LeBron James has been to the NBA Finals six times, and more often than not he’s done it despite a sub-par supporting cast.
FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine ran the numbers on the supporting casts for all 62 NBA Finals teams since 1985. The takeaway: LeBron is so good that he has dragged some really questionable teams to the Finals.
Here are LeBron’s six finals teams ranked by teammate strength (since 1985):
- 2011 Miami Heat (ranked 10th out of 62 teams that made the Finals)
- 2012 Miami Heat (ranked 21st out of 62)
- 2013 Miami Heat (ranked 39th out of 62)
- 2014 Miami Heat (ranked 55th out of 62)
- 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers (ranked 60th out of 62)
- 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers (ranked 61st out of 62)
Not only has LeBron made a historic five-straight Finals appearance, he has done it with increasingly little help. Two of the three worst Finals supporting casts of the last 30 years were LeBron teams. Of LeBron’s six Finals teams, one was really good (2011), one was above-average (2012), one was below-average (2013), and three were relatively poor (2014, 2015, 2007).
For comparison, three of the six best supporting casts of the last 30 years were Michael Jordan Bulls teams from the 1990s.
Also note the chronology here. LeBron has made the Finals every year since 2011. Each successive year, though, his supporting cast has gotten worse. Even though he’s ageing, he’s still managing to get worse-and-worse teams into the Finals. Obviously some of this has to do with how bad the Eastern Conference has been since 2011. But he still won the title in 2012 and 2013 with just ok supporting casts, and making the Finals five-straight years is incredible, no matter the circumstances.
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