The 2023 playoffs loom large for LeBron James’ legacy

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are headed back to the NBA playoffs, and this particular postseason could be a legacy-changing endeavor for the king. The 2023 NBA playoffs will not “make or break” James’ legacy, but they could certainly enhance his status as one of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood.

The last time James was in the playoffs with his Lakers in 2021, they were eliminated by the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns. LA was without Anthony Davis for much of that series due to a groin injury. As a result, James and others had to take on a heavier workload that was not sustainable.

This time around, the Lakers will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and have more firepower in their arsenal. A healthy Anthony Davis, combined with other solid role players such as D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura, will join the king and AD in their quest to deliver the 18th title in franchise history.

“I just knew having a healthy LeBron and a healthy AD at the right time, the sky’s the limit. And those segments of the season when they weren’t available, we just had to kind of just continue to swim and throw our arms and kick our feet to stay above water and maintain,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told the “Los Angeles Times” after the final regular-season game.

This playoff run could be career-capping for LeBron James.

It’s no secret that James is considered to be the GOAT by many, but some maintain that Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan outranks him due to his championship pedigree. Jordan’s six title rings loom large over James’ four. If not for the Golden State Warriors dynasty, the Akron product may have more championship wins than Jordan and a more effective GOAT case. Regardless of the fact that James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time scoring leader this season, fans and critics still largely think in terms of spring and summer success.

The Lakers crept into the playoffs with a 108-102 home play-in win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and have been attempting to form a consistent chemistry since a healthy flurry of trade deadline moves. Only now could one say that LA is close to a “finished product.” Even still, the Grizzlies and many other Western foes have had more time to cultivate their identities.

A championship appearance or win for James and the Lakers would be an incredible feat given just how much has changed over the course of their season. James has been in similar situations before, but successfully beating the odds at age 38 is a different kind of accomplishment that could catapult him past Jordan.

To James, it would seem that getting into the dance was the first step of many. Even as the West’s seventh seed, the king is still ready to compete for the crown.

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“It’s 16 teams in the postseason, and there’s opportunity for all 16,” James told ESPN. “Everyone’s record is 0-0 now and we’re playing against a very worthy opponent, and we respect them a lot. So we just got to be ready for the challenge.”