LeBron James has just made history with his 8th straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance after beating the odds and completely destroying the Toronto Raptors in the 2nd round despite the Canadian squad being the 1st seed in the East.
James has truly become the King of the East and is bound to make yet another NBA Finals appearance if he manages to beat the Kyrie-less Boston Celtics, something way easier said than done.
Some of the teams James have beaten en route to 8 straight Conference Finals haven’t been nearly half as competitive as his Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers, but what has made this milestone even more impressive is the fact that he’s beaten some incredibly tough teams along the way.
Today, we’re going to talk about the top 10 toughest teams LeBron James has faced in the Eastern Conference.
10. 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Heat vs. Pacers 4-2
Those 2012 Indiana Pacers were some really harsh and physical competitors that looked bound for greatness after climbing all the way to the 3rd seed in the East but had to face the 2nd seeded Miami Heat in the 2nd round.
LeBron, Wade, Haslem and Bosh would eventually win the series 4 games to 2 after splitting the first 4 meetings against a Pacers squad that featured George Hill, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert and a 21-year-old Paul George.
9. 2014 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Heat vs. Pacers 4-2
Just a couple of years later, it seemed like the Pacers were finally ready to do their job and end James’ dominance in the East, with Danny Granger sidelined with an injury but Paul George surging as one of the league’s blossoming talents in both ends of the hardwood.
Also, Roy Hibbert’s presence was a major factor against Miami, being a top-notch rim protector that forced coach Spoelstra to make a lot of adjustments and go big rather than space the floor with Bosh at the 5. Despite being the 1st seed and having home court advantage, the Heat would once again take a 4-2 triumph against George, Hibbert, Hill, Stephenson and West in the ECF, this time also helped by Ray Allen.
8. 2015 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
Cavaliers vs. Bulls 4-2
With Derrick Rose back in the picture, it seemed like the Chicago Bulls were bound for vengeance once again and were finally going to beat LeBron James in the playoffs, as the King had become their Moby Dick and pretty much their owner.
Chicago made it to the 2nd round as the 3rd seed in the East, mostly led by Jimmy Butler alongside Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and obviously; D-Rose, who banked a game winner. Both teams split the first 4 meetings, with the Cavs taking the 5th and 6th game on their way to another ECF appearance.
7. 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Heat vs. Pacers 4-3
The Indiana Pacers once again make our list, as the Pacers-Heat feud was one of the most heart-felt rivalries during James’ Heat stint, especially with Lance Stephenson throwing hundreds of antics in order to try to get into his head, something both ridiculous and hilarious to say the least.
So, it went all down the wire once again between these two; the 1st seeded Heat and the 3rd seeded Pacers, with Miami taking a 4-3 series victory after completely washing them out 99 to 76 in game 7 despite Roy Hibbert averaging 22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1 block per game throughout the series.
6. 2018 NBA Eastern Conference First Round
Cavaliers vs. Pacers 4-3
The 2018 Indiana Pacers were one of the most pleasant surprises of this season, making it all the way to the 5th seed in the East despite trading away Paul George and looking like a team on the verge of a rebuild, but eventually forcing LeBron to be the best version of himself to single-handedly lead the Cavs to the 2nd round.
This new look renewed Pacers look like a very strong team going forward, led by Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner (With Lance Stephenson once again doing his best to try and stop the King), and had some questionable calls gone their way, they could’ve finally put an end to James’ historic playoff run.
5. 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Heat vs. Celtics 4-3
LeBron James and the Boston Celtic just hate each other’s guts, it’s always been like that and it’ll always be; and this 7 game series during the Eastern Conference Finals will be one for the ages for sure, with the Heat taking a 2-0 series lead and Boston winning 3 straight games on their way to a 3-4 defeat against the King.
Boston had the best team at the time despite being the 3rd seed, featuring Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass, but with LeBron and Wade combining for as much as 55 points, 16.7 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.7 blocks per game, there wasn’t much that could be done to stop them.
4. 2008 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
Cavaliers vs. Celtics 3-4
Those 1st seeded Boston Celtics actually beat LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in 08 during the Eastern Conference Semifinal, perhaps the moment when this heart-felt rivalry started, and would eventually go on to win the NBA Championship against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics leaned on Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins; a major defensive factor down low, as well as Tony Allen, James Posey and Sam Cassell off the bench. On the other hand, LeBron was joint by Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, so you know who had the upper hand here.
3. 2006 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
Cavaliers vs. Pistons 3-4
Those 2006 Detroit Pistons weren’t nearly half as good as the ones that shook basketball world and won the Championship in 2004, but were still a force worth recognition in the Eastern Conference, and would eventually go on to beat James and the Cavs in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
The ring would eventually wind up in Dwyane Wade’s hand, but before that, Motor City had to earn a very tough 4-3 series victory against James, Eric Snow, Anderson Varejao, Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden; while Detroit featured RIP Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Ben and Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.
2. 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
Cavaliers vs. Magic 2-4
LeBron James should actually be grateful with the Orlando Magic team that completely wiped them 4 games to 2 during the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, as there was absolutely no way this Cavs could get past Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, as Dwight Howard and the Magic would find out later.
Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard went bonkers all series long despite James’ biggest efforts to keep his team on board, including a buzzer-beating shot to take game 4. The Magic featured Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and even a young JJ Redick, while James had to lean on Mo Williams, Delonte West, Ilgauskas and Varejao.
1. 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
Cavaliers vs. Celtics 1-4
The 2010 Boston Celtics were pretty much the main reason why LeBron ran away and decided to “take his talents” to South Beach, sick and tired of losing when it mattered the most and trying to find some much well deserved success and his first ever NBA Championship after losing 4 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston would crash against Kobe and his Lakers and eventually lose the Finals despite having a very well round up squad, once again featuring Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson and even Rasheed Wallace, while James joint forces with Shaq for the season, as well as Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker.