By Harry How of Getty Images
The Los Angeles Lakers are on top of the basketball world. They are in first place in the Western Conference and are up 6.5 games on the 2nd place team, the Los Angeles Clippers. They have won 11 out of their last 12 games and made two statement victories over the weekend against the reigning regular-season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the reigning finals MVP Kawahi Leonard. The Lakers had a season to forget last year finishing in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 37-45 record, but with their strong season this year, they have already clinched a playoff spot for their first time since 2013. The combination of LeBron James and Anthony Davis has been lethal all year with the duo clicking on every cylinder. Davis is putting up almost 27 points per game and is having career bests in almost every category. In his seven previous seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, the big man put up top ten numbers in most of them but was not given the respect he deserved due to being in the small market. He made it well-known to the public that he wanted to team up with LeBron in LA which led to the eventual trade sending him to the Lakers. Even with Davis being a free agent at this year's end, the large haul the Lakers gave up for him has been fully worth it. The Lakers missed out on a third superstar to team up with LeBron and Davis, but the role players they have assembled instead has led to them being an all-around cohesive unit. Not many of these players will put up flashy number’s night in and night out but every player plays a vital role in the team's success. On any given night it can be any member of the fifteen-man roster that can step up. Against the Clippers on Sunday Avery Bradley pitched in 24 points on 6-12 three-point shooting. At the end of the first half, the Lakers were down four. With LeBron James only playing five minutes in the third quarter it would be fair to assume that their deficit would only grow. In the five minutes, LeBron did not even attempt a shot, but Avery Bradley was on fire drilling four of his six three-pointers. The third-leading scorer on this team alternates between Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and even the reinvented former Washington Wizard dud Dwight Howard. These players have struggled at many points in their careers but are all playing good basketball with this squad. There could be many factors that people could look to that play into this, but the most glaring and obvious reason is the king, LeBron James.
LeBron James is known by the entire world as the king of basketball. Year in and year out no matter who is named the MVP of the NBA LeBron James has always been the best player in the world. He has been named an all-star for sixteen consecutive seasons, won four MVPs, made twelve All-NBA first teams, five All-NBA defensive teams, and has won three NBA championships while being named finals MVP in all of them. Did I mention that he is having one of the best seasons of his career as a 35-year-old? In his 17th season? While coming off the first major injury of his career? The man has defied all odds stacked against him and has let the critics know how much he has achieved when he has been doubted. Many people do not appreciate how great James has consistently been on a daily basis. Once it is all said and done people will finally realize how much LeBron meant to this game and how much we all will miss him.
In LeBron's first season listed as a point guard, he is leading the league in assists with 10.6 assists per game. He has now had at least one year in his career where he has been listed at every position except center. He has had a slight dip in points per game this season but this attributes to the rise in assists. He is taking more three-point shots than he ever has in his career. He even has made a couple of three-pointers recently pulling up from the logo early in the shot clock. James has been fueling the recent Laker run and is leading them towards a playoff run that will go down as one for the ages. If the Lakers come into the playoffs with the momentum that they have now no team will be able to stop them. The Clippers were on a tear these past few weeks and rolled into Staples Center Sunday at full strength with their star duo of Paul George and Kawai Leonard. When the Clippers had been at full strength before Sunday's contest they were 10-0 on the season. The Lakers made quick work of them with LeBron closing out the game with a layup, plus the foul. James finished with 28 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. On Friday night against the then 53-9, Milwaukee Bucks James finished with 37 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds. The Bucks had won 12 out of their last 15 games and had already beat the Lakers earlier in the season. The Lakers dominated the third quarter and won the game by ten. Lakers players had been talking to different members of the media earlier in the week stating that LeBron was going to another level. It is hard to imagine that he could be even better than he was for most of this season, but his recent play has proved that there are no limits that can be put on him.
LeBron still stands as the second favorite to win his fifth MVP award behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the gap has shrunk drastically after this weekend. Giannis is putting up another season of elite numbers following up his MVP season last year. The Greek Freak has been putting up video game-type numbers with 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Even without Giannis on the floor, the Bucks are an elite team. The Bucks have a 5-1 record without him on the court with their regular starters playing. Management and coaches have done a great job in Milwaukee surrounding him with lethal shooters which also allows him to space the court. He is still only 25 years of age and will look to take over as the face of the NBA when LeBron leaves, but until that day comes the face of the NBA belong to King James. The Lakers are a completely different team without LeBron on the court and are not nearly as effective without their leader. The most valuable player of the NBA should go to the player that is most vital to their squad’s success while also putting up elite numbers. LeBron James is doing just that and will only build off of the recent momentum to win his fifth MVP as a 35-year-old point guard coming off of a major groin injury.