Once upon a time, a young prince took the league by storm. It was 2003, and that young prodigy entered the association with an amount of hype that no other prospect had even come close to producing. Hardly even an adult, the 18-year-old LeBron James was thrust into the spotlight immediately upon being drafted, and the expectations cast upon him at the time seemed impossible for an individual basketball player to live up to.
But it did not take long for LBJ to graduate from prince status to King stature. It was as if he skipped right past the whole “rookie wall” concept, as he looked fully comfortable on the court from day one. Fast forward 20 years later, and the crown still belongs to LeBron.
Sure, players like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo may be classified as the better overall players at this point in time, but even they have openly confessed to remaining below the King in terms of player power rankings. Maybe that was just a matter of saying the right thing to the media, but there is no denying the amount of respect that LeBron has garnered from his peers.
He has certainly encountered many foes throughout his many fights, but can you recall any players legitimately criticizing the basketball abilities of LeBron James? We are not even going to count meaningless, immature quotes from the likes of Dillon Brooks as serious criticisms for the sake of that question.
There is a legitimate case to be made that LeBron James is the greatest basketball player to ever grace the hardwood, but LeBron James the human being has blessed many other people with his work off the court. He will assuredly be remembered for the championships and highlight plays, but he has truly been an incredible role model for the younger generation of hoopers to look up to. For now, we will stick to his basketball skills and save those additional praises for a later date, as he showed last season that he clearly still has a ton of gas left in the tank.
Not to mention that his current team resembles what could be a potential juggernaut on both ends of the floor. From top to bottom, this could rationally be the most talented roster that a front office has ever surrounded the King with. When you take a moment to dissect the composition of the 2023-2024 Lakers squad, you get the feeling that LeBron’s load could quite feasibly be as light as ever.
First and foremost, this team will live and die by Anthony Davis. It was clear as soon as he was acquired from New Orleans that LeBron was more than comfortable handing Davis the keys to the team and riding in the passenger seat. Obviously, AD is the future of this franchise, but he has realistically been the centerpiece of this team for the past few years.
Ever notice how things always seem to fall apart as soon as he gets injured? His significance on both sides of the ball is enormous, arguably even larger than LeBron’s. There have long been questions regarding whether he would indeed be the heir to the throne, and this will certainly be his best opportunity to prove that he is worthy and ready for royalty.
LeBron James’ potential last ride with the Lakers has a stacked supporting cast.
Look past AD, and LeBron has plenty of other support on offense. Austin Reaves is no longer an underdog, he is just simply a dog at this point. You just do not hear of anyone throwing shade at Reaves anymore. He is the real deal and will shoulder a lot of the ball-handling + playmaking responsibilities that LeBron once carried.
Combine him with yet another highly underrated secondary playmaker in D’Angelo Russell, and we may be in store for the best backcourt that LeBron has ever played with. That is not to say that LBJ will not serve as the lead playmaker on this team, it is just to say that he will have much less pressure to make things happen offensively than he probably ever has before.
Then you mix in some of the other frontcourt bucket-getters such as Rui Hachimura and the newest Laker Christian Wood, and it not hard to get excited about the heavy weaponry that Rob Pelinka has equipped LeBron with to orchestrate the assault. Those two could very easily be top 2-3 scorers on any other team, but sit closer to 5th and 6th in the offensive pecking order with this season’s Lakers. That is a frightening realization that many other team’s will have to come to terms with. This is a team that is constructed to put a lot of points on the scoreboard, and the dangerous part is that LeBron could have the worst shooting night of his career and the team could still drop 120-130 points. Shoot, they might even be able to drop 140-150 if everyone else is clicking. Scratch that, they might even be able to drop those same amounts if only 2 or 3 of those other guys are hot.
And that is not even to mention the rest of the roster. Guys like Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, and Max Christie have all displayed the ability to put the ball in the hole in varying ways. However, the true value of those guys in the coming season will be on the less glamorous end. With LeBron turning 39 in December, the coaching staff will certainly be looking to spare him as much energy on defense as possible.
Thankfully for him, this is a roster filled with plus defenders in those 3, AD, AR, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes. Did we forget any other plus defenders? Oh yes, Jarred Vanderbilt returned on a fairly team-friendly extension to continue wreaking havoc on opposing scoring threats. He and AD could combine to form the best defensive duo across the entire league, and having them on the floor next to James will surely spare him a lot of tread on his tires. And let us not forget the defensive growth that Rui Hachimura illuminated last postseason.
All things considered, the front office did an A+ job of putting together a roster that would seem to make LeBron’s life as easy as possible this season. Whether or not all of the puzzle pieces fit together seamlessly remains to be seen, but on paper this is a championship contender.
With questions abound regarding whether or not this is LeBron’s final season, Rob Pelinka worked wonders this summer in terms of attempting to sway him towards returning for at least one more run with the Lakeshow in 2024-2025. Maybe Bron inevitably decides to jump ship and join his son Bronny next season (who thankfully appears to be returning to the basketball court very soon), but no one would fault him for taking that path.
There are definitely quite a few question marks pertaining to LeBron’s future with the Lakers, but for now, let’s all just enjoy the greatness that is LeBron James in the present. As previously noted, this could very well be the greatest player to ever play the game. As he enters the twilight of his career, basketball fans across the globe need to embrace his legend and enjoy his performances. For all we know, this could in fact be his final season as a professional basketball player.
Thank you, LeBron, for everything that you have done and everything that you have yet to do for the game of basketball. And thank you, Rob Pelinka, for putting forth your best effort to appease the King.
Here is to hoping the 2023-24 season yields him another ring to add to his collection.