For the first time in eight years, LeBron James was absent from the NBA postseason. In the wake of his absence, teams and players were able to take advantage (especially those in the East).
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors were one of those teams, breaking a year-long streak of failure to secure their first NBA Championship.
In light of this reality, Leonard may have changed the NBA hierarchy -- at least, according to ESPN's Jalen Rose, who insists that Kawhi is the league's newest "king."
” I can’t go in to this years training camp and act like Kawhi Lenard didn’t just go to the Raptors, and win the championship, Finals MVP, shoot down the Philadelphia 76ers, take out the Greek Freak, take out the Golden State Warriors without KD, and LeBron’s team didn’t make the playoffs? I gotta give Kawhi the number one spot right now…the king of the court has to be Kawhi.”
Kawhi's reign this past season cannot be understated: the dude was stellar. In 60 games with the Raptors, the 2x Finals MVP lead Toronto to the second-best record in the East, putting up 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 49% shooting.
As for LeBron, he posted similar numbers in 55 games -- but his defense and the overall performance of his team was significantly less glamorous. The Lakers missed out on the playoffs, and James' finger-pointing mentality played a big role.
Nevertheless, James has given us plenty of reason not to doubt him before. Barring injury, he has always been amongst the MVP favorites. Can LeBron prove the masses wrong yet again next season, or will Father Time (and Kawhi Leonard) finally take his throne?