There isn't an individual capable of stopping LeBron James.
When doing research for this article, I found that no defender has done better than limiting James to 24 points on 44 percent shooting. Those are fantastic numbers when it comes to defending LeBron. If your defender holds LeBron to only 24 points, and holding him well-below his usual shooting percentage, then you've given your team a good chance to win.
While that's no longer the case with James being on a stacked Miami Heat team, it's a testament to James' all-around aura as one of the best players to ever walk onto the court. With each team's best defender taking responsibility for defending LeBron and investing all of their energy into limiting him, James is still taking home nearly 25 points on a bad night.
There are too many dimensions to James' game, and it's only going to be more difficult for defenders to limit him now that he has a more well-rounded post game. Defenders with the length to limit him from the perimeter now find themselves befuddled as they attempt to use that same length to deter James in the post, something that has become near impossible.
And the bigger players? James could blow past them from the perimeter. God help us all if he's hitting his jumper or even hitting from beyond the arc.
We take a look at each team's top defender when it comes to defending LeBron and rank them from the worst to best chance of limiting the three-time MVP and reigning NBA champion.
Career numbers vs. Acy: N/A
The Toronto Raptors have options to defend LeBron James.
None of them are good. The Raptors could have James defended by Linas Kleiza, journeyman Dominic McGuire, Knicks castoff Landry Fields, overpaid power forward Amir Johnson or recent D-League star Alan Anderson.
Instead, they'll go with the physical Quincy Acy, rookie out of Baylor. Standing at 6'7" and weighing in at 224 pounds, Acy doesn't have the speed to keep up with LeBron, but he plays physical, tough and with confidence. The mental part of this game plays just as large as the physical, and Acy could use that to his advantage if he doesn't back down from the competition.
Since he's looking to make a name for himself, the natural power forward will be looking to make a statement.
Career numbers vs. Kidd-Gilchrist: N/A
Containing the most potential and athleticism of this year's rookie class, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has the capability to become an All-Star.
He has excellent tools as an athlete, containing the ability to keep his defender in front of him by using quick feet and great upper-body strength. Kidd-Gilchrist was taken so high up because of his defensive capabilities and his body type, which is reminiscent of a young LeBron James.
However, it'll be a tall order for Gilchrist, who will have to play against James four times per season for however long he stays within the division. Luckily for his sanity, the Bobcats also took Jeffrey Taylor in the draft. Taylor was rated among the best perimeter defenders in the draft.
If only they still had Corey Maggette!
Career numbers vs. Gee: 7 games, 26.1 ppg, 50% FG, 39% 3-PT, 6.7 apg, 6 rpg, 1 spg, 4.1 TOV
Sadly, this is the player the Cleveland Cavaliers got when looking for someone to limit LeBron James.
The team has yet to find someone who can consistently start and produce at the three, although Alonzo Gee may be in the position to do so after re-signing with the Cavs.
Basically, that means Cleveland will have to endure more big-time performances by LeBron.
Gee is an excellent athlete, but his lack of experience and the size advantage he's giving up is going to play far too large of an influence on the defensive end of this matchup.
Career numbers vs. Leonard: 1 game, 33 points, 57% FG, 67% 3-PT, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers
Leonard has the tools and potential to become a great defender and it's an excellent move by the San Antonio Spurs to thrust him into a veteran-laden starting lineup. Kawhi is going to end up learning plenty in the time he spends with the likes of Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
When it comes to defending LeBron, however, he'll be on his own.
Career numbers vs. Young: 15 games, 27.1 ppg, 53% FG, 31% 3-PT, 7.1 rpg, 6.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 3 TOV
If LeBron James had little resistance against Andre Iguodala when he was with Philadelphia, how are we to expect anything better from Thaddeus Young?
Young is a player who has a vital role as someone who can play at the three or four, but is in way over his head if the Sixers expect him to defend James. He has had little success when guarding James in the past, and he'll have to add some muscle if he expects to be able to defend LeBron in the post.
The Sixers will find themselves scrambling for answers when it comes to defending LeBron, possibly utilizing multiple players to throw at him.
Career numbers vs. Green: 7 games, 28.3 ppg, 53% FG, 46% 3-pt, 7.3 apg, 5.7 rpg, 2.7 spg, 3.1 TOV
In seven meetings with LeBron, Jeff Green has yet to win a game.
The Boston Celtics are going to need that to change if they expect to beat the Miami Heat to represent the East in the 2013 NBA Finals.
Paul Pierce proved last year that he has no chance of stopping LeBron. Now that he's one year older, it's only become more unrealistic that he's going to have success against James on either side of the ball. Following James' 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in Game 6, a game where Pierce was held to nine points on 18 shots, it became well-known that Paul isn't going to consistently defend LeBron again.
The responsibility either comes down to Kevin Garnett or Jeff Green. But with Garnett going to be forced to play against Chris Bosh, it will most likely end up with Green taking on James. He can play at the three or four, but his time at the three could exhaust Green when taking on the faster, more athletic LeBron.
Career stats vs. Delfino: 19 games, 29 ppg, 48% FG, 35% 3-PT, 7.8 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.3 spg and 3.5 TOV
Carlos Delfino couldn't defend LeBron James in London, and it's going to continue with him when the Miami Heat play the Houston Rockets.
I wanted to believe that Royce White could defend James, considering they have a similar playing style and body, but it then occurred to me that White was never a noted defender in college and hardly contains the speed to keep up with LeBron.
Delfino has experience guarding James and that's all the Rockets could ask for at this point. Their incredibly young roster hardly stands a chance in defending LeBron, which is going to leave Carlos in the position to guard James the majority of the time.
As you can tell by the numbers, Delfino's success has been limited outside of forcing James into shooting below 50 percent.
Career numbers vs. Mbah a Moute: 14 games, 29.6 ppg, 52% FG, 48% 3-PT, 7.3 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.8 TOV
For the Milwaukee Bucks, their best defender on LeBron James may just be their power forward.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is capable of playing multiple positions and will have no choice but to defend LeBron when his Bucks take on the Heat. He's surprisingly quick for someone his size, has great athleticism and plays physical enough to deter slashers like James. His perimeter defense is sound, although he's better as a post defender.
However, he plays better as a power forward, and he doesn't have the speed to keep up with LeBron, meaning that he won't be able to keep up in the open court nor off the dribble along on the perimeter.
Career numbers vs. Williams: 19 games, 30.2 ppg, 52% FG, 35% 3-PT, 8.4 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.7 TOV
Marvin Williams didn't deserve to have LeBron James play against him four times out of the year.
Once James had this incredible shooting performance against the Hawks, he recognized that he had to somehow find a way to a team that wouldn't play against the Heat as much as their own division rival.
So Marvin is now in Utah, where he will split time with Gordon Hayward and possibly even Paul Millsap when it comes to taking on LeBron.
Williams is a sound defender, but he doesn't have near the size to compete with LeBron, thus explaining the exaggerated numbers James has against the Atlanta Hawks.
Career numbers vs. Brewer: 13 games, 31.2 ppg, 51% FG, 34% 3-PT, 9.8 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 3.2 TOV
What? You were expecting Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith to carry on with their duties of guarding LeBron James?
The New York Knicks went through that experience, and it's doubtful that it will happen again with Ronnie Brewer on the team. With Iman Shumpert defending Dwyane Wade at the two, the Knicks could possibly use Brewer at the three as a physical presence against LeBron.
However, Brewer is giving up a lot of size to James, and that never bodes well for the defender in this situation.
As quality a defender as Brewer has proven to be, he won't be able to keep a hold on James for a seven-game series.
Career numbers vs. Dudley: 12 games, 26.4 ppg, 50% FG, 27% 3-PT, 8 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.2 spg, 3.7 TOV
Poor Jared Dudley. In 12 matchups with LeBron James, the former Boston College star has yet to win a meeting against James during his time in Cleveland and Miami.
He hasn't fared too badly against James, though. He's holding him to a poor percentage from beyond the arc, forcing nearly four turnovers and allowing him to score below his career average. Considering that he's probably not benching nearly as much as LeBron, he still holds his own when the two meet up.
There will be plenty more expected out of Dudley against LeBron this year. For the Phoenix Suns, it's either him or Michael Beasley attempting to keep up with the league's most unstoppable force, and it's doubtful the Suns want Beasley assuming that responsibility.
Career numbers vs. Outlaw: 12 games, 27.9 ppg, 50% FG, 34% 3-PT, 9.5 rpg, 8.2 apg, 2.3 spg, 3.2 TOV
I don't know what's more surprising: the Sacramento Kings' best option in defending LeBron James being Travis Outlaw or the fact that Travis Outlaw is still playing in the NBA.
Seriously, when was the last time you heard of anything Outlaw related since he signed that insane deal with the Nets in 2010?
I digress. While I may have just criticized Outlaw to start this slide, he does deserve the credit of being a solid, athletic defender, which is predominantly the reason why he received $35 million from the Nets. He has length on his side, as well as the ability to keep his defender in front of him with solid footwork.
Outlaw will be fortunate to see LeBron James this upcoming season because it means he's getting time on the court. He played in only 39 games last year, averaging 13 minutes per contest.
Career numbers vs. Smith: 30.2 ppg, 51% FG, 36% 3-PT, 8.2 rpg, 6.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 2.8 TOV
I wouldn't judge this matchup too heavily by the numbers. LeBron James' defender in the majority of the games against the Atlanta Hawks was Marvin Williams.
Outside of Williams, it was also Josh Smith who was defending LeBron, which is something he may find himself doing more now, with Williams on the move to Utah. Smith has played significantly more time at the three in the past few seasons and has spent time defending, or at least attempting to, LeBron in the past.
Smith is an excellent shot-blocker who can play multiple positions, but his speed may end up playing a pivotal role in matchups between the two. Josh is known for his play in the open court on the offensive end, but he hardly contains the speed that lies within James, who just may be one of the fastest players we've seen for a player his size.
Plus, this happened two years ago. It was scary.
Career numbers vs. Jefferson: 23 games, 30.1 ppg, 49% FG, 34% 3-PT, 7.4 apg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 spg, 3.9 TOV
A veteran who has spent time defending LeBron James in a Nets uniform, a Bucks uniform (where he ended up playing a large part in LeBron's unbelievable stretch of points back in the day) and a Spurs uniform, Richard Jefferson has had plenty of time to figure out a way to limit James, but has yet to find a way.
He's forcing four turnovers per game, yes, but he's also giving up 30 points per game on nearly 50 percent from the field. As good a defender as Jefferson has been over his career, James' size has played too big of an influence, which could be said by many who have attempted to limit LeBron, and it's resulted in the three-time MVP having numerous quality outings.
Jefferson will likely be coming off the bench this season for Golden State, meaning it'll most likely be rookie Harrison Barnes who ends up taking LeBron on in the starting lineup.
Career numbers vs. Gay: 10 games, 28 ppg, 51% FG, 38% 3-PT, 8.9 apg, 6.6 rpg, 1.9 spg, 3.5 TOV
Next to Andre Iguodala and LeBron James, Rudy Gay is one of the league's most athletic small forwards, which is what has allowed him success in attempting to keep up with the Miami Heat star.
The two have matched up on only 10 occasions, with James keeping up to his usual career averages as he utilizes his superior strength and weight to barrel through the smaller Rudy. Gay has had success on the offensive end against LeBron because of his excellent jumper, but hasn't seen near the success on defense, where James takes advantage through the size battle.
They played each other only one time last year, leaving much to be desired from the NBA viewer who wants to see two of the league's best small forwards going at it on both sides of the ball.
Career numbers vs. Kirilenko: 12 games, 29.9 ppg, 46% FG, 34% 3-PT, 8.8 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 2.8 TOV
As good a defender as Andrei Kirilenko has notoriously been, it doesn't exactly show in his defense against LeBron James.
In 12 games, James is nearly averaging a triple-double to go along with 30 points per game. Although Kirilenko has held LeBron's field-goal percentage below his average threshold, James has still dominated the notoriously good defender.
Andrei returns to the NBA after a short stint playing in Russia. He will become the starting small forward of the Timberwolves, competing with Derrick Williams for minutes, although it's more than likely that it will be AK-47 who defends LeBron.
Career numbers vs. Richardson: 25 games, 28.2 ppg, 48% FG, 34% 3-PT, 7.3 rpg, 6.9 apg, 2 spg, 3.1 TOV
Believe it or not, Quentin Richardson is one of LeBron's most effective defenders in more ways than one.
Outside of being extremely physical with his approach, he has to compensate with the height and weight he's giving up, Richardson has done a great job at getting in LeBron's head, even to the point of having to be separated by the officials.
Richardson has helped to limit LeBron to below 50 percent shooting over 25 games and will find himself continuing to defend James four times per year, as long as he's in the Southeast Division.
Career numbers vs. Deng: 26 games, 31 ppg, 49% FG, 32% 3-PT, 7.2 rpg, 6 apg, 2 spg, 3.3 TOV
We're not sure where the idea of Luol Deng being a good defender against LeBron James came about, but it needs to stop.
In 26 games with Deng, LeBron is garnering over 30 points per game, and that is a true estimate because these two are constantly playing against each other, since they're both starting small forwards. They faced a heated rivalry in the high school ranks, in the Central Division and even when LeBron made his move to Miami, where his Heat are challenging Deng's Chicago Bulls for the top spot in the East.
Deng has usually played LeBron well, especially from beyond the arc on the offensive end, but hasn't come nearly as close to being a "LeBron-stopper" as much as it is believed.
Career numbers vs. Aminu: 3 games, 20.3 ppg, 49% FG, 40% 3-PT, 8.3 rpg, 6 apg, 1.7 spg, 4.3 TOV
It's a small sample size to really determine anything, but it seems that Al-Farouq Aminu has the capability to limit LeBron.
He's holding James to his lowest amount of points per game and forcing more turnovers than most of the other defenders on this list. However, the numbers are skewed because Aminu's minutes are limited, and the numbers don't completely reflect James' performances against Al-Farouq.
With Aminu sure to find a larger role in New Orleans after a solid Olympics with Nigeria, he may find himself guarding LeBron when the two teams face off, especially with Ryan Anderson projected as the Hornets starting small forward.
Career numbers vs. Iguodala: 25 games, 28.9 ppg, 51% FG, 30% 3-PT, 7 rpg, 7 apg, 2 spg, 3.6 TOV
Despite standing at only 6'6", Andre Iguodala's physicality and athleticism has helped him when he's been matched up with LeBron James over their 25-game history.
Iguodala was recently the victim of a 41-point drubbing by LeBron. Of course, it's not all just excellent games by LeBron against Andre. Iguodala's physical nature makes James work for his points, and it causes LeBron to rise to the occasion, since he's usually the type of player who enjoys making a statement.
Unfortunately for our viewing pleasure, the matchups between LeBron and Andre will be limited with Iguodala's move to Denver.
Career numbers vs. Sefolosha: 7 games, 30.4 ppg, 47% FG, 42% 3-PT, 7.9 rpg, 6.4 apg, 2.2 spg, 3.6 TOV
One of the league's top perimeter defenders, Thabo Sefolosha spent a great deal of time defending LeBron James in the NBA Finals so that Kevin Durant wouldn't find himself in foul trouble because of his lack of defensive tools to keep LeBron in front of him.
James held a considerable size advantage over the pure shooting guard, but Thabo held his own when LeBron wasn't picking him apart in the post.
Even heading into next season, Thabo still represents the biggest defensive challenge to LeBron. As far as we know, Durant still doesn't contain the ability to keep the larger LeBron in front of him but does contain the stride to keep up. However, it's more likely than not that Durant would not be primarily used to defend LeBron, meaning Thabo will have to pick up the duties in future NBA Finals.
Career numbers vs. Granger: 20 games, 27.8 ppg, 48% FG, 32% 3-PT, 8.2 rpg, 7.1 apg, 2 spg, 3.7 TOV
We're not sure what Danny Granger was trying to do when he attempted to harass and bait LeBron James into a fight, but it really didn't work.
All LeBron did was record 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 and then help lead a team without Chris Bosh past Granger's Indiana Pacers in six games.
Granger should have just stuck with playing his game. He's an All-Star who has conducted himself well on the court, yet he made himself look childish when attempting to get into fights with James and Dwyane Wade over minor confrontations.
Granger has held LeBron to less than 50 percent shooting but wasn't nearly as effective against LeBron in their second-round matchup last year.
Career numbers vs. Marion: 19 games, 29.2 ppg, 48% FG, 36% 3-PT, 7.1 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.4 apg, 3.7 TOV
Known for his defense against LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals, when he held James to a mere 18 points per game, Shawn Marion didn't look nearly as elite in their matchup in last year's season opener.
James finished the game with 37 points, putting his post game on full display and making Marion pay for thinking that he could continue to defend him. Shawn's key to defending LeBron in the Finals was forcing him to play with his back to the basket, while also being helped considerably by the zone defense that was instilled in order to limit LeBron.
Still, Marion has had success against James, keeping him to sub-50 percent shooting. That may not seem like much, but it is against a player who can get to the basket as well as James.
Career numbers vs. Batum: 4 games, 36.8 ppg, 59% FG, 59% 3-PT, 10.5 rpg, 8.5 apg, 2.3 spg, 3 TOV
Now, now, let's not look at those stats too closely.
LeBron James has had a great deal of success against Batum and the Portland Trail Blazers, including a 44-point outing two years ago. However, Batum has the tools to defend LeBron. He just happened to play against LeBron James, who is known for exploding for outings like the 44 points he had in 2011 and the 37 points he had last year against Portland, as well.
Batum has an excellent stride capable of keeping up with James on the break, has length on his side and has been among the league's best when it comes to keeping up with assignment's off the dribble.
With Batum's role in Portland increasing and his confidence gaining with it, it'll be interesting to see how well he can defend LeBron after a few years of experience in the NBA and most recently in the Olympics.
Career numbers vs. Wallace: 24 games, 26 ppg, 51% FG, 30% 3-PT, 7.7 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 3.5 TOV
The Brooklyn Nets wanted Gerald Wallace to re-sign for one reason and one reason only: stopping LeBron James.
If your team doesn't have someone who can limit LeBron, your team will more than likely fail to beat his team. Because LeBron will get his help from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In order for a team to compensate, they have to do what they can to limit James; because if he's going of, then the Miami Heat are going to win.
The Nets want to compete with the Heat, thus why they traded for Joe Johnson and re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Wallace.
Wallace has had success in the past defending James, holding him to 26 points per game in 24 games during Gerald's stints with Sacramento, Charlotte, Portland and New Jersey.
Career numbers vs. Ariza: 15 games, 25.1 ppg, 45% FG, 33% 3-PT, 8.1 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 4.3 TOV
Equipped with excellent length and more strength than he may appear to have, Trevor Ariza is holding LeBron James to some of his worst shooting percentages, as well as making him turn the ball over as much as any other defender.
Ariza has spent some time away from James in the past few years playing out West, but will soon be playing LeBron four times a year now that he's within the same division, following a trade that sent him to Washington.
As we've seen with so many players who have been able to use their length to limit James, is Trevor Ariza capable of limiting LeBron in the post?
Career numbers vs. Butler: 24 games, 23.8 ppg, 44% FG, 31% 3-PT, 7.3 rpg, 7 apg, 1.3 spg, 3.9 TOV
Surprisingly, Caron Butler has had some of the greatest defensive success against LeBron James, which dates to his days when his Washington Wizards battled James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason.
Butler has great tendencies and feet on the defensive end and does an excellent job at keeping his man in front of him, even the larger LeBron James who has at least a 30-pound advantage.
However, with James taking advantage of his weight and strength more than ever with his newfound home in the post, Butler could encounter more trouble than before defending LeBron.
Career numbers vs. World Peace: 16 games, 25.7 ppg, 46% FG, 27% 3-PT, 6.7 rpg, 6.6 apg, 2.2 spg, 4.4 TOV
One of the league's most physical defenders, Metta World Peace has done an excellent job when it has come to limiting LeBron James.
It's only a shame World Peace didn't spend more time with the Indiana Pacers. A few playoff series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Pacers with James and Ron Artest squaring off would have featured fierce battles between two extremely competitive players. Unfortunately, he's been out of the Central Division since 2006.
It could be for the best, however, as World Peace's Lakers have made the moves to possibly pit him against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
With active feet and physical, frustrating defense, World Peace will do whatever he can to pester LeBron in an attempt to continue holding him below 50 percent from the field.
Career numbers vs. Prince: 32 games, 23.9 ppg, 44% FG, 27% 3-PT, 6.4 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.8 TOV
LeBron James has had the misfortune of playing Tayshaun Prince one-on-one more than any other player in the league.
It was a combination of both players being in the same division, both playing the same position and the Detroit Pistons desperately needing the length to contain LeBron from constantly getting to the basket.
Since 2003, Prince has had more defensive success against James than any other defender who has stepped up to the challenge. Through years and years of experience in the regular and postseason, Prince has stepped up to the occasion time and time again.
The only problem is that Prince limiting James does not carry the same influence it did in years past. The Pistons aren't competing for the Eastern Conference crown, and they play James' Miami Heat for the purpose of getting a motivational victory.