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LA Lakers: From Contenders to Tankers

The LA Lakers are arguably the most historic and successful team in NBA history. However, for the last six seasons, this franchise hasn’t even made the playoffs. In order to change this, the Lakers knew that they needed to land a great player by either trade or through free agency. Not only did the Lakers land a superstar, but they also landed the best player in the NBA and a once in a lifetime type player. Before the start of the 2018-19 NBA season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed the biggest news of the offseason: LeBron James would take his talents from the Cleveland Cavaliers to Los Angeles Lakers.

Following the blockbuster free agency signing, fans around the world were almost guaranteed that the Lakers would make the playoffs, and compete with top teams such as the Rockets and Warriors. These predictions did not seem impossible for the first couple months of the NBA season. Coming into December, the Lakers were in fourth place and looked like they were getting better and better. Then, the unprecedented occurred. Christmas day, the Lakers played the Warriors, which to many suggested a preview of what would take place in the playoffs. The Lakers started off great and by halftime, they held a fifteen point lead over the reigning champions. Once the third quarter started, the Lakers were meeting expectations, which meant they’d be a dominant force in the Western Conference. However, the unimaginable happened. With eight minutes left in the third quarter, the best player in the world, LeBron James, injured his groin and winced in pain. While all fans, especially LeBron and Lakers fans, started to be somewhat worried, they remained almost certain that LeBron would just get up and keep playing. That didn’t happen. Watching LeBron James grimace in pain, unable to continue, the millions of fans watching knew something was wrong. Even after getting subbed out of the game and going into the locker room, fans remained certain that the king would at most miss the rest of this game but be back for the next game. The man that had never missed more than ten games due to injury in his fourteen year NBA career would now miss 17 games, the most in his career, due to injury.

Before the injury, the Lakers were fourth in the Western Conference and looking like they would prove all of the analysts and reporters wrong once more, emerging as one of the NBA’s elite teams. This possibility, while it did not seem like it at the time, came crashing down as news about LeBron James’ injury was reported.  However, while it looked terrible for the Lakers, one of the top young players in the NBA, Anthony Davis, requested that his team trade him to the Lakers. While it looked like in a couple of weeks Anthony Davis and LeBron James would be playing together, the insane requests of the Pelicans management did not allow the Lakers to pull the trigger on what would have been a blockbuster trade. The Lakers bad fortune did not end there, however. After learning none of them were safe, the young players on the Lakers such as Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram broke away from the team and became isolated. This became even worse after Lonzo Ball suffered a season-ending injury with well-over two months left in the NBA season. The Lakers now didn’t have their starting point guard, couldn’t trade for Anthony Davis, and had a 34-year-old LeBron James coming off an injury and playing heavy minutes just to try and get the Lakers into the playoffs. With the lack of experience, injuries, and the separation of certain players from the team, the Lakers looked worse and worse each game and did not make the playoffs.

For the first time in 15 years, LeBron James would no longer be competing in the postseason. “It’s crazy to think that LeBron won’t be in the playoffs, says senior Timmy Cervetto. “ I was three years old the last time LeBron wasn’t in the playoffs, and now I am 18.”

After knowing that they would not make it, the Lakers did what to them, was best for their star player and the future of their franchise. With eight games to go in the NBA season, the Lakers announced that they would no longer play LeBron James until the upcoming NBA season. “I know that the Lakers aren’t going to make the postseason but I still think that they should have played LeBron instead of just shutting down for the season,” says senior Mitch Robards.

So, instead of being one of the top teams in the NBA and competing against the Warriors to get to the finals, the Lakers now are sitting the best player in the NBA for the rest of the season and are thinking about getting the highest pick possible. While the Lakers have been immensely unlucky this season, this goes to show that while the Lakers did land LeBron James, not he nor the so-called G.O.A.T, Michael Jordan, can lead a team to success all by themselves.

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