What Michael Jackson is to pop music of the 1980s, is what LeBron James is to NBA basketball of the 2010s.
A decade that began with a decision that forever changed the landscape of the league; ended with a resume only a handful of players in history can rival for their case as The G.O.A.T.
His accolades this decade only tells half of the story: A three-time champion. A three-time Finals MVP. A three-time regular-season MVP. A four-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. A nine-time member of the NBA’s All-First teams — LeBron is undoubtedly the greatest player of the 2010s.
As he enters a new decade at 35-years-old in the middle of his 17th season, there is nothing left for him to accomplish, but his greatness will still be on display in the twilight of his luxurious career.
In honor of the King’s 35th birthday, here is a look back at some of LeBron James’ best moments of the decade.
61-point performance vs Bobcats:
LeBron James has scored over 33,000 points, but his overall greatness as an all-around player may have diminished his appreciation as an all-time scorer. In his career, James has reached the 40-point mark 60 times and has cracked half a century in a dozen, which includes a 51-point performance during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
While most of his legendary scoring performances happened during the playoffs, James’ best output as a pure scorer took place on a warm night in March inside the American Airlines Arena in Miami.
With Dwyane Wade out due to rest, James led the Miami Heat to their eighth straight victory in a 124-107 win over the then-Charlotte Bobcats. He notched a career-high 61 points and broke the Heat’s franchise record of 57 points, set by Glen Rice nearly 20-years earlier.
At the time, it was held as one of the most efficient scoring performances in league history, as James shot 22-for-33 (66.7%) from the field and a sizzling 8-for-10 (80%) from 3-point range. In addition to scoring a career-high, James still proved his worth as an all-round player recording seven rebounds and five assists in the win.
2012 Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals vs Celtics:
The Miami Heat came into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals trailing the Boston Celtics 3-2 in the series. After joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh during the summer of 2010, LeBron James’ legacy was on the verge of taking its most significant blow, following a disappointing Finals appearance to the Dallas Mavericks one year earlier.
With the Heat on the brinks of another epic collapse, James put on what many consider the greatest playoff performance in NBA history.
Inside the Boston Garden, he registered a then-playoff career-high 45 points (30 coming in the first half) as he connected on 73% of his shots from the field, to go along with a game-high 15 rebounds and five assists in a 98-79 win over the Celtics.
With Wade adding in 17 points as the only other player to score in double digits, James played all but three of the total 48 minutes to help the Heat force a seventh and decisive Game 7 back on their home floor.
James went on to tally 31 points and 12 rebounds to eliminate the Celtics, en route to his first NBA title over the young-and-talented Oklahoma City Thunder.
2013 Game 7 NBA Finals vs Spurs:
After capturing his first NBA title, LeBron James and the Miami Heat found themselves in a similar situation one year later.
The Heat trailed the San Antonio Spurs 3-2 heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and were five seconds away from losing before Ray Allen knocked down a clutch 3-point dagger to hold off the Spurs’ championship celebration.
With one game left thanks to Allen’s late-game heroics, James took the series into his own hands to lead the Heat to their second consecutive title. He scored a game-high 37 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory over San Antonio.
James shot 12-for-23 from the field, but most importantly, it was the first time he looked comfortable taking multiple shots from the outside. A mediocre 3-point shooter at the time, James connected on five of his 10 attempts from behind the arc and shot 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth and Miami up by two, James knocked down a 20-foot jumper in the face of Kawhi Leonard to seal the deal for the Heat.
2016 Game 6 NBA Finals vs Warriors (3-1 comeback part I):
Once down 3-1 to the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, it was clear by Game 6 that LeBron James was on a mission to lead his Cleveland Cavaliers team back from an improbable comeback.
After scoring a combined 82 points alongside Kyrie Irving (41) in Game 5, James followed his 41-point performance with another masterpiece to hold off elimination.
While leading the Cavaliers to a 115-101 victory, James scored 41 points for the second straight game, and became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal (2000) to record back-to-back 40 plus games in an NBA Finals series.
James put on a heroic display inside the Quick & Loans Arena, as he shot 16-for-27 (59.3%) from the field, 3-for-6 (50%) from behind the arc.
Though similar to the rest of his scoring outputs, his all-round game overshadowed his final point total, as James dished out 11 assists, pulled down eight boards, and was a force on the defensive end with four steals and three blocks in the win.
2016 Game 7 NBA Finals vs Warriors (3-1 comeback part II):
From the brink of elimination to history — LeBron James captured his third NBA title and delivered on his promise to bring a championship back to Cleveland. James led the Cavaliers to a Game 7 victory with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists inside the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Although it was not one of his greatest performances as he shot 37% from the floor, 20% from behind the arc, this game became remembered for what could be James’ signature moment of his career.
With 1:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, James completed his trademark chase-down block on Andre Iguodala to prevent the Warriors from taking a two-point advantage. His signature block gave-way to a three-point lead for the Cavaliers late in the fourth, following a clutch 3-point field goal made by Kyrie Irving.
After completing the 3-1 comeback, James stood center stage as a three-time champion and Finals MVP winner with his legacy forever cemented among basketball immortality.
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