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Where LeBron James Ranks Among NBA's Most Dominant Playoff Stars of All Time

Brendan BowersContributor IIApril 18, 2013

Where LeBron James Ranks Among NBA's Most Dominant Playoff Stars of All Time

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    LeBron James is already among the NBA's most dominant playoff stars off all time.

    From a statistical standpoint, for example, James will enter the 2013 playoffs with the Miami Heat ranking fourth all time in postseason scoring at 28.5 points per game. 

    This type of individual production was a major factor in determining the NBA's most dominant playoff stars.

    Along with James, the top five scorers in playoff history are included regardless of how many NBA championships they've won.

    Also factoring prominently, however—as a combination of individual postseason production as well as ultimate team success—are those championship rings specifically.

No. 15: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Durant is about to make his fourth consecutive trip to the NBA playoffs as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder

    In each postseason appearance, dating back to the 2009-10 campaign, he's averaged at least 25 points. On his way to the 2012 NBA Finals, Durant improved that mark to 28.5 on 51.7 percent shooting.

    While only 24 years old, it appears likely that Durant will eventually win at least one championship before his career concludes.

    The 28.1 postseason points he's averaged currently ranks fifth in league history, and he's also collecting 7.7 rebounds while dishing out 3.2 assists.

No. 14: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Michael Jordan is the only player in NBA history to average more postseason points for his career than Allen Iverson.

    During eight trips to the playoffs, Iverson averaged at least 30 points or more four times on his way to posting a career mark of 29.7.

    While leading his Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001, Iverson scored a playoff career high of 32.9 points to go along with 6.1 assists in 22 games. The next leading postseason scorer alongside Iverson that year was Aaron McKie at 14.6.

    Iverson's Sixers were eventually eliminated 4-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, though, and that would be unfortunately as close to a championship as AI would ever get. 

No. 13: Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets

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    Hakeem Olajuwon was named Finals MVP twice while helping his Houston Rockets go back-to-back as NBA champions from 1994-95.

    He averaged 25.9 points for his career during the postseason, which ranks Olajuwon 10th all time.

    While playing in 145 postseason games, Olajuwon also collected and average of 11.2 rebounds to go along with 3.3 blocks.

    Despite being eliminated in four games during the 1988 playoffs, Hakeem averaged an absolutely ridiculous 37.5 points and 16.8 rebounds, which remained a career high.  

No. 12: Wilt Chamberlain, Los Angeles Lakers

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    During 160 career playoff games, Wilt Chamberlain collected a total of 3,913 rebounds. 

    That breaks down to an average of 24.5 rebounds per game for his postseason career—a mark that I don't expect to ever be surpassed for at least the next 100 years of NBA basketball.

    To go along with that effort on the glass, Chamberlain also scored 22.5 points on his way to winning two NBA championships.

    In 1967, Chamberlain averaged 21.7 points and 29.1 rebounds while winning his first title as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He'd win his second as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972.

No. 11: Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Jerry West was named NBA Finals MVP of a series his team didn't even win.

    On the strength of 30.9 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds during the 1969 Finals against the Boston Celtics, West became the last player in league history to win the award while losing the series. 

    West also recorded a triple-double in the elimination game with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.

    Things would go differently for West and the Lakers in 1972, as he'd combine with Wilt Chamberlain to break through and win his only championship. 

    While playing in 153 postseason games in his career, West averaged 6.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds to go along with 29.1 points, which rank third all time.

No. 10: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James won his first NBA championship in 2012 by scoring 30.3 points on 50 percent shooting for the Miami Heat. 

    He also collected 9.7 rebounds, dished out 5.6 assists and was named Finals MVP for his efforts.

    The 28.5 points that James has averaged over 115 postseason games currently ranks fourth on the all-time scoring list. He is also averaging 8.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists for his playoff career. 

    James made two other Finals appearances that ended in defeat—once as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in '07 and again in '11 with the Heat. The more championship banners he is able to raise from here, the further James will move up this list.

No. 9: Larry Bird, Boston Celtics

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    Larry Bird won three NBA championships during his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics. 

    In 1984 and 1986, Bird was named Finals MVP after averaging 27.5 and 25.9 points respectively during each of those playoff runs. 

    For his postseason career, Bird averaged a double-double with 23.8 points and 10.3 rebounds to go along with 6.5 assists over 164 games. 

    He also averaged double-digit rebounds during the playoffs six times overall while scoring least 20 points or more on the year nine times.

No. 8: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Tim Duncan is the best power forward in NBA history. 

    During the postseason, specifically, Duncan has averaged 22.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 190 games. 

    He has already won four NBA championships along the way with the San Antonio Spurs and enters the 2013 playoffs with an opportunity to add to that total.

    At the age of 36, Duncan has helped his Spurs to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after making his playoff debut way back in 1998. 

No. 7: Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Shaquille O'Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000-02.

    He'd add a fourth title to his Hall of Fame resume in 2006 playing alongside Dwyane Wade as a member of the Miami Heat. 

    During that three-year run teamed up with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, O'Neal averaged a dominating 29.9 points and 14.5 rebounds in the postseason.

    Over the course of 216 playoff games, Shaq finished with 24.3 points and 11.6 rebounds on 56.3 percent shooting from the field overall. 

No. 6: Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Earvin "Magic" Johnson helped the Los Angeles Lakers win an NBA championship as a 20-year-old rookie out of Michigan State. 

    In 16 playoff games during that title run of 1980, Johnson averaged a near triple-double at 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.4 assists. 

    He'd become a five-time NBA champion before he retired, claiming his last title in 1988. 

    For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points, 12.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 190 postseason games with the Lakers.

No. 5: John Havlicek, Boston Celtics

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    From 1963 to 1976, John Havlicek won eight NBA championships as a member of the Boston Celtics.

    During his title run in 1974, specifically, Havlicek posted a per-game mark of 27.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists. 

    He'd finish his postseason career by averaging 22 points to go along with 6.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 172 games.

    Outside of fellow Celtics Bill Russell and Sam Jones, no player in NBA history has won more championships than Havlicek.

No. 4: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    It seemed likely that Kobe Bryant would help increase his postseason scoring totals in 2013 had he not suffered the season-ending Achilies injury he did this past weekend.

    While appearing in 220 playoff games to date, Bryant has averaged 25.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    He helped Shaquille O'Neal and company win three NBA championships from 2000-02 before adding two additional rings to his trophy case in 2009 and 2010.

    Bryant has been the fiercest postseason competitor the league has seen since Michael Jordan retired along the way, and could fight his way back for one more run before he hangs up his "Kobe's" for good.

No. 3: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ranks 19th all time in terms of postseason scoring average and 10th in total championships. 

    He earned his first title as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1970-71 campaign when Jabbar averaged 26.6 points and 17 rebounds.

    He'd add five more from there with the Los Angeles Lakers, finishing his career with six championships in total.

    Kareem used his patented sky-hook to average 24.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting to go along with 10.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 237 career playoff games.

No. 2: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics

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    Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships.

    He stands alone as the only player in league history to win that many times, and will remain alone among the list of postseason legends for many years to come.

    LeBron James, for example, would need to win 10 more titles to match the work that Russell put in over 13 seasons.  

    In addition to his dominating performances defensively—in an era from 1956-69 when blocked shots weren't yet recorded—Russell averaged 16.2 points and 24.9 rebounds over the course of 165 playoff games.

No. 1: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

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    Michael Jordan is the NBA's all-time postseason scoring average leader at 33.5 points per night.

    He won six championships as a member of the Chicago Bulls and is regarded as the greatest player the league has ever known. 

    During Jordan's first playoff run in 1985, he averaged 29.3 points before being eliminated in four games. Over his next 12 postseason appearances, Jordan would average no less than 30.7 postseason points while maxing out at a career high 43.7 in 1986.

    Playing 179 postseason games in total, Jordan also shot 48.7 percent as the most dominant playoff star of all time. 

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