5 ways the league has changed since LeBron James didnt make the NBA Finals

Miami Heat Media Day

With all of the ridiculous numbers being put up by players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas and the entire Golden State Warriors these days, it's easy to lose sight of the most ridiculous stat going in the league.

It's from LeBron James, who is putting up more ridiculous stats himself (along with another MVP campaign) this season.

Every June, the sport's world puts the NBA's top showcase to the top of the food chain.

And in every recent June, the world has watched LeBron James compete for a championship in the NBA finals.

James has made the finals a ridiculous six straight times with two different teams, losing in the finals to Dallas with the Miami Heat and then beating Oklahoma City. The Heat then topped and then were topped by San Antonio in consecutive years before he moved on to Cleveland for a two-year split with the Warriors.

The last NBA finals game played without LeBron in the lineup was on June 17, 2010 when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers topped Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace (!!) and the Boston Celtics.

The world - and the NBA - has changed a lot since then.

Here are some ways the league is different than that summer day:

2009 NBA Draft


Doesn't it seem like Blake Griffin has been with the Los Angeles Clippers for a long time?

I'm sure it sometimes feels like it to Blake.

But the last time LeBron wasn't in the finals, Blake was getting ready to make his Clippers debut after missing his first NBA season with an injury.

Griffin is now in his seventh NBA season and has been through the peaks and valleys of a career much longer in that time.

Charlotte Bobcats v Brooklyn Nets


With new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the future for the New Jersey Nets was looking good in the summer of 2010.

Prokhorov had deep pockets and was committed to winning right away.

Despite a 12-70 season for the New Jersey Nets, there was reason to believe good things were on the way. Prokhorov wanted stars to help facilitate a move to Brooklyn that was still two years away, and despite the lottery balls not falling in their favor to land John Wall, the Nets still had the third pick in the draft.

Well, Prokhorov gave away a whole bunch of future assets to be decent for a few years, Derrick Favors was shipped to Utah before his rookie season ended, and now the Nets are going nowhere for the foreseeable future.

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day


And why wouldn't they be?

The NBA's model franchise had just won their second straight NBA title, and at 31, it appeared Kobe Bryant had plenty left in the tank.

Plus, the Lakers were two years away from getting an infusion of stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, who would surely bring the Lakers an infusion of a few more titles.

It was good times for the Lakers and Lakers fans.

Surely it would last forever...

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns


Speaking of lasting forever, there was no way, in 2010, fans of the Golden State Warriors could foresee much of a future.

There wasn't much reason to be hopeful about the Warriors, as rookie Stephen Curry, coach Don Nelson and the team finished 30 games below .500.

This would be the third of five straight seasons the Warriors would miss the playoffs, and while Curry's rookie year provided some fun moments, he was still two seasons away from feeling the full effects of ankle problems that would threaten to derail his career.

There was a little hope soon, though, as coach Keith Smart was coming in for 2010-11 and the team would draft Ekpe Udoh of Baylor with the sixth pick of the draft 

That coach and player would surely lift the franchise out of the doldrums.

UCLA v Kentucky


Lonzo Ball, then a teenager and now the latest "Next Big Thing" in the NBA, was 12 back in the summer of 2010.

Maybe he'll be the guy to keep LeBron out of the finals.

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