Gone are the days of knowing each and every list of best current NBA players would end with Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James at number one.
After two decades in The Association, the Los Angeles Lakers star forward has been ranked outside of the top ten current NBA players in The Ringer’s latest “The NBA, Ranked” yearly update. Some of LeBron’s greatest rivals throughout his career are still ranked within the top five, namely Stephen Curry’s placement at number two and Kevin Durant at four.
Where then, did LeBron James rank?
Rounding out the top ten was Phoenix’s Devin Booker, followed at number eleven by the Lakers’ own Anthony Davis.
After that, ranked as the 12th-best overall player in the NBA, sits Akron native and newly crowned all-time scoring champion, LeBron James. Each player in the top-125 list is given an in-depth analysis and badges to summarize their greatness. LeBron was awarded “Potential GOAT”, “Floor General”, and “Feel for the Game” – all quite accurate titles for the 38-year-old legend.
In James’ analysis, Kevin O’Connor praises LeBron’s longevity but writes that “he has aged beyond his physical prime, but he can still be the game’s best player on any given night.” O’Connor cites LeBron’s savvy playstyle and increased three-point threat as reasons for his unfathomably long-term success.
After their most recent trip to the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers should be proud to boast two top 12 talents; yet, it seems that LeBron’s fall in ranking is primarily due to his physical setbacks and increasing injury risk. Kevin O’Connor mentions LeBron’s lackluster defensive effort, citing “the incredible amount of mileage on his body and recent history of groin injuries” as the drawbacks to James’ current game.
Certainly, O’Connor’s concerns about LeBron’s health and age are warranted. The question, though, is what places LeBron below other injury-ridden stars? For instance, Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard was placed at number eight. With no intent on diminishing Leonard’s talent, his injury concerns have greatly halted the Clippers’ ceiling for success.
In his year twenty campaign, LeBron James averaged 28.9 points per contest with an efficient Field Goal percentage (eFG%) of 54.9%, per Basketball Reference. Additionally, James maintained his passing and rebounding averages from the year prior. James accomplished all this, in addition to his All-NBA Third Team and All-Star captain selections, in 55 games played averaging 35.5 minutes.
Admittedly, his long-range shooting dropped off from 35.9% down to 32.1% on his second-most attempts per game in his career.
While James might not be the unstoppable juggernaut in his Miami and Cleveland years, it is impossible to imagine holding LeBron James out of the top ten most coveted assets in the NBA. The King’s unprecedented leadership and genius playstyle is still seemingly unmatched.
Leading a seven-seeded Lakers to the conference finals was not simply a task of lucky matchups. Playing through a significant injury, James and the Lakers defeated the two-seed Memphis Grizzlies led by emerging superstar Ja Morant and Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson, Jr.
After their six-game series success in the first round, the Lakers took on the reigning NBA Champions in the Golden State Warriors. Considering that the Warriors have the undisputed greatest shooter of all time in Curry, this series was nothing short of historic.
After four years of constant NBA Finals matchups, LeBron James and Stephen Curry had yet to face off in the playoffs since 2018. Both players had won another championship since then against another roster and both competed in the same conference. Much of both players’ legacies hinged on this series, capping off one of the greatest rivalries in the modern NBA.
It is not certain how much the Playoffs influenced The Ringer’s rankings, but LeBron’s recent run in the postseason might suggest that he is still a player with value beyond his current rank.
Perhaps O’Connor’s analysis of James’ decline in physical dominance is worth more consideration than this argument suggests. But, it also appears that the league may still be too hastily writing off one of the greatest if not the greatest, basketball talents the world will ever witness.