LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time and that’s just a fact. Even so, some people still find a way to demeanor his legacy because of his 4/10 record in the NBA Finals, as if making it to that stage 10 times throughout a 17-year career was something easy.
James has had a lot of help to win his four rings, there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, not a single superstar in NBA history has been able to win on his own, not even Michael Jordan. And while that’s true, it’s also true that he’s faced some of the best players in the world at that stage.
From his first stint to the Cleveland Cavaliers to last season with the Miami Heat, The King has had its fair share of top-tier rivals in basketball’s ultimate stage. That’s why today, we’re going to take a look at some of the hardest competition he’s faced in the NBA Finals.
10. Manu Ginobili (2007, 2013, 2014)
Manu Ginobili is perhaps the greatest Sixth Man in the history of basketball. He was Gregg Popovich’s extension on the court, a smart, savvy, pesky player on both ends of the floor that could do a little bit of everything, especially come playoff time.
Ginobili even took it upon himself to guard LeBron James a couple of times in the playoffs. He helped the San Antonio Spurs sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in James’ first-ever Finals in 2007, then lost to his Miami Heat in 2013, and got back at them in 2014.
9. Tony Parker (2007, 2013, 2014)
Tony Parker is one of the most underrated and impactful point guards of all time. He wasn’t fast, strong, or athletic, but he could outsmart every single other player on the court, and his never-ending bag of moves was simply otherworldly.
Parker was named Finals MVP in 2007 thanks to his averages of 24.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on 56.8% from the floor and a whopping 57.1% from beyond the arc. Like Ginobili, he met with LeBron in 2013 and 2014 as well.
8. Russell Westbrook (2012)
While Russell Westbrook was far from the superstar he is nowadays, he was still a walking bucket back in 2012. The Oklahoma City Thunder lacked experience and underperformed on the big stage due to their youth but Westbrook wasn’t the one to blame.
In fact, Russell Westbrook averaged a whopping 27.0 points with 6.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game on his very – and only – trip to the NBA Finals, which is quite impressive considering he was a 24-year old in just his fourth season in the league.
7. Klay Thompson (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
People don’t seem to realize just how good Klay Thompson is. Not only he’s a lockdown backcourt defender that can also guard bigger players but also he’s one of the greatest shooters of all time. He doesn’t even need to take a dribble to put up 20 points on you.
Klay Thompson played a huge role in all four trips to the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors, especially when it came to Game 6s. His timely shooting and disruptive presence in the backcourt and the wings helped the Dubs beat LeBron 3 times in the Finals.
6. Draymond Green (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
There are a lot of people who think that the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t have blown that 3-1 lead in the 2015-16 NBA Finals if Draymond Green didn’t get suspended one game and I won’t be the one to disagree. He just wouldn’t have let them.
Draymond Green is one of the fiercest competitors in NBA history and one of the most versatile defenders to ever do it. His playmaking allowed the Splash Brothers to thrive and play off the ball, and his ability to guard one through five helped the Warriors take 3 rings away from The King.
5. Kawhi Leonard (2013, 2014)
No one, not even Gregg Popovich ever thought that Kawhi Leonard was going to be so impactful during the 2014 NBA Finals. He came pretty much out of the blue to guard LeBron James and did a better job than any other player ever before.
Kawhi won the Finals MVP honors in 2014 and introduced himself to the world for his outstanding defense on LeBron, also averaging 17.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He was also pretty solid in 2013 when he led both teams with 2.0 steals per game.
4. Dirk Nowitzki (2011)
Dirk Nowitzki sure did an outstanding job of humbling LeBron James, Dywane Wade, and the Miami Heat back in 2011. The Heat’s superstars mocked Dirk’s flu and were already celebrating the title until the German put up some otherwordly performances to lead the Dallas Mavericks’ to 3 straight wins.
Unsurprisingly, Nowitzki was named Finals MVP after averaging 26.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game on 40.4 minutes a night, spoiling LeBron James’ first season at South Beach and dropping his record in the NBA Finals to 0-2.
3. Tim Duncan (2007, 2013, 2014)
While LeBron James didn’t get to face off vs. a “prime” Tim Duncan in two of their three NBA Finals series, he still got a pretty great version of The Big Fundamental, who was already a 3-time Finals MVP when they met for the first time in 2007.
Tim Duncan’s Championship experience and unbreakable character anchored the Spurs’ dynasty for two decades, and he’s one of the main reasons why they have 5 rings, with a pair of them snatched from the hands of LeBron James himself.
2. Stephen Curry (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
There aren’t many things that we could say about Stephen Curry that you didn’t know already. He’s the greatest shooter of all time, the most influential player of his generation, and one of the greatest point guards to ever set foot on a basketball hardwood.
Curry’s offensive outbursts paved the way for the Golden State Warriors to become the most dominant team in modern basketball history. He should have at least one Finals MVP award under his belt but was snubbed at least once. Still, he can brag about beating LeBron in the Finals 3 times.
1. Kevin Durant (2012, 2017, 2018)
Kevin Durant was just sicked and tired of finishing in second. He had already tasted defeat in 2012 and wasn’t going to let that happen again. Honest to God, he was the best player in the world during his three-year stint with the Golden State Warriors, and he didn’t hesitate to unleash his wrath over LeBron James in the NBA Finals.
Durant averaged 30.0 points per game in 2012 but that wasn’t enough to prevent the Oklahoma City Thunder to lose in 5 games. That’s why he took it up a notch with the Warriors and won back-to-back Finals MVPs in 2017 and 2018, even sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers.