Ranking LeBron's Epic Game 6 with All-Time Individual Playoff Performances
LeBron James put together one of the most complete performances in NBA playoff history in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, posting 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists on 73.1 percent shooting.
With his own legacy and the fate of the mighty Miami Heat on the line, LeBron rose to the occasion and silenced his critics.
Was LeBron's epic Game 6 performance more memorable than Michael Jordan's "flu game" or Elgin Baylor's NBA Finals-record 61-point performance?
Ahead you'll find where LeBron's 45-point explosion ranks with the all-time best individual NBA playoff performances.
10. Bill Russell Drops 30 and Grabs 40 Rebounds in Game 7
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
When Did It Happen: Game 7, 1962 NBA Finals
Bill Russell's Stats: 30 points, 40 rebounds
Talk about pressure.
With the 1962 NBA Finals on the line, and just two games after Elgin Baylor's all-time great 61-point performance, it was time for Bill Russell to do his thing and show why he's considered one of the greatest to ever play the game.
In a game that would go past regulation, Russell decided to absolutely take over and put together one of the most ridiculous stat lines in NBA history with 30 rebounds and 40 points.
The significance of that performance is that it took place in the same year when Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for the year and Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 points in a single game.
It's almost like Russell knew that he had to leave his mark on an incredible 1961-62 season by putting together an all-time great playoff performance.
Well, Russell rose to the occasion and did just that, helping the Celtics win their fourth NBA title in as many years.
9. Miller Time Drops 25 Points in the Fourth Against the New York Knicks
When Did It Happen: Game 5, 1994 Eastern Conference finals
Reggie Miller's Stats: 39 points (25 in the fourth) on 6-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc
To say that the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers disliked each other would be a remarkably vast understatement, and that's what makes Miller's 25-point fourth quarter so special.
The Pacers were trailing 70-58 to their archenemies, the Knicks, in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. That's when Reggie Miller decided it was time to take over.
The Pacers erased a 12-point deficit by going on a 14-0 run, with Miller scoring 10 of those 14 points. Miller's 25-point quarter tied Isiah Thomas' record for points in a quarter in a playoff game, and it also helped the Pacers end their 11-game losing streak in Madison Square Garden.
While the Pacers would go on to lose the series, the performance that Miller put on, which was inspired in large part by film director Spike Lee, will live on in NBA playoff history as one of the greatest of all time.
8. Isiah Thomas Drops 43 on the Lake Show with a Sprained Ankle
When Did It Happen: Game 6, 1988 NBA Finals
Isiah Thomas' Stats: 43 points, eight assists, six steals, 56.3 FG percentage
What makes this game such a special one is the fact that it's the game where Isiah Thomas officially became a legend in the ranks of the NBA.
Thomas showed that he wasn't only one of the league's top point guards, but that he was and is one of the league's all-time toughest players.
In the fourth quarter, after spraining his ankle and with the Pistons trailing the mighty Lakers, Thomas responded by rattling off 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the Pistons, as they ultimately lost the game 103-102.
While the Pistons ended up losing that series with the Lakers, Thomas solidified himself as one of the premier point guards to ever grace an NBA basketball court. If the Pistons had won the series, this playoff moment would be much higher on the list, but it's certainly deserving of the eighth spot.
7. Bob Pettit Hits the Half-Century Mark Against the Boston Celtics
When Did It Happen: Game 6, 1958 NBA Finals
Bob Pettit's Stats: 50 points, 19 rebounds
For about 10 years the NBA Finals record for points in a game was set by Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks, who dropped an impressive 50 points in a pivotal Game 6 against the Boston Celtics.
What's so impressive about Pettit's half-century mark performance is that it led the Hawks to their only NBA title, while also stopping the Celtics from winning 10 straight NBA titles between the years of 1957 and 1966.
Pettit's 50-point performance came against a little-known player named Bill Russell, which makes this performance that much more epic.
In a 110-109 win, Pettit scored 19 of the Hawks' final 21 points, which included the game-winning putback with just 15 seconds left on the clock. Pettit's performance against the Celtics dynasty will go down as one of the top 10 playoff moments of all time.
It certainly has a permanent place on this list.
6. Magic Johnson's 42-Point, 15-Rebound, 7-Assist Performance at Center
When Did It Happen: Game 6, 1980 NBA Finals
Magic Johnson's Stats: 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, 14-of-14 from the line
At the age of just 20 years old, Magic Johnson showed NBA fans that he was ready to have one of the most exciting and productive careers in NBA history.
In a pivotal Game 6, with the Lakers up 3-2 in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Magic filled in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the center position and put on an absolute show.
Magic, who played the point for his career, showed just how versatile he was—and he did so on the largest stage possible.
Did I mention that Magic was just a rookie when he put on this performance?
The best part of Magic's playoff dominance was the youthful enthusiasm that embodied the way he played the game. With 42 points and 15 rebounds, Magic helped the Lakers end their eight-year title drought on his way to solidifying himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
5. Michael Jordan Ends Jazz's Title Hopes with 45 Points and a Game-Winner
When Did It Happen: Game 6, 1998 NBA Finals
Michael Jordan's Stats: 45 points, one rebound, one assist, 42.9 FG percentage
Michael Jordan's Game 6 performance against the Jazz in 1998 was certainly a classic one. Not only did it include dropping 45 points, but it was capped off by scoring five straight points for the Bulls—including the game-winner.
Jordan's performance is enhanced by the fact that it was his last game as a member of the Chicago Bulls and it capped off his all-time great NBA career with his sixth ring.
Aside from Jordan's 45 points, he didn't do much else on the court. He only accounted for one rebound and one assist, which isn't necessarily bad, but when it's compared against other all-time great playoff performances, that certainly impacts its stock.
Thanks to this all-time epic performance, this classic Jordan shot is the lasting memory that many MJ fans hold in their hearts.
4. Elgin Baylor Scores 61 on the Boston Celtics in NBA Finals
When Did It Happen: Game 5, 1962 NBA Finals
Elgin Baylor's Stats: 61 points, 22 rebounds
Elgin Baylor's 61-point performance is one that will live on in NBA lore until someone manages to outdo his NBA Finals record.
A few players, like Michael Jordan (55 points), Jerry West (55 points) and Rick Barry (55 points), have come close to outdoing Baylor, but none have been able to accomplish what he did that night back in 1962.
What makes Baylor's 61 points so impressive is the fact that he did it against a Boston Celtics team that won nine of 10 NBA titles between the years of 1957 and 1966.
Until someone, possibly LeBron James, outdoes Baylor's NBA Finals record, he will have a permanent spot on this top-10 list.
3. LeBron Scores 29 of Cavs' Final 30 Points Against Pistons in 2007 ECF
When Did it Happen: Game 5, 2007 Eastern Conference finals
LeBron James' Stats: 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, 54.5 FG percentage
Even though LeBron was a bona fide superstar in the NBA when this game took place, there's no doubt that this playoff matchup with the Detroit Pistons was truly LeBron's "coming-out game."
With the Eastern Conference finals tied at two games apiece, LeBron absolutely took over when his team needed him—and he did so in a way that no player before him had ever done.
Scoring 25 straight points for a team without much talent is certainly impressive. Add to that the fact that LeBron was playing on the road against a veteran Pistons team, and you can see just how remarkable his performance truly was.
Dropping 29 of his team's final 30 points, while turning the ball over only twice, is a remarkable feat and something that NBA fans most likely won't ever see again.
2. Michael Jordan's Famous "Flu Game"
When Did It Happen: Game 5, 1997 NBA Finals
Michael Jordan's Stats: 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists, 48.1 FG percentage
If you consider yourself a fan of the game of basketball, when you hear the phrase, "great playoff performances," the first game that comes to mind is Michael Jordan's flu game.
While it was certainly an epic performance on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball for MJ, the fact is that Jordan's legacy wasn't on the line in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
If Jordan had dropped a dud in that game, the media would have given him a pass and Jordan most likely would've gone on to will the Bulls to two straight wins and the 1997 NBA title anyway.
With that being said, there's no doubting the fact that holding Jeff Hornacek to just seven points while dropping 38 on him, all while suffering from food poisoning, is an all-time classic performance.
Without his legacy on the line and given the fact that the Bulls weren't facing elimination, I can't rank it higher than second on this list.
1. LeBron's 45-Point, 15-Rebound, 5-Assist Game 6 with Legacy on the Line
When Did It Happen: Game 6, 2012 Eastern Conference finals
LeBron James' Stats: 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, 73.1 FG percentage
It might seem hasty to put LeBron James' 45-point performance at the top of this list, but when you consider that it was the 2012 Eastern Conference finals and the fate of the Heat's season and his own legacy were all on the line, you can understand why it's at the No. 1 spot.
With his critics out in full force, LeBron put together one of the most complete performances in NBA playoff history, including shooting a ridiculous 73.1 percent from the field. He became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964 to account for at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a playoff game.
With his epic Game 6 performance, LeBron became the only player in NBA history to score at least 45 points two times while facing elimination on the road—his other performance is No. 3 on this list.
To say that LeBron rose to the occasion would be a vast understatement. If he had dropped a dud and the Heat had lost Game 6, his legacy could've been done for, and that's why his performance was so special.
LeBron silenced his critics and single-handedly led the Heat off the edge of elimination with the greatest individual performance in NBA playoff history.