LeBron James is still one of the best players in the NBA today, but he is nearing the end of his career due to age and the wear and tear of the game over two decades. James’ playoff success is among his greatest accomplishments with four NBA championships and four NBA Finals MVPs for three different franchises.
Even the years he didn’t win everything led to deep runs knocking out other contenders with notable names. Many NBA legends of the 90s made it known that Michael Jordan was their biggest obstacle to not winning a title. LeBron’s career success deserves the same treatment when looking back at each postseason run. The following ten NBA superstars were the best players to miss a ring in part thanks to James.
ten Nikola Jokic
Many fans see the Denver Nuggets as a real playoff threat these days due to injuries that have plagued them over the past two playoffs. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. being healthy made Denver one of the top four teams in the 2020 Western Conference Finals.
However, it was still Nikola Jokic as a leader who basically took the team to this level. The Los Angeles Lakers knocked out the Nuggets to make it to the NBA Finals thanks to LeBron James in the lead. Jokic had a real chance of winning a ring because no other team was as good as Denver beyond the Lakers.
9 Chris Webber
An underrated legend to resent LeBron James’ wrath was Chris Webber later in his career. Injuries slowed Webber after his peak days with the Sacramento Kings, but he had a chance to earn a ring with the Detroit Pistons when he was traded in 2007.
Detroit had just played in two NBA Finals in the past three seasons when Webber joined. LeBron James had his first major playoff streak in 2007 with an epic streak against the Pistons. The Cleveland Cavaliers made the NBA Finals thanks to James taking them past Detroit just a few years out of high school.
8 Tracy McGrady
Another interesting story of a forgotten legend feeling the heartache against LeBron James featured Tracy McGrady on the San Antonio Spurs. Few fans even remember it since McGrady had virtually no playing time at the end of his career.
McGrady was once the league’s leading scorer for the Orlando Magic, but injuries quickly ended his prime. The Spurs picked up a win before T-Mac picked up a ring in Ray Allen’s infamous Game 6 shot. LeBron had another outstanding streak to lead Miami and kept McGrady from winning one.
seven Al Horford
Al Horford has suffered from LeBron James’ playoff success four times where he felt like he had a chance to win. The Atlanta Hawks were twice eliminated by LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015 and 2016, including a season when they were swept as the No. 1 seed.
Horford moved to the Boston Celtics and witnessed the same faith in 2017 and 2018. Boston fought well in back-to-back Conference Finals, but LeBron dominated too much for Cleveland to continue advancing to the Conference Finals. NBA. Horford remains an underrated asset for helping two flawed teams get this far.
6 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is one of the few names to win an MVP award in the Eastern Conference after finishing with a better record than LeBron James’ team. The first year LeBron joined the Miami Heat, Rose led the Bulls to the best record and became a title contender.
Chicago fell short of Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals because James and the Heat were simply better in a go-to situation. Rose’s career took a hit due to multiple brutal injuries ending her peak. LeBron has knocked out Rose multiple times, including when they traded the winners of the buzzer beater game in 2015.
5 DeMar DeRozan
Many Toronto Raptors fans still consider DeMar DeRozan the best player in franchise history, even though they won a ring after he was traded. One of the reasons for this was that DeRozan met LeBron James every year when Toronto felt ready to take the next steps.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have eliminated the Raptors three years in a row mainly thanks to LeBron’s dominance. Toronto’s best chance came in 2018 as the No. 1 seed against a Cleveland team after Kyrie Irving was traded. James dominated enough to sweep the top team and continue another run to the NBA Finals.
4 Paul George
Paul George’s greatest success has come with the Indiana Pacers at the time of this writing. Indiana had a few deep playoff runs in the early years when George became a star. The Pacers became the biggest threat in the East to LeBron James’ Miami Heat, but it wasn’t enough.
Three consecutive playoffs have seen Indiana pose a threat to Miami without making the leap. George’s best chances in a ring fell through in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron beat George every year of their rivalry to reach the NBA Finals every season in Miami.
3 Russell Westbrook
The Oklahoma City Thunder was the team to fall to the Miami Heat when LeBron James won his first NBA championship. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were then considered the two superstars of the team.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma City’s youngsters couldn’t score the big late wins against a team of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Durant eventually won a few rings with the Golden State Warriors, but Westbrook remains an all-time great for never winning a ring.
2 Jimmy Butler
The final years of Jimmy Butler’s career took him to new heights as a superstar. Butler was among a few of the Chicago Bulls team that LeBron James knocked out, but his best shot at winning an NBA championship came with the Miami Heat.
Pat Riley made Butler the biggest acquisition since LeBron left the team to become the new face of the franchise. The infamous bubble playoffs featured Butler leading the Heat to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for him, James and the Los Angeles Lakers were too much to overcome.
1 James Harden
James Harden felt the pain of facing LeBron James in the playoffs before he even became a superstar. The Oklahoma City Thunder used Harden as the league’s sixth-best man, but he was still a long way off All-Star level. Harden and the rest of Oklahoma City fell one ring short due to LeBron’s greatness.
Oklahoma City traded Harden soon after to the Houston Rockets where he became a superstar and an MVP winner. Despite all his success, Harden has yet to return to the NBA Finals, with James being the reason he couldn’t get an early ringer.