Countless players have dominated during the regular season but just a few of them are able to step up when it’s even more important: the playoffs. Either because they lack a reliable supporting cast or just because of their nature as superstars, the greatest scorers always blossom in the postseason.
But even among those dominant scorers, there have been some that have truly stand out from the rest of the pack. Guys that never looked back since the very start of the playoffs and kept the momentum going all the way to the NBA Finals.
I mean, when great scorers get into a rhythm, it’s almost impossible to slow them down, especially when they have their eyes on the prize. That’s why today, we’re going to talk about those guys and the top 10 most points in a single playoffs run:
10. Kobe Bryant (2010) – 671 Points, 50.6% EFG
Kobe Bryant always said that he wanted to win 8 Championships to pass Michael Jordan on the GOAT debate. That’s why he never slowed down after his fourth ring and took the Los Angeles Lakers back to the Finals for the third straight season.
The Black Mamba was on a mission and no one was going to stop him. He led the Lakers past the Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games, then they swept the Utah Jazz in the semifinals, and capped their great run with a tough 4-2 series triumph over the Phoenix Suns.
However, the true prize would come in the NBA Finals. Bryant finally got back at the Boston Celtics, the very team that beat him two years ago. Up to this day, that’s still the last Championship the Lakers have won. All thanks to Kobe’s 671 points.
9. Michael Jordan (1998) – 680 Points, 47.4% EFG
Everybody in the league wanted to beat Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. They had won 5 rings in 7 years and it seemed like they were ready to surrender their throne after a slow start of the season with Scottie Pippen refusing to play and the team ready to move on from Phil Jackson.
Needless to say, Michael Jordan and his teammates thought otherwise. They overcame that rough path and got the ship back in track, finishing the season strong and capping their playoffs run with triumphs over the Nets (3-0), Hornets (4-1), and Pacers (4-3).
Jordan took it on to himself to prove that he was still the greatest player in the world. He scored 680 points in that playoffs run and put an end to the season (and his career as a Bull) with the most iconic shot in NBA history to beat the Utah Jazz in the Finals.
8. Kobe Bryant (2009) – 695 Points, 49.2% EFG
Kobe Bryant was heartbroken after the Boston Celtics beat his Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 Finals. But, unlike most people, he didn’t cry over spilled milk. He got back to work right away and led his team to a 65-win season, the best record in the league.
Bryant didn’t take his feet off the gas in the playoffs. Instead, he took it up a notch and carried the load to help his team beat the Utah Jazz in five games, then the hard-nosed Houston Rockets in 7, and finally, Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets with a 4-2 series lead.
The Black Mamba put the cherry on top of the sundae by completely dominating in the NBA Finals. He averaged 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game to lead his team over the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic in 5 games, scoring 695 points along the way.
7. LeBron James (2012) – 697 Points, 52.2% EFG
LeBron James had a huge chip on his shoulder entering the 2011-12 season. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks spoiled his welcome party with the Miami Heat in the Finals and he had yet to win the first championship of his career.
So, James capped off his MVP season by completely dominating in the playoffs. He scored 697 points while beating the New York Knicks in five games, then the Indiana Pacers in six, and then making it to the Finals by getting past the Boston Celtics in seven games.
The King wasn’t going to let the glory slip right through his fingers away. He was ruthless and merciless vs. an inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. The Heat won in 5 games and he was named Finals MVP.
6. Shaquille O’Neal (2000) – 706 Points, 56.6% EFG
Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant player of the early 2000s and by a very long stretch. There wasn’t a defender on earth that could contain prime Shaq in the paint, and he was poised to finally win his first-ever NBA Championship.
Next to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were the team to beat during the 1999-00 season. However, Shaq was clearly the alpha dog during that campaign, as he proved by scoring 706 points and leading them past the Kings (3-2), Suns (4-1), and Blazers (4-2).
Shaq was completely unstoppable and established himself as the best player in the world by averaging 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game to get past the Indiana Pacers in six games in the Finals.
5. Allen Iverson (2001) – 723 Points, 42.5% EFG
Allen Iverson is the only player on this list that never won an NBA Championship despite his great efforts. I mean, he almost single-handedly led the Philadelphia 76ers to the Finals by scoring a whopping 723 points in the playoffs back in 2000-01.
Iverson was named the league’s MVP and All-Star MVP that season while also leading the NBA in points and steals. He led his Sixers past the Pacers (3-1), Raptors (4-3), and Bucks (4-3) en route to the NBA Finals vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.
I think people don’t give Iverson enough credit. He took that team to basketball’s ultimate stage and was the only one who could take one game away from the Lakers in that playoffs run. Sadly, Shaq and Kobe were just too much to handle, and they beat him in five games.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon (1995) – 725 Points, 53.3% EFG
If someone made the most of Michael Jordan’s first retirement that’s definitely Hakeem Olajuwon. He took it on to himself to make up for the missing time and dominated the league both in the regular season and the playoffs, especially in 1995.
The Dream was the best two-way big man on earth entering that season. The Rockets were defending champions but had plenty of work to do. Thanks to his contributions, they got past the Jazz (3-2), Suns (4-3), and Spurs (4-2) in the Western Conference.
Hakeem then put the icing on the cake by averaging 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game vs. Shaq and the Magic. The Rockets swept him and Olajuwon was named Finals MVP for the second straight year.
3. Kawhi Leonard (2019) – 732 Points, 54.5% EFG
The Toronto Raptors had a long history of underperforming in the playoffs. That’s why they took a major risk and traded away DeMar DeRozan for a one-year rental of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Needless to say, it paid off big time.
Kawhi was the missing piece the Raptors were craving to finally take a step forward in the Eastern Conference. They finished with the 2nd seed and beat the Magic (4-1), Sixers (4-3), and Bucks (4-3) en route to their first-ever trip to the Finals.
Leonard topped off his historical season by scoring a grand total of 732 points through the playoffs. The Raptors beat the almighty Golden State Warriors in 6 games in the Finals and the Klaw was named Finals MVP for the second time on his career.
2. LeBron James (2018) – 748 Points, 57.7% EFG
LeBron James has faced a lot of criticism for his abysmal 3-6 record in the NBA Finals but c’mon, let’s be fair here. I mean, it’s not entirely up to him, and just making it to 9 Finals (8 straight) should be impressive enough to ignore his record.
2017-18 playoffs LeBron was arguably the greatest LeBron we’ve ever seen (so far). He scored 748 points by leading the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Indiana Pacers (4-3), Toronto Raptors (4-0), and Boston Celtics (4-3) despite finishing the season with the 4th seed in the East.
James had to face an overpowered Golden State Warriors team four straight years in the Finals but nothing like the 2018 version. Kevin Durant and the Splash Brothers were ruthless and swept him despite his averages of 34.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game.
1. Michael Jordan (1992) – 759 Points, 51.4% EFG
Michael Jordan had finally put an end to the narratives that claimed that he wasn’t a winner. He entered the 1991-92 season as the reigning champion and now had to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and he was the toughest competitor in the world.
Jordan was on a mission from the jump. He led the Bulls to a league-best 67-15 record and then carried the load to beat the Heat (3-0), Knicks (4-3), and Cleveland Cavaliers (4-2). Now, his toughest tasks would come in the ultimate stage.
MJ was angry at people comparing Clyde Drexler to him so he made sure to make a statement vs. the Blazers in the Finals. He averaged 35.8 points per game to beat Portland in 6 games and round up his MVP and Scoring champion season with a Finals MVP.