LeBron James has been a stud since high school. When he was a junior, there would be thousands of people lining up willing to wait hours for an autograph from the soon-to-be pro.
Since, LeBron has stumped any critics and most of his opposition as he has solidified himself as the best and most dominant player in the league. LeBron went straight from high school to the pros, and he’s quickly joined the conversation as the best player in history.
Clevelanders knew their hometown guy (actually he’s from Akron, about 20 minutes from Cleveland) was going to be a superstar. It took the rest of the league a bit longer to realize, but after 14 seasons and a few championships, no longer is LeBron’s skill questioned.
The King has been the NBA Finals MVP during each of his three championship-ring runs. He’s been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player four times and has been an All-Star selection in every year but his first. That year his highest honor was Rookie of the Year.
The list goes on.
LeBron has been the AP’s Athlete of the Year twice and Sports Illustrated named him the Sportsperson of the Year in 2012 and 2016. And it’s not just for his offensive skill. LeBron has been a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member.
We all know he’s good. We all know most guys can’t come close to competing against him one-on-one on the court. He’s got to be double- or triple-teamed. This list takes aim at eight of the players who LeBron has absolutely destroyed in his career. But we’re also ranking the seven guys who have been able to handle King James.
15 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: DRAYMOND GREEN
These two have an interesting history together. In the Finals, Draymond Green was suspended a game for a low blow to LeBron James. Recently, there was either a hard foul by Green, or a flop by James, depending on which side you’re on. But this all makes the matchup better when these two are on the court.
However, it seems this feud between the players tends to make James better. Now, James does trail in terms of overall record against Green. But in these matchups, James’ stats increase heavily over his averages. Especially in the postseason. It seems Green’s presence brings out another level of superstar for LeBron. In the playoffs, LeBron averages 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists against Green. So, even though Green has a better record, James has shown he will put up some insane numbers against Green.
14 CAN GUARD LeBRON: JIMMY BUTLER
Jimmy Butler is one of those guys who matches up to LeBron James quite well sometimes, but then terribly in other games. In fact, Butler has the advantage in wins vs. losses in their record. Butler is 10-5 against James. Though, James still dominates the postseason against Butler with an 8-3 record. In the games including James vs. Butler, James’ statline against Butler is relatively consistent compared to his career averages.
It took a few years for Butler to become the type of player he is now after entering the league. He went from a guy on the bench to an everyday starter. Since taking on that role as a starter, his team has always been a tough one for James to take down. Butler’s presence adds a level of uncertainty in LeBron’s game, which is why Butler is one of the few that hold a winning record against James.
13 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: JAMES HARDEN
Although LeBron James and James Harden may not be defending each other, Harden struggles on the court when James is present. LeBron has won nine of the 13 games and remains steady with averaging nearly a triple-double each game. With Harden, he averages about 19 points, five assists and five rebounds a game against LeBron. Harden’s stats plummet even lower in the postseason, where’s he’s only played one series against James. Harden, in the playoffs, has won just once, and averages about 12 points, four rebounds and four assists a game.
That’s a stark difference from his career average of 21 points a game, which includes a few early years of scoring well under 20 points per game. Harden in the past five seasons averages 27 points a game, but he looks like a completely different player when James is on the court.
12 CAN GUARD LeBRON: STEPHEN CURRY
Both guys tend to have an issue with turnovers when playing against each other. LeBron averages a little more than four turnovers games against Curry, while Steph averages about three turnovers a game against LeBron.
James averages nearly 30 points, while Curry averages about 21 points per game against LeBron in the regular season. But his numbers receive a boost in the postseason, where he holds a 7-6 advantage over James.
Curry has proven to be on of the better athletes in the league since he was drafted. He has proven to be able to handle the pressure and compete against the best, including LeBron. Although he may not be matching up to James 1-on-1, Curry has proven he can take on James and even play quite well against him.
11 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: RUSSELL WESTBROOK
Russell Westbrook, like many of the greats in the league, struggle finding ways to win when LeBron James is on the court. Out of 14 games, Westbrook has beaten James just twice. In the postseason, he’s won just once. Westbrook’s individual stats in the postseason are pretty good, but his stats aren’t so good in the regular season against James. Westbrook, per game against LeBron, averages about 20 points five rebounds and seven assists.
The numbers aren’t bad, but just two wins against James is concerning. For some reason, Westbrook has not been able to find a way to beat James. For how good Westbrook is at facilitating most games, he’s pretty terrible when competing against James. Westbrook is normally very fun to watch, unless LeBron James is also on the court.
10 CAN GUARD LeBRON: PAUL GEORGE
Again, we have a player who James outmatches in each statistical category during their head-to-head matchups. They both average about the same amount of minutes per game, but Paul George has just five wins in the 16 regular season games against LeBron. The impressive part is that when George is on the court, James does not seem to facilitate his offense as well. He tends to get locked up, and averages less assists a game than he does against most other opponents. Yeah, five assists a game seems pretty good, but it’s not the numbers you expect from James.
In the postseason, George still trails with just seven wins through 19 games.
But that 12-7 postseason record is a testament to George’s abilities on the court.
James rarely loses. To come close to a .500 record in the postseason should be considered a victory for George. Especially because those postseason wins came against the Big 3 down in Miami.
9 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: KEVIN DURANT
Kevin Durant is one of the best players in the league and will go down as one of the best athletes in NBA history. But he hasn’t done too well against LeBron James, but still better than a few guys. The only reason he’s not further down on this list is because he still puts up pretty good numbers against James, though he still can’t find a way to win in most of those games.
LeBron has an overwhelmingly good record against Durant, leading with 14 wins against four losses. Against each other, they both average about 30 points per game and are relatively close in terms of all other statistical categories. Yet, LeBron still leads in assists, as he does against most everyone in the league that plays the same position. In the playoffs, though, James takes a 4-1 advantage and took command of facilitating the ball and guarding the boards. Although Durant averaged a couple more points per game, James led in rebounds (10.2 – 6.0) and assists (7.4 – 2.2).
8 CAN GUARD LeBRON: LUOL DENG
Luol Deng has played in nearly 40 regular season games against LeBron James. And when Deng is on the court, LeBron struggles finding ways to win more than he does against a lot of other opponents. LeBron outmatches Deng, but barely with a 20-19 record. His rebounds and assists take a slight dip below his averages, but James’ stats are still better than good.
But good stats are what you have to expect out of James. He’s possibly the best player in history, so there’s no surprise that no one in the league can get him to consistently have bad games. That’s why you have to praise guys like Deng, who have been able to figure out ways to stump LeBron at times. Deng deserves a lot of credit for his near .500 record against James. Especially since most guys in the league struggle to win just a few games against him.
7 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
Giannis Antetokounmpo has grown into All-Star status this season. He went from averaging about 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists last season, to 23 points, nine rebounds and about six assists a game this season. And those numbers keep trending upward from his first couple of seasons, where he really didn’t score too much.
Against James, his stats aren’t terrible. He’s even recorded a couple of wins (out of 12 games) and has a couple of games with more than 30 points scored. But although Antetokounmpo has shown spurts of greatness against LeBron in recent years, he still isn’t winning. He’s not on a great team, but great players need to elevate their team to victories. And he’s got a handful of awful performances against James from his early career.
6 CAN GUARD LeBRON: CARMELO ANTHONY
These are two of the most compared guys in sports. Both were worthy of a No. 1 pick in 2003, but Carmelo Anthony fell to third. Anthony has been great, but LeBron has been better. Far better. Against each other though, their stats are strikingly similar, which is why Anthony makes the list of being able to handle James on the court. In total, the duo has played 28 games with LeBron winning in the overall record, 16-12.
James leads in just about every statistical category when these two go head-to-head on the court, except for 3-point percentage where Anthony leads .370 to .269. The stats are close though for everything else including points (LeBron wins with 25.8 while Melo averages 22.7 per game) and rebounds (LeBron – 7.1 and Melo – 6.3).
But LeBron shows why he’s the King in one category that separates him from most. In these head-to-head matchups, LeBron “King” James recorded 7.2 assists per game compared to Anthony’s 2.9 dishes per game. Across the board, the numbers are close. But LeBron has proved to facilitate the ball and get the entire team involved in his victories.
Oh, and in the playoffs, LeBron has overwhelmed Melo. James has recorded four wins and just one loss in the postseason against Anthony. But their stats still remained very similar through those five postseason games.
5 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: JOHN WALL
John Wall is a talented point guard who uses his quickness and vision to gain a spot among being considered as one of the league’s best. However, he plays on a team that isn’t too good, and part of the problem with Wall is that he hasn’t been able to make the Wizards better. But he still does show flashes of greatness he is a fun player to watch. But Wall really struggles on the court when LeBron James is present.
There’s no surprise that Wall’s Wizards have won just three of 13 games against James. With how bad the Wizards often are, it’s more of a surprise that they’ve managed three victories against James. But what isn’t so good for the point guard is his ability to make his offense work when playing against James. He still averages about eight assists when playing against the King, but he’s turning the ball over more than five times per game against James.
4 CAN GUARD LeBRON: ANDRE IGUODALA
Andre Iguodala does a good job at handling LeBron James on the court. Iguodala has played 34 games against LeBron James. James’ stats in the matchup are relatively similar to what you’d expect. Each game, he averages about 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. However, he also averages about four turnovers a game and has played in more than 40 minutes each of the games against Iguodala.
And in the postseason, LeBron holds just a 10-8 advantage over Iguodala, while playing in 43 minutes per game. James’ statline did receive a boost in the playoffs, as he averaged 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
A big part of the reason Iguodala makes the list as being able to handle LeBron is because of his postseason efforts. No doubt, James basically cruises past everyone in the regular season. But Iguodala has shown he has the ability to stump James when it matters most.
3 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: CHRIS PAUL
When you’re among the league’s most talented players, you’re expected to show up as such against the league’s top athlete. But Chris Paul hasn’t done that when playing against LeBron James. In just about every statistical category Paul’s numbers slightly drop when he’s on the court against James. His record isn’t terrible against James, though Lebron holds a 12-8 advantage.
With how good Paul is on defense, even if he isn’t matched up on James, you expect him to force more turnovers out of the turnover-prone King. James has a knack for giving the ball up, but Paul is not able to find a way to make that happen more. That’s his biggest problem when playing against LeBron, but his dropping statline against James doesn’t help much either.
2 CAN GUARD LeBRON: KAWHI LEONARD
Kawhi Leonard is no doubt the best defender at handling LeBron James. King James will score against anyone. He’s built to take on players in the post and has the moves to break people at the top of the key. James still scores about 25 points a game against Kawhi Leonard, and he averages nearly eight assists a game. But Leonard has a knack for keeping LeBron away from the ball on those missed opportunities. LeBron only averages about four rebounds a game against Leonard, with less than two, on average, coming from the offensive end. Part of what makes James dominant is his ability to grab the ball when someone can’t make a shot.
That trend hasn’t remained true during the postseason, but Leonard has found a way to stunt LeBron’s facilitation efforts in the playoffs. While LeBron generally averages near double-digit assists in a game, in the postseason against Leonard, he’s averaged about one per game.
The more impressive statistic is that Leonard is one of the only guys who has a winning record against James, both in the regular season and the postseason. Leonard holds the advantage, 4-3, in the regular season, and, 7-5, in the playoffs. With these numbers, there’s no doubting that Leonard is the best person in the league at handling LeBron James.
1 CAN'T GUARD LeBRON: PAUL MILLSAP
With Paul Millsap’s defensive skill, it’s surprising he hasn’t been able to prevent some of LeBron’s greatness while they’re on the court together. With Millsap’s skill, he should be able to at least stump James from time to time. But that hasn’t been the case. In fact, Millsap has never really proved that he can guard James. Compared to career averages, James receives a slight bump in each category against Millsap and even records less turnovers a game. To Millsap’s credit, he holds an 11-12 record against James, but is also 0-8 in the postseason against the King.
There’s no doubting that Millsap is skilled. He is one of the better defenders playing the game right now. Unfortunately, he seems like a very below-average defender when James is on the court, and that trend doesn’t seem to be shifting any time soon.
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