Whether one is into the sport of basketball or not, the name LeBron James is almost synonymous with it. James has been one of the faces of the NBA ever since he stepped foot into the league in 2003. Now in his 17th year as an NBA professional, LeBron has arguably already etched his name in the Mount Rushmore of basketball. The 6'9" forward out of St. Vincent-St. Mary, Ohio, is easily one of the most complete players to ever live. He has been an excellent scorer, facilitator, and also defender for large parts of his glorious career.
However, there is one black spot in James' otherwise illustrious career - his finals' record. One argument frequently used against LeBron James to squish the narrative of him being the greatest of all time, is his underwhelming NBA Finals record. James has booked himself a ticket to the NBA Finals showdown as many as nine times, yet has only managed to lift the trophy on three occasions - an achievement that sounds sub-par given his lofty standards.
That, certainly, is not down to a lack of trying. LeBron James has put up some of the most ridiculous numbers one can imagine in the nine NBA Finals series he has been a part of. Unfortunately, he has often lacked ample support from his teammates. In some cases, he has just failed to gel as well with his teammates as he would've liked to - as was the case when the underdogs Dallas Mavericks beat LeBron's Miami Heat in 2011.
Let us now take a lot at five of the best LeBron James performances in the NBA Finals - with or without a ring!
#5 2018 vs Golden State Warriors (0-4 loss)
Points - 34.0
Rebounds - 8.5
Assists - 10.0
It might seem ridiculous to see a series where he got swept make it to the top 5, but such was the greatness of the individual performances LeBron James put up, that it simply had to be brought to notice.
After trading away star guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, LeBron James was tasked with carrying a mediocre Cleveland Cavaliers team over the line. Against a generational team like the Golden State Warriors, the much weaker Cavaliers stood no chance. The Warriors beat the Cavs comprehensively in all four games, but had no answer to the might of LeBron James. The superstar from Akron averaged 34 points per game throughout the series, and was six rebounds away from averaging a triple-double.
Perhaps game 1 of that series is the perfect example of the mismatch on display. James scored a game-high 51 points, and yet was beaten comfortably by 10 points.
#4 2013 vs San Antonio Spurs (4-3 win)
Points - 25.3
Rebounds - 10.9
Assists - 7.0
Appearing in his third consecutive NBA Final with the Miami Heat since forming the iconic 'big three' alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron James was determined not to allow a repeat of the 2011 debacle to happen. The 2013 San Antonio Spurs were a tough nut to crack, though.
Coached by the legendary Gregg Popovich, Spurs were filled with veterans like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and one of the greatest players of all time in Tim Duncan. They also had the relatively young lock-down defenders in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Spurs had championship pedigree, and throughout the series they showed time and again that they were unfazed by the prospect of facing the Miami big three.
A series that went back and forth until LeBron James pulled the Heat clear in game 7 with a game-high 37 points, is best remembered for an iconic Ray Allen three in the dying moments of game 6 to save the series for James and the Heat.
As a result, people tend to forget how incredible LeBron James was in that series and particular in the do-or-die game 7. The now 35-year-old not only scored 37 points, but did so with unreal efficiency, shooting both 50% from the field and from the three-point line. He also made all eight of his free-throws.