It’s always hard to watch a superstar miss the playoffs in his prime, and it looks like that might happen to LeBron James. The Lakers are 11th in the West with 22 games to go and the team is on a 2-game losing streak, so things aren’t looking too good for the Purple and Gold right now.
If LeBron misses the playoffs at the age of 34, he’ll join a small list of superstars that missed the playoffs in their prime.
First, here is a list of players to never miss the playoffs in their prime:
Michael Jordan (sorry, the Wizards at age 38 wasn’t his prime)
Magic Johnson (nope, his 32-game stint at age 36 doesn’t count)
Kevin Durant (injured in 2015 at the age 26, played just 27 games, and the Thunder missed the postseason)
Stephen Curry (injured in 2012 at the age of 23, missed 40 games – including the last 28 due to surgery and the Warriors missed the playoffs)
It’s a respectable list of Hall of Fame players. Now, here are five superstars who missed the playoffs in their prime, but two of them involved serious injuries.
5. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley balled out at the age of 24 and averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds for Philadelphia 76ers. He was also named to first team All-NBA in just his fourth season. However, the season was cut short after the 76ers missed the playoffs in 1988.
4. Dirk Nowitzki
Sharpshooter Dirk Nowitzki missed 27 games in 2013 for the Dallas Mavericks. As a result, the Mavericks were not able to make the playoffs without their leader. This was just two seasons after the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship.
3. Dwyane Wade
Three-time NBA Champion Dwyane Wade dealt with a persistent knee injury as the age of 26, and he missed 21 games of the season en route to the Heat missing the playoffs. This came two years after Wade won a championship in 2005.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon
The legendary Hakeem Olajuwon missed the NBA playoffs in the 1991 season. Olajuwon averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds which is considered a bad season by the standards he set. The Rockets would go on to win the NBA title two years later.
1. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant picked a really bad time to reach his prime. His best teammates were Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, and the Lakers missed the 2005 NBA Playoffs after an awful season. The team was trying to find itself following the exit of Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson.