LeBron James embarks upon his seventh consecutive NBA Finals on Thursday night, looking to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to their second consecutive title.

James is a singular sporting icon and is the most influential athlete in North American sports today, with few sporting a genuine challenge to his throne.

The world at-large changed dramatically since James last missed The Finals. Here’s what the NFL looked like and what the principal characters of the football community were up to the last time a LeBron-less Finals took place:

  • NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was working tirelessly to put an end to the 2011 NFL lockout. The work stoppage eventually ceased in July 2011.
  • The Steelers were optimistic about speedster Antonio Brown, who showed signs of real development during his rookie year. Brown, however, was reeling from a one-catch, one-yard performance during a Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers.
  • Greg Jennings, Chad Clifton, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, and Clay Matthews earned Pro Bowl honors for the champion Packers. Matthews is still with the Packers, Williams is a free agent but the rest of the cast is retired.
  • Calvin Johnson was halfway through his career.
  • Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and J.J. Watt were recent selections from a 2011 NFL Draft class that would eventually be considered among the best in NFL history. Weeks later, James would lead the Miami Heat to the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Browns edge rusher and 2017 first overall pick Myles Garrett was 15 years old.
  • Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, John Abraham, Justin Tuck, Patrick Willis, Andre Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Arian Foster all earned first-team All-Pro honors for the 2010 season.
  • Sam Bradford was the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Ndamukong Suh earned Defensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Roger Goodell was still three years away from his rampant mismanagement of the Ray Rice domestic assault saga.
  • Not everything changes all that much, however. Tom Brady was the reigning regular-season MVP, marking the second time he captured the award.

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