by Ben Osborne / @bosborne17

LeBron James is the best player in the League. Having the best season of his career. And he hadn’t been on a cover all season! As we looked ahead to the Playoffs, we knew it was time to change that.

The pastcouple of years, we made our Playoff Preview issue a regional affair that nodded at both the wide-open title race and our friends at Juicy.

In concept, the inside of this issue is pretty similar to years past—look for our nifty, custom-made Playoff logo (nice work, Rich Tu!) on the top of feature-well stories on potential post-season game changers Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, David Lee, Lance Stephenson and Ray Felton. There’s also an awesome Old School feature on Karl Malone, who certainly did his thing at this time of year once or twice. And we have a piece by Jesse Eisenberg (yes, that Jesse Eisenberg) about continuing his family’s heritage of supporting the Knicks.

When it came to the cover, though, we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t claim there were six, or four, or even two equally interesting storylines. Barring injury, this year’s Playoffs will ultimately be about LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The best player in the world has somehow gotten even better. The League’s best team just posted the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Yes, the NBA’s depth of talent, and said talent’s dedication to the game, means that every single series will be fun to watch. But really, if the Heat do what they’ve been doing, every other team is playing for second place.

And if LeBron keeps doing what he’s doing, every other player is playing to be second-best. Throw in the fact that the King agreed to give us a one-on-one interview on the night his team won its 23rd straight game, in the home of its archrivals, and his lack of covers since the famous “Hi Haters” joint, a solo cover for LeBron was one of the easiest choices we had all season.

We hope you enjoy all the games over the next two months. The crap teams will have gone home. The playing—and officiating—rotations will be tightened. The best basketball players in the world will be showing off the same offensive arsenal they do in the regular season, only in the Playoffs it will be complemented by equally impressive defense and, aided by more days off and motivated to stay alive, all-out effort. Our favorite sport, played at the highest level, with highlights and drama for weeks. It’s definitely the best time of the year for NBA fans, and just about every game is worth watching.

Just be sure to pay special attention to the games our man on the cover is playing in. And cop this issue to have while you watch.

LeBron James SLAM 168 Cover