In sports, the “what-ifs” and “could-have-been” often fuel discussions and debates among fans and players alike. Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Lance Stephenson recently opened up to Bally Sports’ Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson about his belief that the team could have clinched an NBA title during the 2018-19 season if it weren’t for injuries to key players, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma. While some may view this as an exaggeration, it is intriguing to imagine how the Lakers’ fortunes might have differed had their star duo been fully healthy during that season.
During the 2018-19 NBA campaign, the Lakers faced the disappointment of missing the playoffs, ending the season with a 37-45 record. It was LeBron James’ first season with the historic franchise, and expectations were sky-high. However, injuries took a toll, and the Lakers fell short of their postseason aspirations.
LeBron, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, appeared in only 55 games that season. The Lakers’ record with him on the court was a respectable 28-27, but they struggled significantly during the 27 games he was forced to miss, posting a worrisome 9-18 record. This stark contrast demonstrated the impact of having a player of James’ caliber on the court, as he brought immense leadership and talent to the team.
Kyle Kuzma, a promising young talent at the time, also battled with injuries, missing a total of 12 games during the season. His absence, coupled with LeBron’s, undoubtedly affected the Lakers’ overall performance and hindered their playoff aspirations.
Despite Stephenson’s belief that the team could have potentially won an NBA title that season, the reality is that the absence of two key players in a highly competitive league like the NBA can make a significant difference in a team’s fortunes. The Lakers’ failure to make the playoffs in the 2018-19 season marked the end of an impressive eight-season streak of LeBron James appearing in the NBA Finals.
However, as history would show, the Lakers bounced back the following season, adding big man Anthony Davis to their roster. With a strong core and the addition of Davis, the Lakers emerged as dominant contenders in the NBA’s Orlando, Florida bubble, ultimately securing their 17th NBA title. Stephenson was not a part of that championship-winning Lakers team, but he witnessed firsthand the resilience and determination required to claim the ultimate prize in the basketball world.
While Stephenson’s assertion might be a tad ambitious, it is hard to discount the impact LeBron James can have on any team he represents. The basketball prodigy has consistently demonstrated his ability to lead and elevate his teammates, even at an advanced age. Despite battling injuries in the 2022-23 season, James defied the odds by leading the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals.
With a full offseason to rest and recover, LeBron James will undoubtedly be determined to take the Lakers to greater heights in the upcoming 2023-24 campaign. His influence on and off the court continues to inspire both fans and players, and the Lakers’ quest for another NBA title remains an exciting prospect.
In conclusion, Lance Stephenson’s belief that the 2018-19 Lakers could have won an NBA title had LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma not been plagued by injuries is a reflection of the impact these star players can have on a team’s fortunes. While injuries are an inevitable part of sports, they can significantly alter the trajectory of a season. Nevertheless, the resilience and determination displayed by LeBron James and the Lakers in subsequent seasons illustrate the unwavering pursuit of success and the commitment to achieving greatness in the storied franchise. As the 2023-24 season approaches, Lakers fans eagerly anticipate LeBron’s return to full health and the team’s continued pursuit of championship glory.