If a team in the east makes a shot but nobody sees it, did it really go in?
It’s a legit question in the wake of Sunday’s Earth-shattering NBA news, as the Eastern Conference was officially pronounced dead July 1, 2018. Come fall, casual basketball fans have to ask: What’s the point of watching any regular season games between Eastern Conference teams now that LeBron has taken his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers?
There isn’t going to be much of one now that the Association’s best player is playing in the conference with the best talent in the league which also has the best teams in the league. The West has been the best conference since MJ's final days with the Bulls, and LeBron's departure makes the East the least powerful it’s ever been in modern history. All the heat, all the shine, all the glitz, and all the glamour of the NBA officially resides out West now.
Whatever your take is on LeBron’s Decision 3.0, clearly it was made with family, lifestyle, and legacy off the court the priority before basketball and his legacy on the court. Because if LeBron really cares about chasing titles as he enters his age 34 season and maybe the last year of his prime, if he really cares about making a dent in the whole MJ vs. LeBron debate, then it made no sense signing a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers. His easiest path to the Finals over the next few seasons, certainly next year, was with the Cavaliers, not playing alongside a bunch of baby-faced ballers with no playoff experience and Lance Stephenson. Now he has to go through the Warriors and the Rockets in the Western Conference playoffs before the NBA Finals.
the junior varsity conference officially begins life after LeBron in October with the reality that life with him was a whole lot more fun, even if he usually was kicking your ass.
Last week, I outlined why LeBron to the Lakers wouldn’t happen (if you believe in NBA conspiracy theories) and the main point in the piece rested on this: The league wouldn’t allow LeBron to leave Cleveland for the Lakers because it would completely throw off the balance of power—which was already completely lopsided in the West’s favor. LeBron, of course, made the Eastern Conference relevant. He brought all the hype. He delivered all the drama. He was the only one preventing the Eastern Conference from being a complete joke his last four years in Cleveland.
For some hardcore basketball fans, that’s going to sound blasphemous. Fans of the Sixers and Celtics in particular would gladly argue their up and coming squads should garner plenty of attention and will be just as exciting as any of LeBron’s Cavaliers teams. But they know that’s complete garbage. When the best player in the world just hitched his wagon to the NBA’s most glamorous franchise in the premier conference—where the 10 best players in the game currently reside—who is really going to care about the Eastern Conference?
Fans of Eastern Conference squads can spin it any way they like. Sure, LeBron leaving makes for much easier paths to the NBA Finals for the Sixers, Celtics, and, hey, maybe even the Raptors actually have a chance to advance deep into the playoffs for a change now. But if you’re a fan of an Eastern Conference contender, don’t you want to go through the best to be the best? Don’t you want to slay the dragon? Don’t you want to take down an immortal on the way to attaining glory?
Instead, the junior varsity officially begins life after LeBron in October with zero buzz and the reality that life with him was a whole lot more fun, even if he usually was kicking your ass.