He didn’t find the water too refreshing!
Hatred for LeBron James knows no bounds.
His critics are like conspiracy theorists, looking for any excuse to discredit him for his successes and spring on his failures – particularly in NBA Finals.
The kid from Akron, Ohio has done it all. His statistics and individual accolades speak for themselves. Four MVPs, three Finals MVPs, 14-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA team, six-time All-Defensive team.
Without a doubt, LeBron is the most versatile player the NBA has ever seen. He retains the ability to play both point-guard and power-forward in a single offensive possession.
He single-handedly carried his team to the NBA Finals for an eighth straight time this year, a success unmatched in basketball’s modern era. But LeBron’s accomplishment in reaching basketball’s greatest stage so frequently may be his biggest demise.
The self-proclaimed ‘Chosen One’ fell short yet again this year, notching his sixth career Finals loss with a series sweep at the hand of the Golden State Warriors.
He might not be walking away with his fourth NBA title this season, but it’s becoming hard to argue that LeBron James is not the most accomplished player in Finals history.
Perhaps the remaining trump card in the greatest of all time debate is James’ shortcomings in NBA Finals. But diving deeper into his record shows how incredible he has played in those series, leaving little doubt who the best player in the history of the sport is.
2007 – Spurs beat Cavaliers 4-0
Averages – 22PPG, 7RPG, 6.8APG
At 22-years old, LeBron led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Finals with a supporting cast featuring names such as Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
To put it simply, San Antonio’s big three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli were far to experienced for James and company, sweeping Cleveland in four games.
While some, at the time, were hasty to write off LeBron’s credentials as ‘The King’, the fact that James, at that age and with that team, was able to make the Finals was a huge accomplishment.
2011 – Mavericks beat Heat 4-2
Averages – 17.8PPG, 7.2RPG, 6.8APG
The Miami Heat were heavy favourites going into the 2011 Finals, with their newly acquired superstars Chris Bosh and LeBron James along with returning star Dwayne Wade.
James’ scoring struggles in the series were amplified by an eight-point outing in game four of the series, plummeting his PPG average to just under 18 points.
A noble Dallas Mavericks’ franchise that surrounded star Dirk Nowitzki with idyllic role players defeated the Heat in six games to win their first NBA championship.
Many considered this the final nail in coffin for LeBron’s credentials as the greatest of all time, but hindsight is an incredible thing.
Comparing James’ spectacle with future Finals MVPs Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguodala, who are applauded for their performances against LeBron, puts his 2011 Finals performances in perspective.
2012 – Heat beat Thunder 4-1
Averages – 28.6PPG, 10.2RPG, 7.4APG
‘The King’ finally got his crown in 2012.
LeBron was Miami’s leading scorer in all five games and notched up a triple-double in a closeout game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to secure his first Finals MVP.
Through the series, he lead the Heat in minutes played, points, rebounds and assists, dispelling any doubt of his leadership qualities that were questioned the year previous.
2013 – Heat beat Spurs 4-3
Averages – 25.3PPG, 10.9RPG, 7APG
The Miami Heat secured back-to-back titles despite a significant fall in production from star players Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.
LeBron claimed his second Bill Russell award for Finals MVP, leading his side in every major statistical column except blocks.
2014 – Spurs beat Heat 4-1
Averages – 28.2PPG, 7.8RPG, 4APG
Greg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs were out for revenge following the 2013 series, and that’s exactly what they got.
Despite James, yet again, leading his side in every major statistical column, except blocks, Miami were unsuccessful in their quest for a three-peat. This bought an end to LeBron’s time as a member of the Heat.
Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard claimed the Finals MVP award, although averaging over 10 points, one rebound and two assists per game less than James.
2015 – Warriors beat Cavaliers 4-2
Averages – 35.8PPG, 13.3RPG, 8.8APG
The first installment of the Cavaliers verse Warriors tetralogy ended with Golden State claiming their first championship in 40 years.
With All-Star teammates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving injured, James posted a Finals career in both points and rebounds.
For the second straight season, LeBron’s was thrown into Finals MVP contention despite the Cavaliers not securing the championship.
He averaged an outrageous 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game more than actual winner Andre Iguodala, who was for praised his apparent instrumental defence of ‘The King’.
2016 – Cavaliers beat Warriors 4-3
Averages – 29.7PPG, 11.3RPG, 8.9APG
When LeBron arrived in the league in 2003, he set out the goal to bring a championship to his hometown of Cleveland – 13 years later he achieved the dream.
Against all odds, facing a 3-1 deficit, James led the Cavaliers to victory in a seven-game series against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. He claimed Finals MVP honors for the third time on the back of multiple 40-point games and a triple-double in a decisive game seven.
James led both sides in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game.
Many agree the series was LeBron’s best Finals appearance, with many experts underlining James’ credentials as a genuine challenger for the title of greatest of all time.
2017 – Warriors beat Cavaliers 4-1
Averages – 33.6PPG, 12RPG, 10APG
With the addition of superstar Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors went one better in 2017, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games to hoist the Larry O’Brien skyward for the second time in three years.
LeBron James became the first player to average a triple double in the Finals series, perhaps congealing his residence as the most accomplished player in NBA Finals history.
Yet again, he led Cleveland in every major statistical category. Although he did not walk away with his fourth ring, LeBron proved once again that he was the best player in the world.
2018 – Warriors beat Cavaliers 4-0
Averages – 34PPG, 8.5RPG, 10APG
Perhaps the final installment of the Warriors and Cavaliers, this Finals series ended with Golden State celebrating a championship win once again.
To propose a miracle in LeBron carrying the Cavaliers to the Finals for the fourth straight year would be an understatement.
The team’s regular season and playoff struggles due to changes in personnel and incompetent backroom staff were well documented.
In what was one of the greatest individual postseason runs ever seen, LeBron James posted eight 40-point games, four triple-doubles, two game-winners and a 51-point game against the Warriors in the first game of the Finals series.
However, for the second time in his career, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept in four games.
LeBron James’ total NBA Finals averages: 28.2PPG, 10RPG, 7.7APG.
Some are quick to misjudge LeBron’s record in Finals without fully appreciating the supremacy he has shown. The truth is, despite only triumphing in three of nine series, no player has performed better in the NBA finals than LeBron James.
With the exception of the 2011 series against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, it’s hard to argue that James has not been the best player in every Finals series he has played in.
With free agency around the corner, it is unclear where James will sign for the 2018-19 season, but one thing is certain – LeBron is the most accomplished player in NBA Finals history.
If the last lingering argument in the greatest of all time debate is his team’s shortcomings in NBA Finals series, there should be no question – LeBron James is the best basketball player we have ever seen.