LeBron’s Greatest Playoff Performances
Last night, the King passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most playoff field goals in NBA history. If Cleveland can hold off Boston in this year’s conference finals, LBJ will make an eighth straight trip to compete for the chip. With all those Finals visits, come lots and lots of playoff games where LeBron imposed his will to force the hand of history. We ranked his eight greatest postseason performances.
#8. Game 4, 2012 Eastern Conference Semis vs Indiana
40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, 16 free throw attempts
With Chris Bosh sidelined for the game and Indiana big man Roy Hibbert guarding the paint, LeBron James made a conscious decision to dominate the interior. He recorded a game-high 18 rebounds, while keeping Hibbert at less than 10, and took every single one of his 27 shots from inside the arc. The result? 40 points on 52% shooting and 9 assists to boot. With no scorers outside of Miami’s two superstars, James and Wade combined for 38 consecutive Heat points and took the series-tying win 101-93. That year would mark LeBron James’s first championship win.
#7. Game 4, 2014 Eastern Conference Semis vs. Brooklyn
49 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals
In hindsight, maybe we should’ve known it would be James’s last season with the Heat. He was not getting the same production out of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and the load, therefore, fell on him. Against a Nets team that had been constructed specifically to beat the Heat, with an aging Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Joe Johnson, LeBron shot 67% from the field and 50% from 3 to notch a ridiculous 49 points and advance to a game 5 gentleman’s sweep of Brooklyn.
#6. Game 5, 2018 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Indiana
44 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, on 58.3% shooting
Despite having only two other teammates with 10+ points and no other teammates with 20+ points, James managed to beat the Pacers single-handedly. With only a few seconds left on the clock and the game tied, the Cavs inbounded to James. He quickly sprinted left at the top of the arc and leapt up into a ridiculously difficult three-point jumper – ironically identical to Jordan’s shot over Craig Elo in 1989. James drained it, and the Cavs took the series lead before advancing to the second round in an exciting game 7.
#5. Game 5, 2007 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Pistons
48 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
The previous two years, the Cavs ran into the wall that was Detroit and came into the 2007 postseason with a target on the Pistons’ backs. The series tied 2-2, LeBron at one point scored 25 straight points and 29 of Cleveland’s last 30 to end the Pistons’ Eastern Conference dominance in a double overtime monster of a game. The Cavs would go on to be swept by a veteran Spurs team in the Finals, but James’s game 5 performance put the league on notice that the King had arrived in the postseason.
#4. Game 6, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston Celtics
45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists
At this point in his career, it’s important to remember, LeBron still hadn’t won a championship. The narratives about LBJ shrinking under pressure were abundant after a weak performance in the 2011 Finals that led to a loss. He came into this game 6, down 3-2, and absolutely dominated offensively. “Fearless,” like Coach Spoelstra called the performance, is an understatement. LeBron scored 45 points on 73% shooting and beat the Celtics by 19 points, 98-79.
#3. Game 5, 2016 NBA Finals vs. Warriors
41 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals
After going down 3-1 against the 73-win Warriors, James became a man on a mission. The story goes that he entered the locker room after game 4 and said, “We can beat these guys.” Next game, in Oakland, the Warriors were playing without Draymond Green and LeBron took full advantage. He notched boards effortlessly and dropped 41 points on 53% shooting, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. The rest is history.
#2. Game 6, 2013 NBA Finals vs. Spurs
32 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists
With the Heat facing elimination, Ray Allen’s clutch 3 to send the game to overtime was legendary from the moment it went down. But it’s easy to forget that with less than 24 seconds left in the 4th, the Heat were down by 5 points. The game was all but over when LeBron hit a 3-pointer to bring the lead to one possession before Allen got his shot off on the next Heat possession. A LeBron triple double lead to an overtime win, which in turn sent this series to game 7 and got James his second ring.
#1. Game 7, 2016 NBA Finals vs. Warriors
27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists
By the time the NBA world tuned in for game 7 of this series – one of the greatest game 7s of all time – it felt like it was going to be LeBron’s night. After overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to meet the Warriors 3-3 in Oakland, Cleveland was in position to rob the winningest regular season team in history of their rings. The game produced LeBron’s most iconic play of his career, LeBlock, a chase-down block on Andre Iguodala’s layup attempt in the final minutes of the game, and it also produced Cleveland’s first championship title in over 50 years.