If the thought of LeBron James failing to make the playoffs is a foreign one to you, that’s understandable. After all, King James has been in the postseason in every year since 2005. Until now, that is, as James and his Los Angeles Lakers are in the middle of rebuilding and failed to qualify for the playoffs. For some context as to how rare this is, here is a look at what the league was like the last time James didn’t make the playoffs.
Spurs and Pistons NBA Finals
To say that the style of play in the NBA in 2005 was different from how it is now is an understatement. Back then, the goal was largely to get to the basket and score either through slashers or bigs. And defense was something that could keep a team under 80 points consistently. Those elements were on full display the last time LeBron James failed to make the playoffs, when the NBA Finals matchup was between the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons.
The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan at the time, a bland yet ruthlessly effective big man who would be made to shoot threes if he was being developed in today’s NBA. And the Pistons were led by Ben Wallace, an intimidating defender who may not have a place in today’s game at all. These squads waged all-out war against each other in the 2005 Finals, with San Antonio coming out as the 4-3 series winner.
Dwyane Wade Hadn’t Won a Title
Dwyane Wade is one of the great champions of the modern era of the NBA, stacking up three championships during his time with the Miami Heat. But Wade hadn’t made it to the top of the mountain yet in 2005, as he took until 2006 to snag his first ring.
Of course, this is all fitting given that Wade is now in his last season in the NBA after announcing that he would be retiring. In a way, both Wade’s retirement and James’ missing of the playoffs are signals that the balance of power is shifting in the NBA toward the younger stars in the league. As always, Father Time has never lost.
Seattle Had a Basketball Team
The Seattle SuperSonics were one of the coolest franchises in the NBA. With a basketball-obsessed city backing some of the most fun to watch teams of their time, the Sonics were an institution until they were taken and moved to Oklahoma City. But the last time that LeBron James had missed the playoffs, that team in Seattle was still alive and kicking.
In fact, that team was getting ready to bring the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden together to form a dominant trio. All three of those players went on to win MVP awards during their careers, and it is a shame to some that they never got to play as a trio in Seattle.
Bulls Make Postseason
Normally it isn’t news when a team makes the playoffs, but the last season in which LeBron didn’t make the playoffs was historic in a way for the Chicago Bulls. It marked their first playoff appearance since Michael Jordan left the team once and for all.
This is also something with ties to LeBron, as the city of Cleveland is now waiting for the Cavaliers to get back to the playoffs after James’ departure from the team. On the bright side for Cavaliers fans, they can take comfort in knowing that James will be watching the NBA Playoffs along with them this year.