Comparing LeBron James' Playoff Explosions to Other Astonishing Individual Feats

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat speaks with the media after beating the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on June 9, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At only 27 years old, LeBron James has already made an impact on the NBA postseason that few stars will never come close to matching.

His most recent foray into greatness was a 45-point, 15-rebound statement in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, the first of two must-win elimination games that Miami survived.

This wasn't the first time James took a game over, though. As a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, he dropped 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a double-overtime Game 5 against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.

More impressively, though, he scored 29 of Cleveland's last 30 points in that game.

That should have given a whole new meaning to "clutch."

In 2009, James had an especially dominant postseason campaign. After scoring 47 points in Game 3 of a second-round sweep of the Atlanta Hawks, he then topped 40 three times in three losing efforts in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic. He hit 20 of his 30 field goal attempts in Game 1 for 49 points.

He managed only 37 points in Game 5 of that series, but put together quite a triple-double with 14 boards and 12 assists.

Performances approaching or surpassing 40 points have become par for the course throughout James' career. So have his well-rounded performances. LeBron has six postseason triple-doubles in his career, already the seventh highest mark in league history.

What sets James apart from his peers—past and present—is the regularity with which he dominates these games.

In recent memory, his complete performances are matched by only Magic Johnson, who tallied 30 triple-doubles in the playoffs. He came pretty close to another one in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, chalking up 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists—as a rookie, no less.

James' sheer scoring output only compares to the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, although the 61 points Elgin Baylor dropped on the Celtics in the 1962 NBA Finals remain an impressive accomplishment in their own right.

Jordan averaged over 35 points over the course of 19 playoff games in his pursuit of a third title in 1993. He averaged nearly 37 a game through 16 contests in 1990 before finally coming up short in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series against the Detroit Pistons.

Thus far, LeBron may not be the most prolific postseason scorer, but he makes up for it with that Magic-like penchant for impacting the game in so many other ways—including the defensive ability that doesn't show up on the stat sheet.

Pundits are unlikely to let up on the attempts to rank James against these other greats, but this is one of those quintessential "apples and oranges" dilemmas. 

LeBron is different, and we should appreciate him for who he is—not who we'd like him to be like.