Where Does LeBron's Finals MVP Rank Among Other Legendary Performances?
by Ben Leibowitz
LeBron James overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Warriors to deliver Cleveland its first championship. His repeatedly transcendent performances (most notably in Games 5 and 6) earned him Finals MVP -- his third overall. But where does the performance rank against other legendary Finals MVPs in NBA lore?
LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals to win a championship. James, no surprise, was the unanimous choice for Finals MVP after guiding his team back and becoming just the third player ever to notch a triple-double in a Game 7 of the season's final series -- joining James Worthy and Jerry West.
Staring down a seemingly insurmountable deficit against the best regular season team in NBA lore -- previous teams in the Finals were 0-32 all time after falling down 3-1 -- James responded with back-to-back 41-point outbursts in Games 5 and 6 before the triple-double to close things out in Game 7.
As if the individual performances aren't impressive enough, James led all players in the NBA Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he's the first guy ever to lead all players in all five of those categories for an entire playoff series.
It didn't ultimately matter, but James' efficiency throughout the Game 7 triple-double performance was grim. James finished 9-of-24 shooting (37.5 percent) and was just 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. His performances in Games 5 and 6, however, were absolutely tremendous.
In terms of Game Score -- a statistic developed by John Hollinger to provide a rough measure of a player's individual performance in a given game -- those 41-point explosions were by far the best games James had played all season (regular season and playoffs).
A Game Score of 40 is considered an amazing performance, while a mark of 10 is average. LeBron's Game 5 Game Score was 39.2. His outing in Game 6 scored a 42.5.
All told, James averaged a Game Score of 26.5 throughout the 2016 Finals. That's remarkably impressive, but where does it rank among Finals MVPs from years past?
The PointAfter team found each Finals MVP's average Game Score dating back to 1985. Over the course of that 30-plus-year span, James' Finals performance to dispatch the 73-win Warriors ranks seventh.
Only Hall of Famers Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson trump James in this context, but the list also shows just how phenomenal those other guys were in their prime.
For added reference, Shaq averaged 38 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 blocks all while shooting 61.1 percent from the field in the 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers. The big fella was an unstoppable force.
In the 1991 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan averaged 31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks while converting 55.8 percent of his field goals. At 27 years old, "His Airness" obliterated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
In 1987, Magic nearly averaged a triple-double for the series via 26.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 13.0 assists. He added 2.3 steals per game all while converting 54.1 percent of his field goals and 96 percent of his free throws.
In this year's Finals, James proved once again how elite he is in the scope of the NBA annals. He orchestrated the most impressive comeback ever for a final series against arguably the best team of this century, added a third ring to his résumé and brought the first NBA title home to Cleveland.
Nevertheless, even for as flat-out good as LeBron was throughout the series (sustaining a high level of play through seven games), the numbers other guys posted somehow make James' look human.
Even the most devoted LeBron haters should, logically speaking, acknowledge his status as an all-time great. That being said, former NBA superstars somehow were even more dominant than the King was on the big stage.
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Article: Courtesy PointAfter.com.
NBA Basketball: "Where Does LeBron's Finals MVP Rank Among Other Legendary Performances?"