LeBron James’ first-round exit from the playoffs shouldn’t tarnish his legacy

Although LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were booted from the playoffs in the first round this season, the early exit shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments.

Updated: June 4, 2021 • 1:20 AM ET

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LeBron James - Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James may be the most scrutinized player in the NBA. There are those who say he’s the best player who ever stepped on a basketball court, while others have trouble ranking him among their top 10 players of all time. Whether you reside at either end of that spectrum or somewhere in the middle, James’ legacy should not be affected by the Lakers’ first-round exit from the playoffs to the talented Phoenix Suns this season.

Even Michael Jordan, who many say is the greatest player ever, lost in the first round of the playoffs three times, being swept in two of those series. Those three first-round exits came in Jordan’s first three years in the league, and while those losses are understandable for such a young player, the first-round series loss for James in this year’s playoffs was his first time ever losing in the opening round — James is in his 18th season in the league.

It’s unthinkable that James, who has reached 15 postseasons in his career, never lost a first-round series until this week. He has played by far the most games ever in the playoffs (265 games), scored significantly more points in the playoffs than any other player ever and made the most playoff field goals of all time (he also ranks second in playoff three-pointers made and assists dished out). With that much playoff mileage on his laudable legs, it would be reasonable if James had been previously booted from the playoffs before the second round arrived.

Sure, James has played on some great teams with other superstars by his side, lessening his chances of exiting the postseason early. But he has also played on teams with no other All-Stars (2005-06 Cavs, 2006-07 Cavs, 2007-08 Cavs) and led them deep in the postseason, including to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007 in which the second-leading scorer on his team was Larry Hughes (14.9 ppg).

When discussing legacy, most would surely agree that James is one of the greatest players ever. His accolades are eye-popping and could be considered spam if listing them all was attempted. A first-round exit in the playoffs can’t wipe out everything he has accomplished in his career.

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