Since LeBron James and the Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in NBA history against the Golden State Warriors last night, most of the hate against James and his legacy has gone away. Basketball fans are realizing it’s tough not to appreciate The King’s work, and some are calling his play in this Finals to be some of the best of all-time. In honor of all this, I wanted to evaluate James’ postseason play, and figure out which of his endless playoff games was truly his best.
6. 2012 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 vs. Boston Celtics
As a Boston sports fan, looking back on the games the Heat and the Celtics squared off in is a tough pill to swallow, mainly because of how good James was in most of them. This one was no exception. He scored 45 points, went 19-f0r-26, and grabbed 15 rebounds. His performance was legendary, and pushed the series to seven games, where they pulled out the win and inevitably won the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The whole run in 2012 was the first of back-to-back titles for the Heat, and began James’ rise to being an all-time great, which all started with this perfect performance.
5. 2013 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 vs. Indiana Pacers
James had an absolutely insane postseason in 2013, and I actually had the pleasure to see it firsthand by going to Game 2 of the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks in Miami. James was consistently dominant throughout the playoffs, especially in this game against the Pacers in the conference finals. He scored 30 points, and tallied 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and scored the game-winner at the buzzer in overtime to become the first player in league playoff history to have a triple-double and also score a buzzer-beating game-winner in a single game.
4. 2016 NBA Finals Game 5 vs. Golden State Warriors
This game will forever be debated due to Draymond Green’s suspension, and some say the Warriors would’ve won the series in this game if not for his absence. No matter what, James put on a clinic in this game, as he put up 41 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and also added seven assists. Kyrie Irving added another 41 points in Cleveland’s huge win, and their performances really set the tone for the rest of the series, completely shifting the momentum to the Cavaliers’ side.
3. 2007 Conference Finals Game 5 vs. Detroit Pistons
This was LeBron’s first signature playoff performance, when he scored 48 points in a double-overtime win against the Pistons. 48 points was already impressive enough, but he made it even sweeter, as he scored Cleveland’s last 25 points of the game, and 29 of the team’s last 30 points. It helped begin the era of LeBron, and helped Cleveland become just the third team to ever come back from a 2-0 series deficit in the conference finals.
2. 2013 NBA Finals Game 6 vs. San Antonio Spurs
This game is historically known for Ray Allen’s clutch three-pointer that tied the game for the Heat when they were facing elimination, but it was truly a defining moment in James’ career. He dropped 32 points, 11 assists and 10 boards in Miami’s overtime victory against San Antonio, and scored half of his points in the fourth quarter alone. Sure, Ray Allen kept the Heat in it when it truly counted, but the team doesn’t get to that point without LeBron’s dominating triple-double.
1. Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals vs. Golden State Warriors
This game will go down as one of LeBron’s all-time performances, despite his poor shot selection. James finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds, but only went 9-for-24 from the field. He also had three key blocks that shut down any momentum for Golden State, including a clutch block on an Andre Igoudala layup attempt that saved the game late in the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers. James carried his team through the regular season and playoffs, and this win helped solidify his legacy as the best player in the world by defeating the best regular season team of all-time.