LeBron James has been on such a roll in these playoffs that people are again starting to compare him to the GOAT, Michael Jordan. While I still think LeBron has a ton of work to do to even compare to Jordan, I cannot deny LeBron's excellence. I have never seen a player flip a switch like LeBron has done in this postseason. Also, seven straight finals is no joke and LeBron needs to be commended for that.
People are also discussing all of the great players Jordan left ringless with his dominance. Predictably, that conversation has now started to be discussed around LeBron as well. No doubt about it, the level of players that Jordan left ringless is much higher than the level of players LeBron has left ringless.
However, there are still some pretty good players from the LeBron era that are ringless and this article will show 15 players that had their dreams for rings crushed by LeBron. Much like Michael Jordan did, LeBron has prevented many great players from winning a championship in his recent run of dominance over the Eastern Conference. Note that some of these players are still active, so this list could change.
15 Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague was a part of the Atlanta teams that have been crushed by LeBron over the last few years. No matter how good Atlanta has looked in the regular season, they have never stood a chance against LeBron. Perhaps the worst scenario for Atlanta is when they finished first in the Eastern Conference with 60 plus wins, but were still dismantled by LeBron in the Conference Finals in four games. To make matters, even worse for Teague, he was also part of the Indiana team that was recently swept by the Cavaliers. Teague just cannot catch a break.
Overall, you could just tell that the teams Teague has played on versus LeBron that they were going to lose. They were lacking a edge mentally and LeBron has taken full advantage of that.
14 Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka was a part of the stacked, but young Oklahoma City team that bowed out to the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals. Remember when everyone thought this OKC team was going to become a dynasty? Funny how things can change. That team had the likes of Ibaka, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all on one team had their dreams crushed by LeBron.
Ibaka was also recently swept by LeBron and the Cavs while playing for the Raptors. Ibaka was supposed to bring playoff experience and toughness to the Raps. This was going to help them compete with LeBron, but it was even worse for the Raptors this time around. LeBron was simply too much for them to handle.
13 David West
Not only has LeBron cost David West a championship, but LeBron has also cost West a ton of money. If you recall, West opted out of a contract with Indiana that was due to pay him around $12 million. West was do desperate for a ring that he instead signed for the veteran minimum in San Antonio. Giving up over $10 million is unheard of and West should be applauded because you do not see professional athletes give up that kind of money, however this sacrifice has not yet worked out for West.
Well, at least West has another good chance of winning that coveted title with the Warriors this season. He'll once again have LeBron standing in his way, so this could be his run at redemption.
12 Al Horford
Like Teague, Al Horford was a part of the many Atlanta Hawks teams that were crushed by LeBron led teams. A 60 win team getting swept still does not make sense to me. Just win one game, at least! Is it that these players tell themselves they have no chance when they go up against LeBron, or is LeBron really that much better than them?
Nonetheless, Horford is now a Celtic and if they manage to get past the Wizards, he will face the same problem. There is no way the Celtics will get by the Cavs this year. At best, Danny Ainge brings in another star for the Celtics next year and then maybe Horford finally gets past LeBron after that.
11 Paul Millsap
Another player on those Atlanta Hawks teams discussed, earlier. Paul Millsap is a legitimate all-star, and of all of the Hawks players I have discussed, he is the best player. He is a legitimate all-star, and fits the style of play the NBA has trended towards.
Unfortunately for Millsap, LeBron's teams have been too good for his teams and Millsap is ringless. I think Millsap needs to take his talents elsewhere this free agency, especially if he wants to win a ring. The Hawks will not be getting past the Cavs anytime soon, or many other teams in the East. Maybe a move to a team like Houston would be a good fit for Millsap. They need another star and he would fit well into Mike D'Antoni's offense.
10 Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson was a part of the Brooklyn Nets team that went all in. Remember, the team of Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez? They were supposed to win at least one championship together, but in the end, they could not even get past the second round. This Nets team was able to get past the Toronto Raptors in the first round in seven games.
They then were dominated by the LeBron led Heat in the second round. Johnson and the Nets never even stood a chance. The sad part is that this was probably Johnson's best chance at winning a ring. However, the team just was lacking something and were eventually separated. Another great player that did not win a ring because of LeBron.
9 Gilbert Arenas
A lot of people may forget how good Gilbert Arenas was. For two or three seasons, he was the talk of the NBA and was averaging over 25 points per game. Remember those "They Thought I was a Zero" commercials that were on non-stop. It is unfortunate that Arenas' career was slowed by injuries and off the court issues, or else he could have been something special.
Regardless, Arenas and the Wizards often played young LeBron and the Cavs in the playoffs. There was genuine dislike between the two teams and the games were fun to watch. However, Arenas was never able to get over the hump that is LeBron. Seeing as how LeBron has dominated the East for so long, perhaps Arenas shouldn't feel too bad.
8 Derrick Rose
Remember when Derrick Rose won MVP? The Chicago Bulls were also the talk of the NBA by winning over 60 games. The Bulls were going to be the team to beat LeBron. However, as usual, we were wrong and LeBron continued to dominate. The Heat went on to toss aside the Bulls in just five games, ending Rose's best chance at winning a title (so far).
Rose scored the ball well in that series, but his shooting percentage was very poor. Also, any time Rose was starting to get into a rhythm, the Heat would use LeBron to guard Rose. Rose would then struggle, as LeBron was obviously much bigger and stronger. Rose's best days are behind him and he couldn't beat LeBron so if is ever going to have a chance, he'll likely have to go to a powerhouse that would have him on the bench.
7 DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors have been eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers two seasons in a row. This year was especially disappointing because I expected the Raptors to put up a much better fight. It was even more disappointing to watch the Raptors let LeBron mock them with fake beer drinking and spinning the ball before shooting.
Overall, there just seems to be a mental hurdle for the Raps against LeBron. LeBron fully exploited this and flat out dominated the Raptors. Overall, DeRozan had some nice moments, but it just seemed like him and Kyle Lowry do not believe they can win against this team. Their quotes to the media certainly reflect this as well. You have to wonder if the Raptors' best chance has already passed them.
6 Kyle Lowry
Pretty much the exact same situation as DeRozan here. Under Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors have been good, but LeBron has crushed their dreams of a championship. From an outside perspective, it seems LeBron has really gotten to Lowry. Lowry was talking to the media in the middle of the series about how no one is closing the gap on LeBron. Why would you say that during the middle of a series? Just makes no sense to me. Play and try your best to beat him.
There have also been reports of Lowry wanting to move out West. Is this because of LeBron? Maybe Lowry has come to the realization that he will not beat LeBron and is trying to get to the other conference.
5 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has only played LeBron one time in the playoffs, but even if they did play more often, we all know that LeBron would take him out. LeBron is just on another level compared to Carmelo. Carmelo is very inconsistent on the defensive end and cannot make players around him better, which are two keys to winning in the playoffs.
With that being said, I did expect the Knicks to give the Heat a more difficult time when they played in the 2012 playoffs. However, LeBron proved to be too much for Melo and the Knicks to handle. Melo did average 28 points per game in the five game series, but he was held to a 40% shooting clip, mostly thanks to LeBron.
4 Paul George
Maybe the reason Paul George wants to leave Indiana so badly is because LeBron has crushed his dreams so many times. George has been able to give LeBron a scare or two, even once taking him to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he has not gotten over that hump.
However, to be fair, it should be stated that George has given LeBron the biggest scares of any individual on this list. This makes me wonder, what if George had not broken his leg in the gruesome way he did. He probably would have continued to improve at a very high rate and provided even tougher competition for LeBron. Unfortunately, this is not how it worked out and James and the Cavs recently swept George and the Pacers.
3 James Harden
James Harden was the sixth man of the OKC team that lost to LeBron and the Heat in the 2012 Finals. LeBron was too dominant in this finals by averaging 28 points 10 boards and 7 assists, leaving Harden and his teammates wondering what could have been.
Honestly, almost every player on this list can look at LeBron's brilliance as a reason for being ringless. However, Harden is one player that can also blame himself. In the Finals, Durant and Westbrook did their thing, but they also needed Harden to step up. Unfortunately, Harden came up small, sort of what he did again this year in games five and six against San Antonio in the second round. At least Houston looks like they are building a nice team. Maybe Harden can get a ring there.
2 Russell Westbrook
It was tough to put Russell Westbrook on this list because it reminds me that he is ringless. Of any player on this list, I want Westbrook to win a ring the most. However, realistically I think he is the least likely to do so, especially between him, Durant, and Harden. Why do I think this? Well, Westbrook is loyal and not going to leave OKC anytime soon. OKC also just gave out a bunch of huge contracts to average players, so it is hard to see them winning a title in the near future.
So yes, Westbrook's best chance at a title may have been in the early stages of his career when he lost to the Heat. Hopefully, I am wrong and Westbrook is able to get a ring. Just hope he does not run into LeBron in the Finals.
1 Kevin Durant
If there is one superstar that LeBron has owned head to head during his career it is Kevin Durant. Whether it has been the regular season or playoffs, Durant has been bullied by LeBron. James is able to play great defense on KD, while KD cannot handle LeBron's strength in the post area.
Durant probably knew deep down that even if he did make the Finals with OKC again he was not going to beat LeBron. Ultimately, I think this was a big reason why he jumped to Golden State: Durant will have not one, but two other stars that can carry the load if/when he plays against LeBron. You have to wonder how this year's finals will play out with Durant not having to carry the load by himself.