Good players dominate in the regular season. Great players do it when it matters the most: the playoffs, and obviously, the NBA Finals.
People only remember those legends that lived at their best during the postseason. Guys who constantly stood up for their teams and made sure to deliver when things got hot.
The playoffs are harder not only because players are already tired and worn off after an 82-game season but also because of how defenses and coaches adjust and focus on taking away the offensive strengths of the best players in the world.
Over the course of history, just a handful of players have been able to dominate in the playoffs like no others, scoring over 30 points per game as if they were balling in the practice facility. Today, we're going to honor them and talk about the top 10 players with the most 30+ points games in NBA playoffs history.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon - 53
Hakeem Olajuwon is the all-time leader in blocks. He led the league in swats three times and was as dominant as they come below the rim. However, his offense was as good - perhaps even better - than his outstanding defense.
Hakeem's Dream-Shake and footwork are still being studied by young players trying to make it to the league. His finesse and smooth movements made him a crafty scorer that just wasn't going to be denied in the playoffs. He even recorded a 49-point outing in the playoffs.
9. Karl Malone - 54
I think young people don't give Karl Malone enough credit just because he wasn't able to win a Championship. However, that was because he had to beat Michael Jordan in the Finals if he wanted to be crown, and we know nobody could ever beat the GOAT.
Still, Malone sure did his part with 54 30+ point performances in the playoffs throughout his 19-year career, including a 50-point game in the 1999-00 playoffs.
8. Shaquille O’Neal - 55
We can't talk about dominance and not mention Shaquille O'Neal's name. He was an unstoppable force down low that just couldn't be contained when driving through the lane, and we can't ignore his athleticism and huge vertical leap either.
Shaq was just a freak of nature, a generational talent that had it all to become the greatest ever. He even deemed himself the second-best performer in the NBA Finals of all time, behind Michael Jordan. His playoffs career-high was 46 points.
7. Elgin Baylor - 60
Elgin Baylor might as well be the unluckiest player ever. He's one of the greatest players never to win an NBA Championship despite constantly leading his Los Angeles Lakers to the playoffs.
Baylor even logged games of 61 points in the postseason but was never able to get past to Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics. He scored 30+ 60 times throughout a 12-year span, which should tell you how much of a dominant scorer he was.
6. Kevin Durant - 62
Kevin Durant is the living example of that being one of the greatest ever isn't enough to win an NBA Championship. He's a guy that had scored 30+ points dozens of times in the playoffs before joining the Golden State Warriors, but he couldn't win the chip before joining forces with Stephen Curry. He even scored 50 in 2019.
This is by no means a diss to Durant or his talents. He's one of the most unstoppable offensive forces ever. It's just to put in context how difficult it is to dominate in the league and why we shouldn't hold rings as the only valid point to measure greatness.
5. Jerry West - 74
The Los Angeles Lakers didn't find much success during the 1960s. However, you just can't put the blame on Jerry West, who poured his heart and soul in the hardwood night in and night out to try and win an NBA Championship.
West was so dominant in the playoffs that he even became the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award despite being in the losing team. He had games of 45, 52, and 53 points in the playoffs, which is more than most stars can brag about.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 75
We can't talk about dominant scorers without bringing up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's name. There's a reason why he's the league's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 career points over 20 seasons playing at the highest level.
Kareem was often criticized by 'disappearing' when it mattered the most but that's a false narrative. How could you call a guy that scored 30+points 75 games in the playoffs a 'non-factor? He delivered 30+ outings in the playoffs in all of his seasons but the final two, including a 46-point outing.
3. Kobe Bryant - 88
Kobe Bryant got a lot of criticism for always trying to take matters into his own hands. However, that's just one of the things that established him as the most dominant scorer of the 2000s and the greatest player in Los Angeles Lakers history.
Kobe was always playing with a chip on his shoulder. He was on a mission every night out, especially in the playoffs, where his competitive spirit rose to the top. He even had a 50-point game in 2006 and had at least one 35-point game in the playoffs from 2000 to 2012.
2. Michael Jordan - 109
Some argue that Michael Jordan could've won eight straight Championships if he hadn't decided to retire for the first time. While that may seem far-fetched for young fans, I actually believe that he could've won 10 straight Championships if he had never retired.
If you don't take my word for it, just run the numbers. He scored 30+ points 109 times and made 179 appearances in the playoffs, including one 63-point game. That's just insane, that's NBA 2K-kind of numbers. It doesn't get more dominant than that.
1. LeBron James - 110
LeBron James is the all-time leader in 30+ point games in the playoffs with just 1 over Michael Jordan. However, he's played 60 more games to achieve that feature. Once again, this is by no means disrespect to what he's accomplished thus far.
James is the perfect example of consistency, efficiency, and durability. His work ethic and the way he takes care of his body could help him play until his 40s and keep piling up milestones like this one. Also, he had his career-high 51-point game the last time he made the playoffs, so perhaps he could even top that.