Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Before the end of the year, members of the Sporting News team ranked the 50 best seasons in the history of the sport.
You can read all about the process and see the full results here, but I wanted to focus on one particular NBA player who broke the list.
LeBron James landed at number 28. Not surprisingly, we are talking about one of the most successful athletes of all time, but it is the season that was chosen (2012-13) that could be a source of debate.
“In his 10th season in the league, the Akron boy had a virtuous performance: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, with the best marks of his career in percentage of shots from the field (56 , 5) and 3-point percentage (40.3), “wrote TSN’s Ryan Fagan. “His PER (31.6) and Win Shares (19.3) were just a shadow of his 2008-09 season with the Cavaliers. The tiebreaker? James and the Heat won the NBA title.”
With that in mind, I ask you Gil: did we get LeBron the right season or is there another that you think deserves more?
Gilbert McGregor (@ GMcGregor21): Woof. At first, I thought it would be easy to pinpoint which individual season is the most impressive of James’ career, but then I remember he has so many.
When I think of James at the peak of his powers, I immediately envision him in a Heat uniform, however I’m not so sure he wouldn’t give the 2011-12 season a slight edge.
James won his third career Most Valuable Player award in 2012, averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists, which is essentially the same stat line as that 2012-13 season, save for one assist. What sets that season apart in my mind is that it culminated in a title that almost never came to be, thanks in large part to his legacy-defining 45-point performance to avoid elimination in Game 6 of the Conference Finals. East of 2012..
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I am well aware that this is to account for a season in its entirety and not a singular moment, but that Game 6 represented the pressure James was playing under all season after falling short in the 2011 Finals. The 2011-12 season gets the upper hand because he delivered over and over again despite an inordinate amount of pressure and scrutiny.
Rafferty: You somehow understood what makes this debate so complicated for me. 2012-13 may be LeBron’s best season from start to finish, but there are other seasons that come to mind first due to particular moments or stretches.
2015-16 is obvious because it was one of the best Finals in NBA history, with LeBron leading the Cavaliers from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors 73-9 to bring Cleveland its first championship so far. it seemed like an eternity. (It was the first in 52 years). His averages in the last three games? 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 3.0 blocks and 3.0 steals.
2017-18 didn’t end in a championship, but I feel like that was LeBron in his prime. If you need to be reminded, he averaged 34.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the playoffs while leading a Cavaliers team that wasn’t there. that great for the final.
The Warriors swept the Cavaliers in the Finals, but James had one of his best performances in Game 1, exploding for 51 points.
McGregor: Honestly, I didn’t even think of 2017-18 right away, but you have a great point. That might not necessarily have been his best season, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him perform at a higher level.
You mentioned 51 against the Warriors and there were also games of 46 (twice), 45, 44 (twice), 43 and 42 points during that same playoff run. Not to mention the two winners of the game.
That he’s in his prime has to count for something, right?
Rafferty: And to dig a little deeper, that 45-point game came in Game 7 against the Pacers in the first round. He then scored 46 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to force a Game 7, only to score 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in Game 7 (on the road in Boston!) To advance to the Finals.
It felt like LeBron was a man among boys throughout that entire run.
Besides their loss in the Finals, the problem with that season is that the Cavaliers were pretty up and down heading into the playoffs. LeBron remained fantastic, but he has had more memorable regular seasons.
Mcgregor: True enough, that was the season the Cavs essentially traded for an entirely new team at the trade deadline, finished fourth in the East, and barely managed to survive in the postseason, aside from the inexplicable sweep of the Raptors, the first few. heads of series.
I guess that brings me back to the team success aspect. I know the title is what gave 2012-13 the lead over 2008-09, but it almost seems like that season is worth going back to from Cleveland’s first season. A title is a team achievement and I think it’s fair to say that the 2012-13 Heat had a bit more talent than the 2008-09 Cavs.
Rafferty: Glad you mentioned 2008-09. LeBron won his first career MVP award that season and went absolutely nuts in the playoffs.
I mean, look at these numbers: 35.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists on 51.0 percent shooting from the field in 14 games. Like you said, he didn’t finish in a championship, but he nearly averaged a 40-point triple-double in Cleveland’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown with Orlando.
He was not the problem in that series.
Last but not least, I want to give a sneak peek at his 2019-20 season. It was a strange season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but LeBron was spectacular in the Finals, leading the Lakers to the championship.
Anything else you want to mention? Otherwise, I think it’s time we ranked our top three LeBron seasons …
McGregor: He could also round it out and give a quick recognition to his other MVP season, the 2009-10 season. Not only did he average a shadow of less than 30 points per game, but he did so by shooting more than 50 percent for the first time in his career and dished out 8.6 assists per game, the best of his career.
The elbow injury, long rumored in the playoffs, is practically substantiated when you consider that he averaged 32.0 points while shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3 in his first eight postseason games. before shooting 34.0 percent from the field and 15.4 percent. 3 percent in his last three.
I just wanted to put it out there. And the fact that he takes into account his absurd numbers in the 2021-22 campaign. Honestly, he could probably defend any of his seasons, other than his first in Los Angeles.
So before I get carried away, I agree. Time to rank the top three.
Rafferty: Just when you think LeBron is about to slow down …
OK, for me personally, I think the order is:
The most serious omissions: 2017-18, which might be my favorite version of LeBron of all time, and 2008-09.
What you say?
McGregor: I am similar but different. The way I classify it is:
I am on the same page regarding the more difficult omissions. That 2015-16 season really meant the turnaround for LeBron taking his dominance of the game to another level, which was on full display in 2017-18.
It’s fitting that we finally go for championship seasons every time.
Rafferty: So we were wrong! Well, something like that. We do not agree on which is his best season, but we do agree that the 2012-13 season is the second best of all time. And really, here we are breaking our hair. Talk about how awesome LeBron is that we’re even having this discussion to begin with. And it still goes!
We seem to say it every few months, but don’t take it for granted.