Feb. 28, 2019
The Last Time LeBron Missed The Playoffs
Not too long ago, NBA fans and media fell into two camps on the topic of LeBron James. Some stated that adding LeBron to any roster would make a team an automatic contender. On the other side, some believed that LeBron’s consecutive streak to the Finals came at the benefit of a weak conference. Furthermore, if he ever switched conferences, he’d struggle to compete in the West. Exiting the 2019 All-Star break, it is beginning to look like the latter crowd may have been on to something. Going into the playoffs without LeBron James is almost uncharted territory. Let’s take a look at NBA and pop culture the last time LeBron wasn’t playing postseason basketball.
2005 Western Conference Standings
1. Phoenix Suns (62-20)
2. San Antonio Spurs (59-23)
3. Seattle SuperSonics (52-30)
4. Dallas Mavericks (58-24)
5. Houston Rockets (51-31)
6. Sacramento Kings (50-32)
7. Denver Nuggets (49-33)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (45-37)
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (44-38)
10. Los Angeles Clippers (34-48)
11. Los Angeles Lakers (34-48)
12. Golden State Warriors (34-48)
13. Portland Trailblazers (27-55)
14. Utah Jazz (26-56)
15. New Orleans Hornets (18-64)
What a blast from the past these standings are. 2005 was the first year the Mike D’Antoni system came into prominence. The Phoenix Suns picked up Steve Nash in free agency and bolted to the top of the Western Conference with players like Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw. Nash would go on to win his first of two consecutive MVP awards. For those who don’t remember or just weren’t around to see that Suns team, do yourself a favor and go to YouTube. That team was a lot of fun to watch. Under them are the eventual NBA Champions of the 2005 season. This was back when the Spurs were reviled as boring fundamentalist and a ratings nightmare. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were at the height of their powers. Ginobili in particular as spectacular in the Spurs playoff run. The third seed is a melancholy blast from the past. For now, this is the last season of winning basketball for the city of Seattle. On that team, the legendary Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis led the way for the SuperSonics. During this playoff run, Jerome James would have a good showing and go on to fleece the Knicks. Dirk was still doing his thing for the Mavericks back here as well. An interesting team led by him and Jason Terry were still a year removed from their first Finals run. Houston still had T-Mac and Yao back in 2005. This was the year that T-Mac scored 13 points in 33 seconds. This was also the year the Sacramento Kings were still a factor in the west. They still had the team of C-Webb, Bibby, Peja, and Vlade that never got over the hump. The Nuggets were in the playoffs for the second straight year being led by Carmelo Anthony. That’s right. Before becoming the NBA’s punching bag, Melo was leading his team to the playoffs when LeBron couldn’t do the same. And finally, I believe this is the year the Grizzlies made the playoffs for the first time behind Pau Gasol.
On the outside looking in, Minnesota fell flat after going to the Conference Finals the year prior. This would be the beginning of the end of the KG era in the Twin City. The Clippers were still considered the laughing stock of the NBA. The Lakers were adjusting to life without Shaq in the Kobe era. The Warriors are far from the juggernaut they are today. They’re still two years away from the We Believe squad that would shock the Mavericks. The Blazers were starting their post-jail blazer era of basketball. The Jazz and Hornets had basically bottomed out, but would soon get some point guard help in the draft. Other than the Spurs, the West is pretty much unrecognizable when compared to today.
2005 Eastern Conference Standings
1. Miami Heat (59-23)
2. Detroit Pistons (54-28)
3. Boston Celtics (45-37)
4. Chicago Bulls (47-35)
5. Washington Wizards (45-37)
6. Indiana Pacers (44-38)
7. Philadelphia 76ers (43-39)
8. New Jersey Nets (42-40)
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (42-40)
10. Orlando Magic (36-46)
11. New York Knicks (33-49)
12. Toronto Raptors (33-49)
13. Milwaukee Bucks (30-52)
14. Charlotte Bobcats (18-64)
15. Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
Ah, this takes me back. Dwayne Wade in his prime alongside Shaq playing his first season in Miami was the story of the East. They were a devastating one-two punch out of the gate. The defending champion Detroit Pistons would ultimately take them down in the conference finals after Wade got hurt. This Pistons team was just as effective as the one that one it all a year prior. The Boston Celtics were led by Paul Pierce and Antione Walker. There’s a duo that doesn’t really get a lot of shine anymore. The 2005 Bulls immediately bring up one name for me: Ben Gordon. He became the first rookie to win Sixth Man of the Year and had so many big moments. Kirk Hinrich also looked like a point guard of the future back then. This was Chicago’s first winning season and playoff appearance since Jordan retired for the second time. As for the Wizards, this was the genesis of the Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler era. This was before LeBron would become their kryptonite. This was also the year of the Malice at the Palace. The Pacers would never be the same. Allen Iverson led the Sixers to the seventh seed but didn’t have much help to lead them any further. And this was the year that Vince Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets to team with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson.
And now for the rest. LeBron and the Cavs narrowly missed the playoffs this season. Dwight Howard was a rookie this season and was actually liked by the majority of fans. As for the Knicks, this was one the darkest eras in the history of New York basketball. Ask their fans for more info on that one. The Raptors were adapting to life without Vince Carter and moving forward with Chris Bosh. The only players I remember from this Bucks team are T.J. Ford, Michael Redd, and Mo Williams. One was injured for the season, the other was often injured, and the one was a rookie. They would eventually go on to pick Andrew Bogut with the top pick in the draft. The Bobcats had a rough season, but they did have Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor. And I’m not sure if the Hawks actually played basketball that year.
Top Movies of 2005
1. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. War of the Worlds
5. King Kong
6. Wedding Crashers
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
8. Batman Begins
10. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Editor’s note: Wait, Nolan’s Batman trilogy began in 2005!? Wow, I feel old. And they milked Madagascar for a very long time considering it originally came out in 2005. Also, our generation got screwed on Star Wars movies. You know it’s bad when we’re craving the prequels. And before I forget, The 40 Year Old Virgin, the first Sin City, and V for Vendetta also came out this year.
Top Songs of 2005
1. We Belong Together- Mariah Carey
2. Hollaback Girl- Gwen Stefani
3. Let Me Love You- Mario
4. Since U Been Gone- Kelly Clarkson
5. One, Two Step- Ciara featuring Missy Elliot
6. Gold Digger- Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx
7. Boulevard of Broken Dreams- Green Day
8. Candy Shop 50 Cent featuring Olivia
9. Don’ Cha- The Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes
10. Behind These Hazel Eyes- Kelly Clarkson
Editor’s note: Are some of you feeling old yet? Maybe confused if you’re young? Honestly, I only remember about half of these songs. Also, Rihana made here Billboard debut in 2005 with Pon De Replay. Yeah, you’re feeling old now. And yes, that's a picture of Now That's What I call Music 20. If you know, you know.
NFL: New England Patriots
MLB: Chicago White Sox
NCAA Basketball: North Carolina
NCAA Football: Texas
Editor’s note: Gives you an idea of how long New England has been on top and why people want them to go away. Also, Vince Young was the man in 2005. You know it, I know it, we all know it.
Headlines of 2005
Finding the top headlines of 2005 is surprisingly difficult. There were however some sad events that stood out. Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast there was also an earthquake in Pakistan that killed thousands, the London bombings, and the Natalee Holloway incident in Aruba. Even in 2019, please send a quick prayer up for those impacted by those events.
Additionally, George W. Bush was sworn into his second term as President of the United States. Michael Jackson was acquitted, Prince Charles had a royal wedding, politicians battled over Supreme Court nominees, the Iraq war was still in going, and gas prices were out of control.
So there you have it. A quick snapshot of the world when LeBron James last missed the playoffs. I don’t know about you, but I feel sad and old now. As we move forward into the present and the 2019 season, let’s see if LeBron and the Lakers can make it into the postseason.