LeBron James has played with some special players in his career. It started with Zyrdunas Ilgauskas. Then, he worked his way up to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He followed that with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. He has recently spent time with Anthony Davis, while both get a new teammate in Russell Westbrook this year.
When you look at some of the best seasons LeBron has had in his career, the 2008-2009 season should come to mind as the team finished the regular season with a 66-16 record, which set a franchise record for wins in a season, a record that stood since 1989. This season didn’t feature a mega superstar like some of the future Hall of Famers in Wade, Davis, or Irving. Instead, LeBron did all of this while playing with Mo Williams.
The starting lineup, even the bench, is not what you would expect from a team that won 66 games. Granted, Williams had a spectacular year, but it should prove that LeBron is a special player in this league.
Mo Williams, Delonte West, LeBron James, Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Mo Williams was traded to the Cavaliers in the offseason as part of a three-team, six-player deal. He ended the season as the second-leading scorer on the team with 17.8 points per game. Leading up to the All-Star Break, Williams was chosen to replace Chris Bosh. It was a great overall February for Williams, as he scored a then career-high 44 points against the Phoenix Suns.
With Williams alongside James, the Cavaliers led the league in wins and finished 39-2 at Quicken Loans Arena. The rest of the lineup featured Delonte West, who averaged 11.7 points. Ilgauskas was his original reliable self as he averaged 12.9 points, but took a dip in the rebounding department with just 7.5 per game. Ben Wallace started 53 of the 56 games he played but eventually took a backseat to Anderson Varejao, whose emotional play took more of a role for the rotation.
Daniel Gibson, Tarrance Kinsey, Trey Johnson, Wally Szczerbiak, Sasha Pavlovic, Jawad Williams, Ben Wallace, Darnell Jackson, J.J. Hickson, Joe Smith, Lorenzen Wright
Getting back to Wallace, he averaged just 2.9 points but was a key contributor on defense. While this was not Defensive Player of the Year play, it was still good enough to help the defense close out games. Wally Szczerbiak might be the other household name from this team, as he was the team’s second-best outside shooter at 41%.
Outside of these two players, the other three main players off the bench were Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, and J.J. Hickson. All three played in at least 60 games or more, while Gibson’s role was probably the biggest as he was the backup to Williams.
In mid-December, the Cavaliers won their franchise-record 11th straight game to move to a season-high 17 games above .500. Their 20-3 record was the best start in franchise history in the first 23 games of the season. The Cavaliers moved to 25 games over the following month and by February 3, 2009, the team had won their franchise-record 23rd straight home game. It wasn’t until five days later, February 8, that the Cavaliers lost their first home game of the season.
As stated, the Cavaliers won a franchise record for wins in a season. LeBron was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week three times, including being named Player of the Month once in November. LeBron was named the MVP, while head coach Mike Brown was named Coach of the Year.
In the playoffs, LeBron went on a tear. The Cavaliers advanced to the Conference Finals before losing to the Orlando Magic, but the King did everything he could. LeBron averaged 35.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in 14 games played. That included shooting 51.0% from the field, as well as 1.6 steals. As for Williams, he averaged 16.3 points and 4.1 assists. Essentially, LeBron was the leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals for the Cavaliers this playoffs.
The Cavaliers swept the Pistons in four games and then swept the Hawks in four games. The six-game series with the Magic was a dagger to the hearts of Cleveland as many expected this to be the first championship in team history. After all, the Cavaliers were heavily favored to beat Dwight Howard and the Magic. This would have also set up the first-ever meeting in the NBA Finals between LeBron and Kobe Bryant.
Appreciate One Of The Greatest Seasons LeBron Produced
Let’s add all of our variables together. The Miami Heat won 66 games in the 2012-2013 season with LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Bosh is already in the Hall of Fame, while Wade is likely going to be voted in the next few years. When LeBron eventually retires, he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That team also had Hall of Famer Ray Allen, as well as Udonis Haslem, who would eventually get his jersey retired in Miami.
This 2008-2009 team doesn’t have anyone close to receiving those types of awards. Ilgauskas had his number retired in Cleveland, but he was nothing more than a two-time All-Star. Williams had the best year of his career this year. It’s not like he was a yearly All-Star candidate. As for West and Varejao, these were average NBA players that hung around the league.
Let’s face it. What LeBron did in 2008-2009 was special. In comparison, the Lakers won 52 games in 71 total games in a COVID-shortened year with Anthony Davis in 2019-2020 which resulted in a championship. Even if the Lakers played a full season, the team wouldn’t have won 66 games. No offense to Williams, but no team should ever be in the position to play for an NBA title when he is your second-best player.
Given the amount of talent that has played alongside LeBron in the history of his career, this season has to be at the top of the list when it comes to performance. LeBron was the MVP, essentially carried Williams to an All-Star appearance, and made a run at the NBA Finals. It’s only one of two times that LeBron has ever won 66 games in a season. With the talent around him, this is one special season in the legacy of LeBron James.