James is an incredible all-around player who can score with ease and is also good at distributing the basketball after he's attracted the defense's entire attention. He is a solid passer, and many consider him one of the best ever in that aspect of the game.
Moreover, 'The King' has been a solid defender throughout his career. He has used his physicality and his basketball IQ effectively, especially during fastbreaks for the opposing team, or during big moments down the stretch.
He hasn't always guarded the opposing team's best player in the clutch, but James was a great defender during his best days. And he's still able to produce great displays on that end of the court, even at age 37.
LeBron James' top three finishes in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting
James was more than extraordinary in 2012-13, putting up arguably his greatest display of talent for the 66-16 Miami Heat. Miami had a 27-game winning streak at one point and went on to win the title after a dramatic 2013 Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
James won the MVP award and finished second in the DPOY in what was perhaps his best chance to win that award in his career. However, he's had some other extraordinary seasons, even backed by advanced stats.
In this article, we will look into those seasons and rank James' top three finishes in the DPOY award voting.
No. 3: 2011-12 season | 4th
LeBron James has finished in the top five of the Defensive Player of the Year award voting five times. He was fourth in 2011-12, when he was named the Most Valuable Player.
That year, James led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, Defensive Box Plus/Minus, finished second in Defensive Win Shares and put up the best Defensive Rating of his career so far, with a 97.
No. 2: 2008-09 season | 2nd
The 2008-09 season saw James win the first MVP award of his illustrious career. And he came close to winning the DPOY award as he finished second behind Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard.
James' Cleveland Cavaliers put up the league's best record in the regular season at 66-16, while LeBron led the league in PER, was second in Defensive Win Shares, second in Defensive Box Plus/Minus and third in Defensive Rating.
Although he finished second in DPOY voting, James really did not have a chance to win as Howard had 105 first-place votes against James' four.
No. 1: 2012-13 season | 2nd
Although 2012-13 ended tremendously for James and his Miami Heat, with an NBA title, the MVP and the Finals MVP award, the Defensive Player of the Year award escaped from James' hands, controversially.
James was the favorite in the eyes of many, only to be robbed instead. Marc Gasol won the trophy, and James' best chance to win the DPOY ended with another second place.
Gasol grabbed 30 first-place votes, and James was second with 18. However, advanced stats do not really show it was a great defensive year for James. But he was in the top 10 in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Moreover, the eye test truly showed James dominated during the 2012-13 season, whether on offense or on defense. Teams tried to stay away from him defensively. Only Indiana Pacers forward Paul George was arguably as impactful on defense as James was.
Since the 2012-13 season, James has finished in the top five of the DPOY voting only once (2016-17).