by Ryan Isley
You can love LeBron James or you can hate him – it doesn’t really matter. But the one thing that everyone should definitely do is appreciate what the reigning NBA MVP did in the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The one thing that has kept people from realizing just how great LeBron was over the past nine weeks is their blind hatred for the three-time NBA MVP. And that is not just a shot at Cleveland fans – it is a shot at all fans across the country who have not shown any appreciation for what LeBron accomplished once the regular season ended. With all of the hate towards LeBron, it has been easy to overlook exactly what he did in this postseason and to not think about the historical significance of what we saw from him each night.
The problem has been that every time that LeBron had a great game or helped Miami win, there was still criticism that either he didn’t score enough in the fourth quarter or he missed a free throw or he shouldn’t have taken that jumper. That or the Heat only won because the officials gave them all of the calls. The excuses against him went on and on and on.
As the Miami Heat wrapped up the NBA Championship on Thursday night, LeBron did something that nobody has ever done in an NBA postseason. Not Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Not Oscar Robertson. Not Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. Not Kobe Bryant. And no – not even Michael Jeffrey Jordan himself.
LeBron scored an average of 30.3 points, grabbed 9.7 rebounds and handed out 5.6 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field for the Heat in their 23 games this postseason. No other player had ever accomplished those numbers for an entire postseason in the history of the league. It isn’t just those overall numbers that make this a special postseason for the 27-year-old number one draft pick in 2003, though.
LeBron finished the playoffs by scoring 25 or more points in 15 straight games after the 26 points in Thursday night’s game five, which set a new single postseason record for the most consecutive games of 25+ points – surpassing the record of 14, also owned by LeBron (2009). Along with that streak and the overall playoff averages, LeBron has also had more games of 25+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists in a single postseason – 13 times in these playoffs – than any other player in NBA history.
If all of that isn’t enough, just think of what LeBron did when the Heat have had their backs against the wall. To win the NBA championship this season, the Heat became the first team in NBA history to overcome trailing in three different series during the postseason. The reason they were able to overcome these deficits has been the 2011-12 NBA MVP. When the Heat found themselves trailing in a series, Lebron’s numbers were outstanding.
In the three games this postseason in which the Heat trailed in the series – game three against Indiana, game six against Boston and then game two against Oklahoma City – LeBron averaged 39 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
And oh yeah, I forgot to mention – those were all on the road.
Those games included a game in Indianapolis in which LeBron scored 40 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a must-win game against the Pacers with the Heat trailing two games to one and struggling after the injury to Chris Bosh. With the season seemingly on the brink, LeBron responded and put the Heat on his back, taking them to a 101-93 win.
And then there was the game we will never forget when LeBron was 12-for-14 from the field for 30 points in the first half on his way to 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists on 19-of-26 shooting on the night as the Heat beat the Celtics 98-79 in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals.
For his final act with Miami trailing in a series, LeBron bounced back from a sub-par fourth quarter in game one to hit the clutch shots when it mattered in game two of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City. His jumper off glass with 1:25 remaining kept Miami in the lead as the Thunder were coming back and his two free throws with seven seconds left sealed a win for Miami and sent the series back to Miami tied at one game apiece instead of with the Heat trailing two games to zero.
For the icing on the cake, LeBron went out and collected a triple-double in the championship-clinching game by scoring 26 points, dishing out 13 assists and hauling in 11 rebounds as the Heat ran away from the Thunder and won 121-106. This was on the heels of a 26 point-12 assist-9 rebound performance – including a clutch three-pointer late in the game while he was hobbled with severe cramps in his leg – in game four that helped the Heat take a three games to one lead in the series.
One of the biggest criticisms of LeBron in the past has been that he has not shown up in the NBA Finals when his team has reached them – and it was warranted. Before the 2012 NBA Finals, LeBron had played in 10 NBA Finals games and had failed to score more than 25 points in a single one, averaging just 19.5 points per game in his career with the title on the line. To make it worse, his teams were a combined 2-8 in NBA Finals games before this season.
LeBron answered those critics this season, averaging 28.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game in the five NBA Finals games played en route to winning the NBA championship and his first NBA Finals MVP award.
So no, you don’t have to love or even like LeBron. Hell – you can hate him if you would like. But the least you can do is give him the credit he is due after he just had a postseason for the ages.
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