It will be a long time until we get to watch another player like LeBron James. This guy has been so amazing for so many years that people take it almost for granted what he does on the basketball court. Sometimes, folks don’t realize how ridiculous it is that we take it for granted that regardless of what team he has around him, we firmly believe LeBron will make it to the NBA Finals year after year. That is just how things go, right? After all, this is a man who has just made it to his eighth consecutive NBA Finals. This is unbelievable. For eight consecutive years, LeBron has made it to the big stage. There are players who go their entire careers without ever making it that far. And still, whenever he takes a terrible team, like he did this year, to that grand stage, haters still go out and blame him when they come up short against what might be one of the top five teams in NBA history in the Golden State Warriors.
With that in mind, we decided to give LeBron a little justice and talk about some of the reasons why his finals record is not what it should have been. And by reasons, we are going to name a few players who are directly responsible for LeBron not having more championships. We are not saying this is “all” their fault, but these guys certainly contributed to some of the losses in his finals record.
20 Fault: J.R. Smith
We might need another decade until everyone forgets the ridiculous mental breakdown of J.R. Smith during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. Honestly, it's hard to try to find a more ridiculous play in the history of the NBA. What Smith did is the kind of stuff you don’t see during a pickup basketball game in middle school.
The most basic thing in the game of basketball is to know the score.
Even people who don’t know how to dribble or shoot know how to look up and see the score. To imagine that someone who is getting paid almost $14 million by the Cavaliers to play basketball not having the awareness to look up the shot clock while one of his teammates is at the free-throw line is beyond ridiculous.
Yes, George Hill should have hit that free-throw, but then the ball would have gone back to Golden State either way. At the end of the day, it was J.R. Smith’s lack of awareness that cost the Cleveland Cavaliers that crucial game in Oakland. And that was the game that defined this series.
19 Kyle Korver
Another player in whom Cleveland deposited a lot of trust in was Kyle Korver. This man is a marksman. He's in the NBA because of his ability to shoot three-pointers. But here’s the problem; Korver was not hitting his shots in the NBA Finals. During the four games of the 2018 Finals, he hit only a single three-pointer in 11 attempts.
He might be getting less playing time than he is used to, but that is mostly because his shooting percentages are atrocious. Korver has played almost 15 years in the NBA, and throughout his career, his three-point percentage is above 43 percent. Yes, this qualifies him as one of the best shooters of his generation. Nevertheless, when his number is called in the finals, he simply does not deliver. His shooting was below 10 percent during the 2018 finals.
18 Deron Williams
The number three pick of the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams held his own throughout most of his career in comparisons to the guy who was drafted a spot below him, Chris Paul. If you follow the NBA for enough time, you know that during his time in Utah, and even his beginning with the Nets, Williams was a superstar. There was really a discussion to see who was better between him and Paul.
However, at some point during his tenure with the Nets, something changed, and Williams became a shell of himself. In a way, this could've been good because he finally got a chance to play for a contender when he signed with the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and he was simply terrible playing for the Cavs. He played all five games in the finals against the Warriors and averaged one point, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Even worse were his shooting percentages as he shot just above 12 percent from the field and 11 percent from three-point range.
17 Richard Jefferson
By the time he started playing with LeBron in Cleveland, Richard Jefferson was already a veteran and people didn't expect much of him.
Jefferson played all five games in the 2017 NBA Finals against Golden State and shot an abominable 11 percent from beyond the arc.
A similar argument to the one we made about Kyle Korver. This is especially surprising because, throughout his entire career in the NBA, which lasted more than 16 years, Jefferson shot better than 37 percent from beyond the arc. Sometimes you can’t help yourself but feel bad for LeBron because he gets these guys open shots and they miss even though they are good shooters.
16 Iman Shumpert
LeBron's 2015 finals performance could've been the greatest addition to his legacy. The man was unbelievable. Through six games, he played an average of 45.7 minutes and scored a ridiculous 35.8 points per game. Not only that, he did literally everything he could, grabbing 13.3 rebounds and dishing out 8.8 assists, not to mention the 1.3 steals per game. And the thing here is that he actually got from some teammates. Timofey Mozgov was great during that series as he averaged 14 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Tristan Thompson added another 10 points and 13 rebounds a night for the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, LeBron also needed help from the guys who play outside of the paint, something he didn't get.
One example of that was Iman Shumpert, who played almost 36 minutes a night and only managed to score 6.5 points per game during that series. Throughout the six games, he hit only 11 of the 43 shots he attempted during that series.
15 Matthew Dellavedova
We could not complete this list without Matthew Dellavedova. The fact that this guy was part of a team even competing for a championship, and a starter for that matter, is just ridiculous. Dellavedova is pretty much a smaller version of Zaza Pachulia. He might not be as dirty, but in his own way, Dellavedova is nothing more than an enforcer. That being said, it would be okay to have him on the court a few times during a game in which you needed to tighten up on defense or commit a hard foul to put someone on notice. But the Cavaliers played him more than 30 minutes a night during the 2015 NBA Finals. This proved to be a terrible mistake as this guy was just unable to score when he was left open.
Since the story always seems to revolve around the three-point shot year after year, we might as well tell you that during the six games of that series, Dellavedova shot 26 three-pointers but only hit six of them. As a total, he shot a little better than 28 percent from the field.
14 Mario Chalmers
When LeBron made his way to Miami, many people called the powerhouse that the team became “The Big Three.” LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were three of the greatest basketball players of their generation, and to put the three of them together was something that fundamentally changed the balance of power in the NBA. However, there were people within the basketball world who believed the big three was actually a big four. And by people, we mean Mario Chalmers.
You have to give it to the guy, at least he was not shy of taking a big shot when his number was called.
He had been doing it since college. Unfortunately, in the 2014 NBA Finals, Chalmers taking the big shot was not the best of thing for Miami. Chalmers played terribly during that series averaging just 4.4 points and 2.8 assists. Much worse was his shooting as he finished the finals shooting just 33 percent from the field and 14 percent from three-point range. During that regular season, he shot better than 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.
13 Rashard Lewis
Rashard Lewis earned more than $155 million in contract money throughout his career. Luckily for the Miami Heat, they managed to bring his salary down to a merely $1.3 million, just one year after he was receiving $13.7 million from the New Orleans Hornets.
That being said, Lewis was still considered one of the better players on that Miami team outside of the big three. He was a solid contributor and a good shooter when his number was called. That is exactly where the problem lied with Lewis in the 2014 NBA Finals. The guy simply did not show up. He played almost 23 minutes a game that series, but only averaged 8.6 points a night. He was shooting better than 45 percent from three-point range, but he still didn't call the game to himself. Yes, there was a big three in town, but when you are the guy who is shooting the best (outside of LeBron), you need to step up and tell people to give you the freaking ball.
12 Chris Andersen
Everyone has a role to play in a championship team. The problem with the 2014 Miami Heat was that not everyone played their role. We talked about how terrible Mario Chalmers was and how good Rashard Lewis was but decided not to demand the ball more. Another guy who didn’t perform up to his potential was Chris Andersen.
The Birdman became notorious around the NBA for his imposing presence around the rim.
On offense, he was a high percentage shooter because most of what he did was dunk the ball. On defense, he was always contesting shots and had a career average of 1.4 blocks per game.
Unfortunately for the Heat, he did none of those things during the 2014 Finals. Andersen finished the series shooting just 25 percent from the field, hitting only three of the 12 shot he took. He was also a non-factor on defense as he only got 0.6 blocks a night during the series.
11 Mike Miller
While LeBron deserves much of the blame for Miami not winning the NBA Finals during that first season he played down in South Beach, there were other culprits in that loss to the Mavericks. One of those guys was Mike Miller. This man was historically one of the best shooters in the game.
A 6’8” small forward who played shooting guard a lot of the time, Miller had the height advantage on almost everyone who defended him, which meant he could literally shoot over them. Just the previous year, while he was still playing in Washington, he shot a ridiculous 48 percent from three-point range during the season. That is a tough statistic to emulate, but that was what Miami needed from him, which they didn’t get as he hit only seven of the 18 three-pointers he attempted throughout the entire series. If anything, he should have at least shot the ball more.
10 Mike Bibby
Here's another surprising fact about the 2011 Miami Heat team that not many people might remember. Mike Bibby was a part of that squad. You probably only knew him as a role player guard who could hit three-pointers rather consistently. On the other hand, if you have followed the NBA since the turn-of-the-century, you know very well that Bibby was one of the best point guards of his generation. The guy was solid, and as a 23-year-old he led the Sacramento Kings to what might have been their greatest season in decades as they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Despite becoming a role player in later years, Bibby still finished his tenure as an NBA player with averages of 14.7 points and 5.5 assists per game. Not to mention he has a career shooting percentage of almost 38 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, that did not translate into his performances with Miami 2011 as he finished the final series hitting only five of the 17 three-pointers he attempted.
9 Zydrunas Ilgauskas
While this year might have some people guessing, it's tough to deny that one of the greatest accomplishments in LeBron’s career was to take the Cavaliers to the 2007 Finals. That postseason was the perfect example of why LeBron is beyond human. What he did with that squad was nothing short of ridiculous. That was a 22-year-old kid leading a ragtag squad all the way to the Finals. Again, LeBron was just 22 when he averaged 25.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, eight assists, and 1.7 steals per game throughout the playoffs. The mastermind of Gregg Popovich helped the Spurs contain him and diminish those stats a little in the finals, but he still was the best player on the court at all times. The problem was that he did not get any help from his teammates, especially from the guy he needed the most help from, the big man, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
At 7’3 tall Ilgauskas made a career out of grabbing rebounds and knocking down midrange jump shots at an extremely high percentage.
The only problem was that when this two-time All-Star finally got to the big stage, he could not catch a break. He scored less than eight points a game against the Spurs and shot little over 35 percent from the field.
8 Larry Hughes
Ilgauskas was the other All-Star in the team, but the guy who could really help LeBron in the 2007 Finals was Larry Hughes. While most of the other guys were good role players who could knock down shots on occasion, Hughes was the other player on the team who could take a game and win it on his own. The man was a scoring machine when he wanted to be, and he certainly has the numbers to prove that. During that regular season, he averaged 14.9 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only that, he was a solid three-point shooter who was shooting almost 37 percent from beyond the arc. Hughes was also a vital part of the Cavaliers' defense. He once led the NBA in steals back in 2004-05 with an average of 2.9 per game.
Still, when the most important time in his career came around, Hughes was facing an injury that would eventually take him out of the entire series after game three. He ended up only playing a couple of games against the Spurs and was nothing short of terrible. He played 22 minutes a night and had averages of one point, 2.5 rebounds, and one assist per game.
7 Donyell Marshall
It's sad to be picking on role players, but at the end of the day, if you're on a team that gets to the Finals, you have to do your part. Yes, we always talk about the big-time players like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and all sorts of guys who will be immortalized in the Hall of Fame. However, basketball is a team sport, and you need the other guys to win. Michael and Kobe were always unbelievable scorers, but they didn't score every single point when their teams won in the finals. No, they had good role players who helped out and knocked down shots. This seems to be the consistent problem with LeBron and his championship record.
It all started back in 2007, his first finals appearance. We talked about a few of the other guys, but someone who had a direct impact in how that series turned out was Donyell Marshall.
He was not an unbelievable three-point shooter, but Marshall was reliable enough that you could count on him hitting at least more than 30 percent of his shots.
Nevertheless, he ended up hitting only two of the 11 three-pointers he shot during those finals.
6 LeBron James
Yeah, we are about to go there. People who see LeBron playing today don’t really know what it was like to watch him during that first year in Miami. They might have looked unstoppable against most other teams, but whenever they found someone who could slow down the pace and stop them in transition, they had no answer. Dirk Nowitzki was just playing out of his mind in 2011. The man wanted a championship, and he called the game to himself. He demanded the ball, and did what he does. Unfortunately for Miami, that was not what happened on the other side.
No one would deny that LeBron was already the best player in the world by 2011. The problem was that LeBron was trying to delegate tasks and make everyone happy so badly that it was to the detriment of his team. It took him a while to realize he was the best player out there and he was the one who needed to go to the rim and put the ball in the basket. He finished the 2011 Finals averaging 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. That is a dream stat line for most players, but when we talk about a LeBron James who played more than 43 minutes per game, that was just him not being the LeBron he needed to be to win.
5 To Thank: Ray Allen
Without Ray Allen's clutch three pointer to tie the game in the dying moments of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, LeBron would have only won one championship with the Miami Heat and would have a finals record of 2-7. LeBron's finals record is already a big enough weapon for detractors to use against him when ranking him along with Michael Jordan, but if not for Allen sinking the three after LeBron had missed one seconds earlier, LeBron's tenure in Miami would've been viewed as a huge disappointment. Allen's clutch shot is perhaps the single biggest contribution LeBron has ever received on his quest to catch Jordan.
4 Dwyane Wade
While Ray Allen sank that big three pointer in Game 6, we can't forget about LeBron's main running mates in Miami who helped him win two championships in his four seasons there and who helped him begin this incredible run of reaching eight straight NBA Finals. Dwyane Wade was selfless in stepping aside to a lesser role in Miami, which allowed LeBron to be the main force of the team's offense. Wade provided the best partner in crime LeBron had ever had in his career and together, the two created some magic. While their time together in Cleveland was a big disappointment, at least they enjoyed four amazing seasons together in South Beach.
3 Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh was often seen as the third wheel in Miami and many made him the butt end of jokes, thinking he was expendable in the Heat's dominant run over the Eastern Conference in that four season window of being championship contenders. Still, we can't forget it was in fact a big 3 in Miami, and Bosh certainly made the plays when he needed to. Bosh ultimately never looked like the superstar player he was in Toronto prior to his arrival in Miami, but was a great rebounder and made some timely defensive plays in helping the Heat capture two titles. It's too bad injuries and a blood clot derailed Bosh's career.
2 Kyrie Irving
Many would argue that Kyrie Irving should have been named NBA Finals MVP back in 2016 as he was in charge of guarding Steph Curry for most of the series and he was the one who scored the huge 3 in Game 7 which proved to be the winning points of the game. Kyrie Irving is a superstar on his own and he expressed a desire to leave Cleveland because he knew he'd be second fiddle to LeBron James if he stayed there. Well, LeBron will always have Kyrie to thank, as there's no way he could've defeated the 73-win Warriors without Kyrie's clutch baskets and containing Steph Curry in the series.
1 Draymond Green
If Draymond Green never got suspended and had just been able to maintain his composure in a series the Warriors had well in hand, Golden State would've cemented themselves as the greatest single season team in NBA history two seasons ago and LeBron's Cavaliers would've been 0-4 in finals appearances against Golden State. Green was shutting Cleveland down in the 2016 series and his suspension opened the door for the Cavs to take Game 5 when down 3-1 and find some confidence in that series. LeBron needed some breaks to go his way if Cleveland was to defeat Golden State and Green losing his cool was just the break he needed.
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