LeBron James’ worst playoff game was the 2011 Finals failure all his doubters wanted to see


(animated orchestral music) – LeBron James is one of
the best NBA players ever, and he has validated his excellence by winning a whole lot. There’s a good chance James will retire having played more playoff games than these career leaders, and of course, several of LeBron’s playoff runs have ended in a championship. But before the rings, there were times when people questioned whether LeBron would ever lead his team to a title. And one playoff failure in particular sticks out among the others
as a moment in which LeBron was perceived as not just losing, but shrinking, choking, even quitting and doing so at a time when critics were eager to see him fail. This is LeBron James’
worst playoff performance. June 7th, 2011, Dallamus, Texamus. LeBron and the Miami
Heat led the NBA Finals two wins to one after
winning Game Three in Dallas just two nights prior. LeBron assisted the basket
that made the difference in the final minute of Game Three, but he did give Dallas one more chance by bricking a three in the closing seconds of a merely okay individual outing. In general, LeBron had been
relatively quiet in the Finals, opting to play second or third fiddle and distribute the ball while
the other Big Three gents, especially Dwayne Wade,
handled most of the scoring. But so far so good. And if LeBron and company
could grab another road win in Game Four to make the series three-one, they’d have two chances to
clinch the whole thing at home, winning LeBron his first
ever NBA Championship. People would probably
still grumble about LeBron needing help to finally win a ring. After he started this Game Four with a forced air ball
floater and a bricked three, he took to just dumping the ball off even against single coverage
by a smaller player. That led to nice assists to Bosh and Wade who both had great first halves. So let those people grumble. You don’t win the NBA Finals by yourself. LeBron knows, he tried once. It went poorly. Any investigation of
LeBron’s worst playoff games must pause at his first
trip to the Finals. That was with the ’07 Cavaliers, a team whose next best player was, I don’t know, Zydrunas Ilgauskas? Larry Hughes was the
only Cav besides LeBron who even approached reliable scoring. James put the whole team on his back in that ’07 playoff run. It was incredible and gave us
some legendary LeBron scenes. But in June, his back carried more weight than it could bear. LeBron’s first career Finals game was probably his worst playoff performance up to that point, a four-of-16, six-turnover outing, and a
Game One loss to the Spurs. Are you okay over there? LeBron attacked but got gobbled
up by a San Antonio defense focused on stopping him and him alone. James said afterward, he would
simply have to play better for Cleveland to have a chance. They did not have a chance. They got swept. So you can appreciate
LeBron’s relative comfort deferring to his costars in 2011. It felt good to have costars. James finished the first
half of this Game Four with just four points
on one-of-four shooting with two turnovers. But Wade and Bosh were cooking, and the Heat had a
two-point halftime lead. Lead or not, James might have been wary of swinging too far in the
direction of deference. Just a year before this in
LeBron’s final home game of his first stint in
Cleveland, he got booed. That was Game Five of the 2010
Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics. James started that game
missing his first seven shots. Discouraged and nursing a sore elbow, he kind of curled into a ball
against Boston’s defense, looking very unlike himself. LeBron stopped attacking. He seemed resigned to loss and
reluctant to lead a comeback. He finished with 15 points
on three-of-14 shooting in the loss. And as his hometown fans
booed, all anyone could do was anticipate a departure, a departure that, of course,
ended up coming to pass and put LeBron among
two elite new teammates, put him on a damn stage predicting how many rings they’d win, then
put him back in the Finals. So a year later, you could feel the narrative forces at play. LeBron tried to be a
hero and failed in 2007. He got passive and failed in 2010. Even if he succeeded in
2011, he’d get criticized for doing so in the comfort
of other superstars. That wouldn’t have been fair, but it’s a preferable outcome
to what actually happened, which was more failure. LeBron asserted himself a bit more in the second half to get decent looks against Dallas’s
increasingly zoney defense, and he just whiffed them. He sealed off Shawn Marion
nicely and blew the finish. – [Announcer] Chandler, it’s
gonna roll out of bounds. Miami ball. – [Seth] He outran the Mavs in transition and blew the finish. He caught and fired a wide
open three and blew it. He earned a couple free
throws and blew both of them. He found a pull-up look
out of the pick and roll and blew it. In the fourth, the scores started to reflect LeBron’s struggles. Miami led by as much as nine, but James helped Dallas get back into it by traveling and forcing
a bad pass to Bosh, then chucking a tough brick
over DeShawn Stevenson. Miami surrendered their
lead, then struggled to get a clean look on
their final possession. – Miller puts it up, air ball!
(crowd cheering) And that’s it! – They lost Game Four,
squandering a crucial chance to pull way ahead in the series. While Bosh and Wade’s numbers
held up fine in defeat, LeBron’s were sad. He attempted just 11
shots and hit only three four eight points. He grabbed nine boards
and tossed seven assists but turned the ball over four times and committed four fouls, a horrid line. But not his worst ever
going purely off statistics. Basketball Reference, the
best website on Earth, uses a helpful metric called game score. It’s not an end all, be
all, but for this exercise, it’s a helpful summary. LeBron has remarkably few inefficient or even below average
playoff games in his career, but one has the lowest game score by far. It’s this stinker of a Game
One against Boston in 2008, two-of-18 shooting, 12 points, more turnovers than assists, bad. But context matters. That opponent was the
first and best version of the Big Three Celtics,
the eventual NBA Champions. And LeBron would go on to
play a couple great games in that series, including
45 points to nearly lead this weak Cleveland roster
to a Game Seven victory. As for the context of this 2011 dud, well, we’ve mentioned that
LeBron was already taking shit for forming a super team or whatever, and that blowing Game Four,
a collapse for which LeBron became the easy scapegoat,
made the critical difference between a three-one series
lead and a two-two tie. We haven’t mentioned that after the game, noted pest DeShawn Stevenson
could legitimately say LeBron checked out on his teammates. We haven’t mentioned
that before Game Four, Dallas’s Jason Terry gave Miami
some bulletin board material saying LeBron needed to
show he could perform well for seven games, that he’d done
it for Games One and Three, but could he do it in Game Four? And, you know, he couldn’t. Jason Terry of all
people, came at the King and the King responded by laying an egg. Terry even cooked LeBron
on more than one occasion in the fourth quarter. Then he exploded for
48 points off the bench across Games Five and Six and got to do his stupid jet plane celebration a bunch. Which leads us to the
ultimate context for this, the Heat went on to
lose the series in six. LeBron’s turd of a Game Four
sparked Miami’s downfall from likely champion to runner-up. So here at the time was a guy who couldn’t get Cleveland a ring, joined up with his buddies
and still couldn’t get a ring because he sputtered in a pivotal game. He made Jason Terry look cool. Jason Terry, the guy who already
had the championship trophy tattooed on his arm. But there’s more. After Dallas won it all, critics focused on LeBron’s stark statistical
drop-off in the series, especially the super
diminished scoring numbers. And they remembered that day LeBron spent counting his future rings. – Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven!
(crowd cheering) – [Seth] In response,
LeBron got kind of spiteful. – All the people that was
rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they
gotta wake up tomorrow, have the same life that they
had before they woke up today. – [Seth] Not a great look, but look how far we’ve come since. That ugly summer motivated LeBron. He won a ring and Finals
MVP one year later and a year after that, and
then just for good measure, he returned to Cleveland
and did it there, too. You can find occasional substandard nights and criticism in between the
rings but nothing like 2011. This game was a deep, dark valley, though, with plenty of peaks to follow. Nothing before or since quite matched the humiliation of that Game Four, and LeBron himself
recommends putting it on if you want to lull your baby to sleep. But at the time, this
was no laughing matter for LeBron James. It was ghastly blend of
passivity and excess. It was failure in the
most critical of moments. It was the most delicious possible fodder for all kinds of hungry haters. It was, thankfully for LeBron,
not a sign of things to come. It was a dismal performance
in a dismal game in a dismal series that
headlined a dismal summer. It was the worst.

77 thoughts on “LeBron James’ worst playoff game was the 2011 Finals failure all his doubters wanted to see

  1. This was the worst moment of his career and will always be a stain on his legacy but he has recovered from it and if he wins a title with Lakers along with all of his other accomplishments as the years go on it will be less of a stain

  2. Dallas had one of the best playoff runs defeating Blazers, Thunder, Lakers and Heat. Under dog in all series. Great video

  3. How come you can't find that pic online of LeBron in 2011 against the Mav's when he looked like he just found out the rectal X-ray images of the mice would go public? SB Nation has pulled it offline apparently.

  4. "You don't win the finals by yourself"
    Tell that to Lebron Fans. According to them, James never had help, just balloon animals

  5. Stop the LA excuse BS for Lebron. Kobe went too three finals in a row again we was tired this was supposed to been the Heat year LeBron choked. Dirk was great as always he wasn’t letting an East team mess up his chance for a ring.

  6. LeBron is a great player but he's no GOAT, not even close. MJ would've won 4 rings in 4 years with Wade and Bosh. Better than that, he would've spent his whole career in Cleveland and he would've built a dynasty, the same way he did in Chicago. The Bulls were nothing before MJ. That's what a GOAT is supposed to do.

  7. Damn Seth i fwu fam, why Jason "The Jet" Terry's Jet celebration gotta be "stupid"? Oh you meant "Perfect" right?
    Oh no?
    Well shidd might as well say LeBron's lil 3 pump/high knee + beat on his chest move he do after a shot is stupid (It is). Or Curry's lil shimmy shake after a 3 is stupid. It's part of the game
    At least Jason "The Jet" Terry's make since cause its his name.

  8. he's great but he's not a clutch. what LBJ could've done in those critical misses is just buldozer himself to the basket. i mean he can do it. attact attack attack.. clutch shots are just for MJ, Kobe and Tmac

  9. In a way it might be better that they didnt win that series. Dwade was clear and far away the best player in that series for Miami and if they won he would have gotten FMVP. Wade would have won 4 chips and carried Lebron to his first. That would be hard as hell to ignore. Its part of the reason Magic is always top 5 but never the GOAT, he had two other FMVPs on his lakers wins. James Worthy and Kareem. I jist wouldn't be able to view Lebron the same way, especially where he was far more dominant, bigger, stronger and more athletically gifted than wade. You expect Shaq to win FMVP over Kobe. You dont expect Dwade to win FMVP over Bron.

  10. What about 2007 LeBron did not even won 1 game in the nba finals vs the spurs the spurs swept the cavilers 4 to 0

  11. LeBron will end his career with the most points ever scored, top 5 in assists, top 10 in rebounds and the only person to win finals MVP with three different franchises, 5 MVPs. When people look back on 40 years from now it will be without question that LeBron was one of if not the best player to ever play basketball. And he’ll probably play at least one year with his son Brony lmfao

  12. Wow. You have some sort of love affair with LeBron? All those comments about how people would still find something wrong with him. He couldn’t win in Cleveland so he joined a super team. Those weren’t his team.

  13. Spurs fan here: appreciate watching the sweep dont stop there please. Show how we sent him back to Cleveland!

  14. If Lebron won in 11 and 14 to have a 4peat and be 5-3(which were very winnable), he'd have a case for GOAT. He'd be better than Kobe's 5-2 and Tim Duncan's 5-1. Still not better than Magic/Kareem's 5-4 or MJ's 6-0. Not the GOAT.

  15. So what? 3 rings later and look at him now. Everyone had a bad time in their lives. No matter what people say he is still one of the greatest player of all time. In and out of the court.

  16. Yeah that finals was hard to watch as a Lebron fan smh I was in high school back then I couldn’t even defend his play to my classmates

  17. People gonna say that this moment separates Lebron James from MJ in the Goat Conversation.. and it does!!… However this guy is once in a lifetime player (and love him or hate him we all talk about it).. but also shows how great MJ really was!
    There is nothing wrong being the number 2 or 3 on the GOAT conversation… (it's a honor at least, and well deserved)

  18. Just to keep this in perspective tho..you know how we say the raptors have legendary depth …well that was the Mavs before anyone else everyone who wasn't named dirk had a role and they played it

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