushing LeBron to succeed paired with the six-month off-season means that the King has actually worked on his game.
“Isn’t that what NBA players do every off-season? What’s the big deal?”
Most veteran NBA players, especially those working on their hall of fame careers like James, spend a good portion of their off-season without a basketball. Believe it or not, athletes are regular people off the court. The summer brings them time to spend with their families, go to the movies, play videogames, or anything else you might do with some free time.
Photo via Cryo Today
Pertaining to their professions, athletes utilize that time to recover. They adjust their diets, are recipients of countless massages, and do anything necessary to stay in shape. Being a professional athlete is a year-round job, so when the season that takes up most of their year ends, it isn’t surprising if they want to put the ball down. But giving LeBron James a six-month off-season is an entirely different story.
With the allotted time, Bron can eat tacos, perfect his acting, support his sons, deliver pizza, recover, and still have time to work on his free throws.
2019-20 LeBron James is going to be the most healthy and well-rested rendition of himself that the league has ever seen. If you’ve been following his summer on social media, you’ll know that he’s in a gym every day and you’ve read countless statements from LeBron saying just how motivated he is.
The Lakers did trade or let go of everyone and their mothers this off-season, but if that’s the asking price for Anthony Davis, you give them all that and a bag of chips. With that being said, the number one overall pick in 2012 out of Kentucky will be the most dominant big man Bron has ever played with (no disrespect to Shaq, the “MDE”, but 2009 Shaq is nowhere near 2019 AD). The guys that the Lakers brought it in to put around a healthy King and Brow after missing out on Kawhi is where Laker fans can start to get really, really excited.
Photo via Getty Images
The NBA had a league-altering summer that leaves us at an extremely exciting point as basketball fans. More importantly for Laker fans, the opportunity of coming out of the West this year is higher than it’s been in recent memory, simply for the fact the league looks so different.
After nearly a decade of knowing the finals matchup by July of the prior offseason, there is a renewed sense of competition in the NBA. It feels like in the Western Conference both Los Angeles teams, Golden State, Denver, Houston, Portland, and Utah are play-off locks. If that’s the case, there’s only one spot for a historically victorious Spurs franchise and two very young teams with an absurd amount of talent in the Kings and the Pelicans.
Barring any unforeseen, season-altering events for any of the previously mentioned teams, everything is up in the air.
If you’re the Lakers being led by the healthiest and most motivated version of LeBron ever and arguably the most talented big man in the NBA, you like your chances, and you like them a lot. You don’t even have to worry about the coaching staff because LeBron has proved time and time again, it doesn’t really matter who is on his bench if he’s healthy, he gets the job done.
The regular-season MVP award is supposed to go to the best player on the best team in the NBA. There’s no guarantee that the Lakers are going to finish as the top seed, but it’s safe to say they’ll be good enough for LeBron to be in the conversation, and if he’s in the conversation, he’ll win it.
Lastly, we can’t deny the facts. How long do you think the NBA has been waiting to give LeBron another award? There’s no doubt that their wait will soon be over.
Get excited Laker fans and LeBron stans, because you’re about to witness the best season by a Laker since #24 was on the court and the best season from LeBron… ever.