Why LeBrons NBA Finals Record Matters

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After the Cavs sweep of the Hawks in the second round, all that stands in the way of LeBron making the NBA finals for a 6th straight time will be a depleted Miami Heat squad that is completely reliant on Dwyane Wade (more so now than 10 years ago) or a hopelessly inept Raptors team that has played 2 (yes, I haven’t had any problems keeping count) good games out of 10 in this years playoffs. In other words; it’s going to happen. But what does it mean? Is there a way to fairly critique LeBron’s Eastern Conference dominance without being called a hater by his disciples? Probably not, but I’ll give it a shot.

Why is this even a question?

Because it is historic. Not since the legendary Celtics teams of the 60s (with Russell and Jones and company went to 10 straight NBA finals) has this happened. Magic and Kareem went to 6 in 7 years (with Ralph Sampson’s shot getting in the way), but they never went 6 in a row. Jordan went (and won) 6 straight times when he played more than 17 regular season games, but that’s bending the rules somewhat. So yes, no question this is impressive on face value. Let’s have a closer look on how he accomplished this before coming to any conclusions.

Competition Breeds Excellence.

Let’s do this year by year, and answer how legitimate his appearances in the finals were, or if they were a product of a pathetic Eastern Conference (along with potential other factors)

2011

1st round: 4-1 series win over a 41 win Philly team. Not bad. Some first round match-ups are going to be huge mismatches, and this was one of those occasions. Miami took care of business

2nd round: 4-1 series win over Boston. Now it gets interesting. Game 1 was marred by these referee shenanigans:

Miami went up 2-0, as the series went back to Boston. The Celtics were in control of game 3 when this happened:

Despite Rondo continuing to play with the injured arm, he obviously wasn’t the same. How significant was the injury? Before the injury in the, he was averaging  17 ppg, 11 apg, 7 rpg. After the injury, that production dropped to 7.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.3 rpg. In the 2010 playoffs , Rondo averaged 16 ppg, 9 apg, 6 rpg, 2 spg. In the 2012 playoffs he put up 17 ppg, 12 apg, 7 rpg, 2 spg. He was Boston’s best player at the time, and just look at the drop. And oh, by the way, how in God’s name did Rondo get called for the foul on that play? Seriously, fuck the NBA sometimes. None of this makes any sense outside of the conspiracy theories.

Conference finals: Miami beat Chicago 4-1. The Bulls, even with league MVP Derrick Rose, overachieved with an offensively flawed squad. Miami shut them down emphatically, and moved on to the finals. That was perhaps LeBron’s most impressive defensive performance we’ve seen.

Legitimate or not? As horrific as their performance in the finals was, this run (outside of the BS that happened to Pierce and Rondo) was emphatic. Absolutely legitimate.

2012

1st round: 4-1 series win over New York. And also this

The initial call for this was a flagrant 2. LOL. Fuck this league.

2nd round: 4-2 series win over Indiana. Now this was impressive! Chris Bosh injured, down 2-1, with the Pacers up at halftime, Wade and LeBron saved their season with an amazing performance. James had 40 points, 18 rebounds (playing the 4 position) and 9 assists in a remarkable game.

The Pacers never recovered and lost 3 straight to go down in 6 games.

Conference finals: 4-3 over Boston. Top seeded Chicago was bounced in the first round by Philly after Derrick Rose blew his knee out. Boston stumbled into the conference finals after a war with Atlanta in the first round, and were then pushed to 7 games by the 76ers. After a game 1 blowout by Miami, Rondo and the Celtics played incredible in game 2, forcing overtime. Then this happened:

Of course, the NBA came out the next day and acknowledged they missed the call. It’s good to see they’ve fixed that problem up! Miami went up 2-0, then dropped the next 2 in Boston. Game 5 was a classic, and was immortalized by this shot by Peirce:

And this:

LeBron did respond with one the greatest games in NBA history in game 6. I’ve gone on record and said no player in league history was under more pressure than him in game 6, and I stand by that statement. In that game, he scored 45 points (19/26), grabbed 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Here are the highlights:

He was also spectacular in game 7 with 31 points and 12 rebounds as Miami moved on to the finals.

Legitimate or not? Outside of the blatant no call on Rondo, this was not only a legitimate run, but impressive by every account.

2013

1st round: Comprehensive sweep of the 38 Bucks

2nd round: 4-1 win over the hugely depleted Bulls team without Derrick Rose and Nate Robinson was their primary option.

Conference Finals: 4-3 win over the Pacers who were surprisingly effective inside against the Heat. Roy Hibbert (you know, the guy everyone laughs at now) averaged 23 and 10 that series. No, I’m not joking.

Legitimate or not: I’m torn on this one. You can only play the guys in front of you, but the disparity between the conferences was hard to swallow that year. I will say legitimate though, because San Antonio also lucked out when Westbrook was injured, and nobody questions if they were lucky that season.

2014

1st round: Sweep of the Bobcats, which included this incredible show of respect from LeBron to Michael Jordan

You know what? Fuck this guy. Whether you think Jordan is the best of all time or not, it’s irrelevant. He’s an all time great. Can you imagine Kobe doing this to Magic sitting courtside? Or MJ doing this to Dr J or Jerry West? How about Shaq doing it to Wilt or Russell? This was as classless as it comes. Of course, he denied staring at MJ. So on top of the disrespect, he’s going to insult our intelligence by flat out lying about it. It’s a pity he didn’t stare down Dwight Howard in 09 like this. Or Rondo in 2010. Or Dirk in 2011. Or Leonard in 2014. Or Iggy last year. But that’salright; he can stare at one of the greats that’s retired. THAT’S WHAT WE LOVE TO SEE! OK, rant over. Next round.

2nd round: 4-1 win over the 6 seed Brooklyn Nets. Fairly impressive stuff, but for comparison sake, the Nets won 44 games that season and made the second round in the East. Every team in the West that made the second round won at least 54 games. There were teams in the West that missed the playoffs (Phoenix) that won more games than Brooklyn. And that’s who Miami played to get to the conference finals? Guess what The Spurs run to the finals that year was: 49 win Dallas, 54 win Blazers, 59 win OKC.

Conference Finals: 4-2 over the Pacers. Yes, the Pacers won 56 games. But want to know how pathetic that Pacers team was? They were thoroughly dominated by a 38 win Hawks team, and they barely escaped in 7 games.

Legitimate or not? No. Not legitimate. Sweep of the Bobcats (whose best player was severely limited [Al Jefferson]), then the 44 win Nets in the 2nd round, and then the Pacers who were way out of their depth in the conference finals. The Heat were dealt with appropriately by the Spurs who won the finals by a record margin. Not legitimate.

2015

1st round: 4-0 sweep over the 40 win Celtics

2nd round: 4-2 win over the 50 win. This was the first time in this run LeBron has faced a 50 win team before the conference finals aside from the 2011 Celtics, and staying consistent with that theme, here’s some controversy for you. Game tied, Cleveland with the ball, coach David Blatt tries to call a timeout when they have none left. What should have been a technical foul shot for Chicago AND the ball, was conveniently missed by the officials.

Instead, LeBron hits the game winner, which was nice and all, but huge asterisk associated with this one. Then, to further add to the ridiculousness of this series, this happened in game 5:

Dellavedova locks up Gibson’s legs, Gibson kicks his leg free, Gibson gets ejected. Standard procedure at this point. Cavs win game 5, and go on to blow out Chicago in game 6.

Conference finals: 4-0 sweep over the Hawks. Remember when I said the Pacers were a pathetic conference finalist? This Hawks team was even worse, if you can fathom that. Some BS happened in that series too, but it didn’t impact the outcome. The Hawks had no chance in this series.

Honestly, if this was any other player, I would have said there’s nothing to this. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Then the very next game, this happened:

Just a coincidence that it’s the same retard of a player involved again. Wanna guess what happened? Al Horford; ejected. Brilliant.

Legitimate or not? No. Lol. This was maybe the most contrived of the bunch. The sweep against Boston was somewhat impressive, especially when you see how good they played this season. But the seemingly intentional refereeing inconsistencies in the Bulls series which ALL went in Cleveland’s favour, coupled with the Hawks being a joke of a conference finalist. They did play well in the Finals though.

Hold on, what makes you the judge of whether they were legitimate or not?

Common sense does. You’d have to be the biggest homer (or standard LeBron fan) to think that he would have enjoyed this level of success if he was in the West. If there was little to no difference in the conferences, he would not have only won twice in 6 attempts (and a winning percentage of under 40% [13 wins in 33 games]). What is even worse when you look at actual contenders that he’s gone through in the East to get to the finals, and honestly, there’s only been one in Boston (and maybe Chicago last season, but you’re pushing it with that one). And, it’s one hell of a coincidence that those were the most controversially officiated series of all time. So no, in my opinion, this run of dominance means very little in the grand scheme of things (especially when you take into account the team hopping to better teams). But hey, it’ll be good marketing for DA BEST PLAYA IN THA WURLD!