I can already hear it, and the series isn’t even over. The LeBron “3-5 in the Finals” slander, that is. While true statistically, it’s also the most misleading stat in sports. LeBron has so often dragged teams unworthy of the Finals into the Finals all by himself, where he stood absolutely no chance. Let’s take a look at his 5 Finals losses, and you’ll see what I mean.
As lopsided as this year’s Finals is, the 07′ championship series probably takes the cake for most lopsided. Cleveland was lucky to even be there. Up against the #1-seeded Detroit Pistons in the Conference Finals, 23-year old LeBron James single-handedly dragged his team to the final round. His string of epic performances included a performance for the ages in Game 5, where he scored Cleveland’s final 25 points in an overtime victory.
That being said, Cleveland was annihilated by a prime San Antonio Spurs team. That’s because Popovich and co. were able to totally zone in on LeBron on defense. Nobody else presented anything that resembled a threat. The second highest scorer for Cleveland that postseason? Daniel Gibson. Did you hear what I just said? A guy who put up 4 a night in the regular season and 9 a night in the postseason was LeBron’s second best player when he took Cleveland to the Finals at age 23. I rest my case.
The only Finals loss that’s LeBron’s fault. Never has an all-time great had such a dark mark over their career as LeBron in these Finals. So I’m going to keep this brief. 2011 was on LeBron.
After winning back-to-back MVPs, championships, and Finals MVPs, LeBron and the Heat found themselves up against the Spurs in hopes of a 3-peat. Well, LeBron found himself matched up against San Antonio. Nobody else even bothered showing up.
So called “LeBron-stopper” Kawhi Leonard was torched by James to the tune of 28 points per game on 57% shooting. James did his part and then some. But Miami was still battered by San Antonio in 4 of the 5 games. That’s because the rest of LeBron’s “super team” went awol. James scored 141 points in the series. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 146 points. No wonder the King took his talents back to Cleveland that summer.
He didn’t shoot well, but he did damn near everything else off the charts, averaging 36 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists. He didn’t have much to work with either, as now Laker benchwarmer Timofey Mozgov was the second leading scorer. And he was playing a 67-win team.
Of course, this was the series where he didn’t have Kyrie or Love. There’s not much else he could’ve done. Nothing else, actually. This was an insurmountable task that the King somehow took to 6 games.
It’s not technically over yet, but for all intents and purposes, it’s over.
But not because of LeBron. He’s averaging 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists on a super-efficient 55% from the field. And we all know who it’s against, but it’s worth reiterating: a 73-win team who added the second best player in the world.
One of my favorite stats of all-time game from Cleveland’s devastating Game 3 loss, and it just epitomizes LeBron’s value, and how he’s by no means at fault for the deficit; he played 46 minutes in Game 3, a game high. In those 46 minutes, Cleveland was a +7. In the 2 minutes he was on the bench, Cleveland was a -12. In two minutes!
Looking back at LeBron’s career twenty years from now, it’ll be shame that some will use his Finals record against him. But clearly, in the Finals that he’s lost so far, he only could’ve realistically changed the outcome in one of them. He had no chance whatsoever in the other four. And that’s because, again, he constantly drags teams unworthy of the Finals to the Finals.