No matter what your personal opinions of LeBron James are, you cannot discount the fact that he is a top-5 player to ever play this game. His legacy includes four Finals MVPs, three of which come with three different teams. He also led Cleveland to their first championship in franchise history, as well as guided the Lakers to a tumultuous time with a title during the death of Kobe Bryant.
Even at the age of 37, James is playing like a player that will get MVP votes at the end of the season. Since entering the league in 2003, he has battled some of the best players for nearly 20 years. His impressive numbers speak for themselves. Only a few players have bested James, while others rue the day when they must go up against him.
These are LeBron’s numbers against the best players in the NBA.
Shaquille O’Neal - 19 Games, 7-12 (36.8%)
Regular Season: 30.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 45.9 FG%, 34.6 3-PT% (6-11)
Playoffs: 25.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 2.5 BPG, 40.9 FG%, 22.2 3-PT% (1-1)
When LeBron first entered the league, Shaq was in the middle of his prime. He was the main contributor for the Lakers for one season, and then he was a perfect complement in Miami. From 2004 to 2008, Shaq played one of some very competitive teams, which would make sense for him owning a better record over LeBron during this time.
In the playoffs, we never got to see the two face off. The Cavaliers and Heat never played each other when Shaq was a member of the team. The only two times each other played against each other was when Shaq was a member of the Celtics in 2011. By then, Shaq was not a key contributor to the team.
Stephen Curry - 40 Games, 17-23 (42.5%)
Regular Season: 27.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 52.5 FG%, 35.3 3-PT% (9-8)
Playoffs: 33.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 48.1 FG%, 34.9 3-PT% (8-15)
The “Baby Faced Assassin” was exactly what his nickname states when it comes to playing against LeBron. When we look back at rivalries, the story of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will be one that we talk about for ages. During the regular season, the two teams go back and forth, as evidenced by their record. However, the playoffs are a different story.
The two teams faced off in the playoffs four straight years. In 2017, LeBron averaged a triple-double and nearly won Finals MVP despite losing to the Warriors. Curry won three titles against LeBron, so if anyone has his number, it’s Curry. With that said, you have to appreciate how LeBron nearly averaged a triple-double when he goes up against him. Playing against Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson is no easy task.
Tim Duncan - 36 Games, 15-21 (41.6%)
Regular Season: 26.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 49.4 FG%, 31.8 3-PT% (10-10)
Playoffs: 25.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 45.6 FG%, 37.0 3-PT% (5-11)
Another player that owns a winning record against LeBron is Tim Duncan. From 2003 to 2016, the two met plenty of times in the regular season and split the all-time series. LeBron’s rebounding output is considerably low compared to other members on this list, but that is understandable when you are trying to board against a player like Duncan.
In the playoffs, Duncan got the best of LeBron two times. In 2007, the Spurs swept the Cavaliers in four games. This was the first time that LeBron appeared in the NBA Finals. Then, when LeBron joined the Heat, he got the best of Duncan once in 2013 when the Heat won in seven games. The Spurs nearly won that series, but LeBron was saved by some late-game heroics from Ray Allen. In 2014, Duncan got his revenge by winning his second title over LeBron.
Rasheed Wallace - 51 Games, 24-27 (47.0%)
Regular Season: 26.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 44.6 FG%, 28.4 3-PT% (11-17)
Playoffs: 27.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 7.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 45.6 FG%, 26.7 3-PT% (13-10)
Remember Rasheed Wallace? He was a fiery member of the Detroit Pistons during their dynasty days. When LeBron first came up in the league, Wallace was a key contributor racking up technical fouls during that time. LeBron was still a young kid at the time, but that wasn’t going to matter to a competitor like Wallace.
In the playoffs, LeBron finished with a winning record, beating the Pistons in 2009 and the Celtics in 2010. The one that likely stung the most was the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals when the young kid defeated the Pistons to make the NBA Finals.
Chris Paul - 36 Games, 17-19 (47.2%)
Regular Season: 25.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 49.9 FG%, 35.5 3-PT% (15-15)
Playoffs: 23.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 47.4 FG%, 37.5 3-PT% (2-4)
Thanks to last year, Paul was able to take a winning record against LeBron. For starters, the two are evenly matched during the regular season. The two often did not face off more than twice in the regular season because Paul was playing in the Western Conference. While LeBron played with the Cavaliers and Heat, Paul was with the Pelicans and Clippers.
In the playoffs, the two finally met for the first time last year in the first round. With an injured Anthony Davis, LeBron was unable to push the Lakers past the Suns in five games. With the playoff loss, Paul moved on and passed LeBron in the overall win-loss column.
Jimmy Butler - 42 Games, 21-21 (50.0%)
Regular Season: 25.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 52.9 FG%, 35.8 3-PT% (9-16)
Playoffs: 26.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 8.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 29.6 3-PT% (12-5)
This stat came as a surprise when we crunched the numbers. Jimmy Butler gives LeBron a really tough time when he plays against him. When Butler was developing into an All-Star player with the Bulls, LeBron was a member of the Cavaliers. Butler, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah formed a tough rivalry that was always a fun matchup to watch.
LeBron bested the Bulls many times in the playoffs as a member of the Heat and Cavaliers. With that said, Butler eventually joined the Heat and led the team to the NBA Finals in 2020. Butler pushed LeBron to six games when he was a member of the Lakers, but still, it was not an easy series to win. All in all, Butler proves that he does not back down from anybody.
Paul Pierce - 69 Games, 35-34 (50.7%)
Regular Season: 29.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 48.6 FG%, 31.5 3-PT% (18-21)
Playoffs: 29.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 30.7 3-PT% (17-13)
When LeBron was playing with the Cavaliers, he tried to lead the team on multiple occasions past the Boston Celtics. The big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett was a three-headed monster from 2008 to 2010. Boston made the NBA Finals two of those three years, which included eliminating the Cavaliers once.
Then, LeBron joined the Heat and it set up an equally intense rivalry. In 2012, the Heat and Celtics played each other in the Conference Finals. After all the years of losing to Pierce, LeBron finally pushed past and helped the Heat make the NBA Finals in seven games. LeBron and Pierce met 30 times in the playoffs and every win was a testimony of grit and toughness.
Dwyane Wade - 31 Games, 16-15 (51.6%)
Regular Season: 28.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 34.6 3-PT% (16-15)
We often remember that LeBron and Wade were best friends and eventual teammates in Miami. What we forget is that the two only spent four seasons together. Outside of that, they were two tough competitors duking it out against one another. Even so, one never had the true upper hand on the other.
The unfortunate truth is that the two never met in the playoffs. Despite LeBron playing for the Cavaliers all that time, and Wade playing for the Heat, the two never drew a playoff draw. Imagine LeBron and Wade playing in an Eastern Conference Finals against one another. That would be like LeBron and Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals. Too bad the basketball Gods never lined that one up.
Kevin Garnett - 60 Games, 31-29 (51.6%)
Regular Season: 29.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 47.2 FG%, 31.0 3-PT% (14-16)
Playoffs: 29.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 30.7 3-PT% (17-13)
Like Pierce, LeBron also played Garnett 30 times in the playoffs. All of their matchups were when Garnett played with the Celtics. As previously mentioned, LeBron had difficulties for three years during those years but was able to push back once he joined the Heat.
During the regular season, Garnett did spend some time against LeBron when he played with the Timberwolves, and then when he played with the Nets after he was dealt. What is almost even more impressive is that LeBron nearly averaged the same amount of points in the regular season and playoffs when going up against Garnett.
Dwight Howard - 57 Games, 25-22 (53.1%)
Regular Season: 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 36.3 3-PT% (23-18)
Playoffs: 38.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 48.7 FG%, 29.7 3-PT% (2-4)
When Howard was a member of the Magic, he was a more skilled offensive version of Dikembe Mutombo. He was a great rebounder and shot-blocker and helped the Magic contend at a high level. While LeBron owns the regular-season series, he did falter to Howard in the 2009 playoffs.
In 2009, Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals, which included defeating LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games. Had LeBron won this series, it would have set up a Finals with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. While we applaud Howard’s efforts, it feels like we were robbed of one of the most epic matchups in NBA Finals history.
Rajon Rondo - 56 Games, 31-25 (55.3%)
Regular Season: 29.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 50.2 FG%, 32.2 3-PT% (18-13)
Playoffs: 28.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 45.0 FG%, 29.4 3-PT% (13-12)
The bulk of the matchups came with LeBron playing in the Eastern Conference. As a member of the Cavaliers from 2003 to 2010 and then as a member of the Heat from 2011 to 2014, Rondo was a mainstay for the Celtics. While Rondo was not considered a part of the big three, he was an All-Defensive player that was the team’s starting point guard. Rondo was also a fiery competitor that did not like to lose.
Rondo was not someone that LeBron liked playing against in the playoffs. While playing in Boston, he was going to give LeBron everything. Luckily, he didn’t have to worry about Rondo in 2020 when the two were teammates and won an NBA championship together.
Dirk Nowitzki - 32 Games, 18-14 (56.2%)
Regular Season: 27.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 49.5 FG%, 35.4 3-PT% (16-10)
Playoffs: 17.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 47.8 FG%, 32.1 3-PT% (2-4)
We never got to truly witness LeBron and Nowitzki in the Western Conference because LeBron played primarily in the East during this time. The one time that we got to see each other display their greatness was in 2011. It was the first year that LeBron played with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the newly formed big three in Miami.
Nowitzki had failed in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Heat against Wade. However, he surprised the world by leading the Mavericks to a title over LeBron. Nowitzki was named Finals MVP as well. It remains an unexpected finish, but it proves Nowitzki was just a great player.
Kevin Durant - 35 Games, 20-15 (57.1%)
Regular Season: 28.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 51.4 FG%, 35.6 3-PT% (15-6)
Playoffs: 31.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 9.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 52.2 FG%, 32.3 3-PT% (5-9)
This was another astonishing statistic when looking up the record. When LeBron and Durant meet in the regular season, LeBron has won 15 out of 21 matchups. Throughout Durant’s time with the Thunder, Warriors, and Nets, he has only been able to defeat him six times and that is very surprising. Durant has not played with slouch teammates either, so it shows how LeBron still owns Durant’s number.
With that said, Durant owns the playoff record, but you can interpret that however, you want. LeBron bested Durant in the 2012 Finals when he played for the Heat, but then Durant won two Finals MVPs over LeBron in 2017 and 2018, while playing with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Both played with superteams might we add.
James Harden - 36 Games, 22-14 (61.1%)
Regular Season: 27.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 51.3 %, 34.4 3-PT% (14-12)
Playoffs: 27.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 49.0 FG%, 26.0 3-PT% (8-2)
James Harden and Russell Westbrook share a similar feeling when playing against LeBron. The regular-season games are a tough battle, but the playoffs were a different story. Both Harden and Westbrook shared the same postseason record because Harden and Westbrook were teammates in Oklahoma City and Houston when they faltered to LeBron in the playoffs.
As for the regular season, Harden played with some solid teammates in Houston in Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Westbrook. It ended in a near .500 winning percentage. The two have often been in opposite conferences. Now that Harden is with the Nets, the world is hoping for a Nets and Lakers NBA Finals.
Joakim Noah - 52 Games, 32-20 (61.5%)
Regular Season: 27.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 50.2 FG%, 32.2 3-PT% (16-15)
Playoffs: 26.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 45.0 FG%, 29.4 3-PT% (16-5)
This was a fierce rivalry between two true competitors. Noah once notoriously rubbed LeBron and the Cavaliers the wrong way by asking who would ever want to go to Cleveland. Even when LeBron joined the Heat, the Bulls versus Heat games were must-watch television when Derrick Rose was in prime health.
In the regular season, the Bulls finished ahead of the Heat in 2011 and 2012. However, it never translated into the playoffs. LeBron defeated the Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals to make his second career trip to the NBA Finals. Then, when LeBron joined the Cavaliers, he defeated the Bulls in the semifinals, which ended up being the last game Tom Thibodeau coached for Chicago.
Carmelo Anthony - 46 Games, 30-16 (65.2%)
Regular Season: 25.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 50.2 FG%, 28.6 3-PT% (22-14)
Playoffs: 27.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 53.5 FG%, 41.7 3-PT%, (8-2)
This is a true testament to raw data. LeBron and Anthony entered the league together in 2003, so you can’t get any better statistics than these. The two never played together until this season either. When looking at the numbers, LeBron has always been better and the regular season and playoff numbers prove that.
The two first met in the playoffs in 2012 when Anthony played for the Knicks, but the Heat was too good. Then, they met again in 2020 when Anthony joined the Portland Trail Blazers. There, the Lakers were also too good. It seems like it hasn’t mattered what team Anthony joins as LeBron just owns his number.
Kobe Bryant - 22 Games, 16-6 (72.7%)
Regular Season: 28.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 46.9 FG%, 32.3 3-PT% (16-6)
Looking at this matchup objectively is hard. From 2003 to 2006, LeBron was finding his way into the league because he was a younger player somewhat fresh out of high school. Meanwhile, Bryant was potentially the best player in the league. Then from 2006 to 2010, those were the true competitive seasons where each was in their prime. While LeBron was able to take the regular-season series, Bryant won two championships and two Finals MVPs, while LeBron was swept by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals.
The two nearly met in the 2009 NBA Finals, but the Magic upset the Cavaliers in the playoffs, so we will never know who was truly better. From 2011 to 2016, LeBron was a part of superteams with the Heat and Cavaliers, while Bryant’s career saw little team success after 2013. You can call these excuses for Bryant, but they are just plain facts.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - 22 Games, 16-6 (72.7%)
Regular Season: 28.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 54.0 FG%, 43.8 3-PT% (16-6)
Out of 22 games, Giannis has only defeated LeBron six times. That should come as a surprise to a lot of us because Giannis is taking over the league. With two regular-season MVP Awards and one Finals MVP, he is looking to carry the Milwaukee Bucks to new heights. What has helped is that he has not had to go through LeBron in the Eastern Conference though and it clearly has shown.
What would be a defining moment is if the Lakers can figure out their troubles and make the NBA Finals. Maybe, the Bucks can look to defend their title. This would be a true moment in NBA history to determine if the torch should be passed.
Russell Westbrook - 31 Games, 23-8 (74.1%)
Regular Season: 28.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 8.4 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 51.0%, 33.0 3-PT% (15-6)
Playoffs: 27.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 49.0 FG%, 26.0 3-PT% (8-2)
If you can’t beat him, join him, right? Granted, LeBron and Westbrook don’t have that type of rivalry and if you didn’t look up the numbers, you probably would not have known that Westbrook loses to LeBron nearly three-fourths of the time. In the regular season, the two often didn’t see each other more than twice because LeBron played for the Cavaliers and Heat, while Westbrook played for the Thunder.
In the playoffs. LeBron bested Westbrook once in the 2012 NBA Finals. It was LeBron’s first championship in his career and he was playing against a bunch of “kids” as Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden were all young. The other time was in the 2020 playoffs when the Rockets and Lakers squared off in the semifinals. Many of us expected this series to go deep, but the Lakers punished the Rockets in five games.
Kyrie Irving - 13 Games, 10-3 (76.9%)
Regular Season: 26.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 8.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 54.4 FG%, 32.7 3-PT% (10-3)
LeBron, if you are reading this right now, hopefully, this stat makes you smile. Given the history that these two have, it goes to show that LeBron truly was the best player on that Cavaliers team and Irving let ego get the best of him. When Irving left the team in 2017, he wanted to prove he could lead a team without LeBron. Well, he hasn’t done that, and LeBron has consistently beat him.
Before LeBron came back to the Cavaliers, he was able to pound the team as a member of the Heat. Then, when Irving joined the Celtics and Nets, he has consistently beaten those Irving-led teams as well. The numbers don’t lie when we say, sometimes ego should be left at the door.
DeMar DeRozan -53 Games, 41-12 (77.3%)
Regular Season: 28.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 52.2 FG%, 33.5 3-PT% (29-10)
Playoffs: 31.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 58.3 FG%, 34.8 3-PT% (12-2)
The one player that has taken the most beatings from LeBron is DeMar DeRozan. You almost want to feel bad for him because both the regular season and playoffs are not pretty. Starting with the regular season, for every win DeRozan gets, LeBron beats him two times. If LeBron can beat DeRozan the next time they face in the regular season, it would give him his 30th win in 40 games.
In the playoffs, the two-faced off 14 times with LeBron winning 12 times. When DeRozan was leading the Raptors to new heights in the mid-2010s, LeBron just outplayed him, which included sweeping him in the second round of the playoffs once. In 2016, the Raptors had the chance to make the NBA Finals, but LeBron bested DeRozan in six games. All in all, when you lose nearly 80% of the time, that has to sting and nobody feels that more than DeRozan.