Prior to the interruption of the 2019-20 NBA season, the 35-year-old was building a strong case for his fifth MVP. He was averaging 25.7 points, a league-best 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds. The Lakers were also sitting first in the Western Conference at 49-14, 5.5 games up on the second-place Los Angeles Clippers.
With the coronavirus pandemic putting sports on hiatus for months, few NBA teams were more adversely affected than the Lakers.
Los Angeles was firing on all cylinders prior to the stoppage, and carrying that momentum over to the restart was all but impossible. The team had only have eight games to rebuild its on-court chemistry before the start of the playoffs.
Under normal circumstances, losing James to injury would be a massive blow. Now, it's even more difficult to gauge how L.A. will operate without its best player.
Granted, the Lakers already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, so they can afford to be proactive with James when it comes to his health.
Los Angeles still has Anthony Davis and a solid supporting cast, but no player is more integral to its championship hopes than LeBron.