Although it remains a hotly debated topic on both social and traditional media, there’s no discounting James’ placement among the greats.
His resume speaks for itself: 17 All-Star and All-NBA berths, six All-Defensive Team berths, and four league MVPs.
James sports an unprecedented 11-straight All-NBA first-team appearances.
He has led the league in scoring and in assists once each in his career.
James has won four NBA championships, with three different franchises, earning the Finals MVP with each victory.
There’s no doubt James will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and would have his face chiseled on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, if such a memorial existed.
Entering his age-37 season, he’s still must-see TV.
With LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, we are primetime baby 😎 pic.twitter.com/28zxAuILo8
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) August 20, 2021
But not all of James’ 18 pro seasons have been the stuff of legend.
Here’s a look at the three worst seasons of James’ career.
For a career as storied as James’, to say that two of his three worst seasons have come in seasons 16 and 18 speaks to his greatness.
His statistical averages remained elite, no doubt.
He posted 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, which have been recorded just seven times in NBA history.
But the 2018-19 season marked the first time James didn’t lead his team to the playoffs in 13 years.
Sure, injuries marred the Los Angeles Lakers season, including limiting James to a then-career-low 55 games.
James’ 25.6 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) ranked in the bottom-5 of his career.
His 4.9 Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) ranked bottom-3.
James would bounce back though, leading the Lakers to the franchise’s 17th NBA title the very next season.
Entering his 19th season in the NBA, James will have plenty of rest.
The 2020-21 season for the Lakers started after the shortest offseason in NBA history.
That never bodes well for athletes, especially not one at age 36 with the miles James has logged.
The Lakers title defense was ultimately short-lived.
The team sputtered through the regular season and landed in the Play-In Tournament before a first-round playoff exit.
It was the first first-round playoff loss in James’ career.
He finished the series against the Phoenix Suns averaging 23.3 points, his fourth-lowest scoring output for a series over his career and his lowest since averaging 22.8 in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.
Hobbled throughout much of the season, James’ 24.2 PER was the second-lowest mark of his career.
Although his per game averages remained consistent with the rest of his career, his VORP checked in at 3.6, again, second-lowest of his career.
His 5.6 Win Shares figure also ranked as second-lowest in his career.
But James struggled with nagging injuries throughout the season, so next year could see another bounce back.
LeBron said that having a full offseason will “work wonders” for him.
Yet, aside from the ankle that never got back up to 100% from the March 20 injury, “Everything else feels extremely well."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 4, 2021
The worst season of James’ career remains the first one.
As a 19-year-old rookie, James made NBA fans marvel, to be sure.
He posted statistical lows almost across the board, which is understandable given his age.
James’s 18.3 PER stands as the lowest in his career, and the only time he checked in below 24.0.
He averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game in his first season, which, for most other players would rank as career highs.
For James, though, it was only the beginning.
His rookie campaign currently stands as the only one of his career that James didn’t earn an All-Star berth.
He did win the Rookie of the Year award that season, and actually ranked ninth in MVP voting.
But James couldn’t immediately elevate the Cleveland Cavaliers into postseason contention.
It would be another full season before James got his first taste of the playoffs.