How NBA Defenses Will Try to Shut Down LeBron James

Brendan BowersContributor IIOctober 23, 2012

Jun 17, 2012; Miam, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (13) during the first quarter in game three in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Mike Tyson first told us that.

Before going on to identify the best plan for defending LeBron James on the basketball court, Mike's concept is at least worth referencing.

Nobody is going to completely stop LeBron James—this season or any other one. But there are three ways that NBA defenses will try to shut James down.

Maybe even four.  

Those strategies include loading up the paint to make LeBron a jump shooter, not being afraid to end up on a poster and attacking him at the offensive end of the floor.

Praying he doesn't connect with that haymaker is also encouraged.


1. Load up the paint and invite LeBron James to shoot jump shots  

It's a fundamental concept. The further away from the basket that LeBron is, the better the odds he misses a field-goal attempt. Regardless of result, turning James into a jump shooter is an NBA defenses' best chance of shutting him down. He's too devastating otherwise. 

The Celtics were able to accomplish this in the video above by supporting the on-ball defender with four help defenders in and around the painted area. LeBron's man gave him plenty of space, essentially begging him to pull up and shoot a jumper.

At the 13-second mark, the four Celtics in help defense are either in the key or one step away from it. If LeBron were to get past Rondo, he'd have been met by multiple defenders on his way to the basket.

James can see this and takes a long two-point shot as a result. He shoots his lowest percentage from 16-23 feet out. He missed this particular chance to win against Boston from that distance because the defense gave him no other option.  


2. Don't be afraid to end up on a poster, you guys 

When elevating to contest a LeBron James finish at the rim, it's possible you might get dunked on pretty hard. It's also an unavoidable aspect of doing business in the NBA these days.

Defenses that give themselves the best chance to shut James down understand they could end up on a poster, but they choose to contest the shot anyway.

Just like Gerald Henderson did in the video above.

Henderson didn't block LeBron's dunk attempt. But he did stick his head in there, literally, and James missed the dunk as a result.  After LeBron smashed the basketball off Henderson's head, the Bobcats were able to get it back.


3. Attack LeBron James on the defensive end 

LeBron is at his best defensively when he's playing the passing lanes and chasing down transition layups. He can be beat, on occasion, when you go right at him with the basketball.

Especially if you are a 7-foot All-Star center like Roy Hibbert. 

Nobody likes getting scored on, James included. In this sequence with Hibbert, Roy goes right at LeBron and scores. Then LeBron carelessly commits the turnover right after because he's still thinking about how Hibbert just scored on him.


4. Pray he doesn't connect on that punch to the mouth 

The Boston Celtics did a good job of collectively defending James in the first video. In this last one, they totally lose sight of where he is.

LeBron James catches it on a free run to the basket and it looks like he's about to convert a spectacularly easy two. Unlike Gerald Henderson, Kevin Garnett doesn't even raise his hands over his head—let alone jump up off the floor to contest.

Garnett decides to instead just pray that LeBron misses. What looked like it could have been an extremely devastating dunk ends up being nothing more than a missed shot.

Sometimes it's best to pray when trying to shut down LeBron, especially when that's just about your only option.