On Wednesday, March 6, Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James passed Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan for fourth place all time in career points scored. This puts James just behind the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone and Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Each player is an NBA legend in their own right, and are continuously brought up in the conversation of who is the greatest of all time. Despite James’ recent achievement, the Lakers still lost to the Denver Nuggets. The question is, how is this team facing so many difficulties with one of the greatest players on its roster?
Just a few weeks ago, the Lakers made a trade offer for Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. This offer would have rid the Lakers of all young talent and hindered the future of the franchise. It seemed that general manager and Lakers legend Magic Johnson was looking to build a team that was good for 1 to 3 playoff runs. This trade offer was declined, and ever since the Lakers just haven’t been the same. The young players know that they will be traded when the right piece comes along, and this takes away any loyalty that they have for the team and its staff.
Another aspect that affects the loyalty of the team is the number of short contracts for veteran players. Players like center JaVale McGee, center Tyson Chandler and point guard Rajon Rondo have all signed for one year and were looking for a championship team with James. Because the team is struggling, these short term contract players no longer have a reason to care.
The last piece that has affected this team is injuries. Power forward Brandon Ingram and point guard Lonzo Ball are both out for the season, due to shoulder and ankle injuries respectively. With both players being key pieces to the team, it is going to be very difficult for the Lakers to get a winning record and make playoffs this season. This is also the first year that James has faced injuries, with a groin injury occurring in February. These problems have contributed to the lack of depth and talent going into each game, and it makes complete sense as to why the team is not doing as well as expected.
These results are disappointing because, with James’ age, it is obvious that he won’t have much more time playing in the league. Because of this, it is important for his legacy that he gets more championships. Despite the record that he just broke, he doesn’t average the 30 plus points that Jordan did, or have the rings that Jordan has. These factors still put James at a disadvantage in the “greatest of all time” discussion, and with a weak final season, he may just not reach the point that he needs to. Although this record was a huge milestone, it doesn’t make someone the best. Bryant passed this same mark not too long ago, and the discussion for him being better than Jordan has all but diminished outside of Los Angeles.
James may never get the opportunity for another ring, however, it’s important that he finds his way to another playoff. It looks like this won’t be the year, but with a potential Anthony Davis trade, anything can happen. James has a lot of work to do in the next few years to try and cement himself further in the conversations held by basketball fans across the country, and it’ll be interesting to observe what kind of team Johnson builds around him.