Ranking LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and the very best NBA players of 2019

Ogwumike: LeBron was the best male athlete of the decade (1:16)

Chiney Ogwumike lists reasons how LeBron James not only changed the game of basketball, but also the work he has done off the court as reason for him being the best male athlete of the decade. (1:16)

Calendar 2019 was an unusual one for NBA superstardom, starting with the fact that LeBron James was not part of the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Because of his ability to step up his game in the playoffs, James has won four of the five times I've handed out the ESPN+ Golden Basketball to honor performance throughout the calendar year as an alternative to the regular-season MVP and Finals MVP awards.

But with James spending most of the first half of 2019 watching from the sidelines -- first literally, while battling a groin injury, then figuratively, with the Lakers in the lottery -- we'll have a new winner this year.

With James out of the running, who gets that honor?

Let's run through my top 10 of 2019 for the Golden Basketball, our equivalent to FIFA's Ballon d'Or.