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Can the Lakers Hand LeBron the Perfect 20th Anniversary Present of an NBA Championship?

Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash

In the UK, 20 years as a married couple is celebrated as an ‘emerald wedding anniversary’. But for LeBron James, who in 2023 completes two decades wedded to the NBA, the only material he’s interested in is silverware.

By the time the 2024 NBA Finals roll around next June, it will have been four years since LeBron and the Los Angeles Lakers got their hands on the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy – not that long for a mere mortal, but for the ‘King’ of professional basketball, that’s a long old time.

As tends to be the case for the NBA’s elder statesmen, the 38-year-old’s schedule is closely monitored these days, but he remains relevant – with an average of 29.8 points per game, last season confirmed the key role LeBron has to play during the 2023-24 campaign.

But can he celebrate 20 years in the game with a fifth NBA title?

Boston Bound?

The basketball betting market is usually a good indicator of what is expected from a franchise so early in the season.

And the NBA betting odds from Paddy Power make the Boston Celtics favorites for the championship at 7/2.

But their historical inconsistencies in the playoffs mean that many sports tips will look elsewhere for their predicted winner – Milwaukee Bucks (4/1), reigning champions Denver Nuggets (5/1) and Phoenix Suns (5/1) have been identified as the Celtics’ most likely rivals.

At 9/1, the Lakers are not beyond hope as per the bookmakers, although evidently they have work to do to make up the ground on those more fancied to thrive.

In truth, LeBron and co were blitzed by the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals 12 months ago, so the question is have the Lakers improved enough during the offseason – or will the Nuggets regress enough – for the tables to be turned in 2023-24?

Some will be expecting a regression of sorts from Nikola Jokic this term given the stratospheric performances he delivered last season, although a 28-point double-double in the Nuggets’ 128-95 demolition of the Oklahoma City Thunder at the end of October suggests otherwise.

Instead, the Lakers will have to claim the glory themselves, rather than hoping for downturns elsewhere, which will mean that Anthony Davis will have to hit LeBron-esque heights as the pivotal figure in their offensive play – a tall order for a player perhaps better known for his defensive work.

Kings of LA?

The Lakers have been the flagbearers for basketball in Los Angeles for decades… but this could be the season when the Clippers challenge them for that honour.

Being dumped out of the playoffs in the first-round last season was a tough lesson for Tyronn Lue’s men to take. But they return in 2023-24 with plenty of reasons to be positive, with Kawhi Leonard – assuming he can stay fit and injury-free – boasting the potential to gatecrash MVP discussions and even propel his teammates to Western Conference success.

In Paul George, he has a perfect foil too, although much will depend upon how that duo performs given that there’s little in the way of elite offensive talent beyond the Leonard and George show.

That’s an argument that can be levelled at the Lakers too, with Davis and LeBron carrying the can for their franchise, so the battle for dominance in Los Angeles may just be determined by which pairing fires most consistently.

That LA head-to-head may be as good as it gets for either team this year, with the Nuggets and the Suns far more likely to dominate the Western Conference, so LeBron may have to satisfy himself with the local bragging rights in his twentieth year as opposed to national glory.