LeBron James strengthened his case as one of the best basketball players of all-time by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to this season's NBA championship. James claimed his fourth title on his third NBA team, winning his fourth Finals MVP in the process.
But which of James' four NBA title teams is best? The debate will continue if James keeps winning rings with the Lakers, as the future Hall of Famer eyes his 18th NBA season in 2020-21 when he'll be 36 years old.
While it is important to consider James' best individual accomplishments in spearheading a title — his 2016 Cavs upsetting the 73-win Golden State Warriors atop that list — this ranking overviews which teams are better overall based on most talented teammates, best team chemistry, and best collective team motivation. It is also necessary to understand where James was at in his career and what caliber of player he was on each specific title team.
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LeBron James and Anthony Davis are averaging a combined 54.2 points per game in the playoffs. (Photo: Ashley Landis, Pool photo via USA TODAY Sports)
1. 2012-13 Miami Heat. James was MVP for a second consecutive season, having developed his game as a go-to scorer and a 27-game winning streak helped propel a 66-win season for this group, who added veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen to the core of the Big Three — James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The role players were stellar on this team and Miami had to win the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games against the Pacers and the Finals against the Spurs in seven games. This isn't just one of James' best, it's considered one of the best teams in NBA history. Coach Erik Spoelstra also was at his best in this season and is arguably James' best coach over the course of his 17-year career.
2. 2011-12 Miami Heat. A year removed from losing in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in the first year of the Heat's Big Three, this lockout-shortened season saw James put together one of his best career seasons to win that year's regular season and Finals MVP. If there were any doubt that James was Batman and Wade was Robin from the previous season, James' clutch play in the playoffs punctuated his greatness on this team. It was also the best the Big Three played together, with Wade and Bosh settling into their roles around James. This team didn't win the Eastern Conference, but overcame a determined run by the Boston Celtics Big Three in seven games, before crushing a Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder team 4-1 in the Finals.
3. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers. From a strictly up-against-the-odds motivational standpoint, this team staged one of the biggest upsets in NBA history by dispatching the 73-win Warriors when trailing 3-1. Then factor in James bringing Cleveland its first NBA title — ending the city's sports title drought — and it's undeniably a top hallmark of James' career. A healthy Kyrie Irving was a fitting sidekick to James, hitting a monstrously clutch jumper in Game 7, while Kevin Love proved to be a strong third option.
4. 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers. Finishing fourth on this list isn't a knock on James or this team as much as it is a compliment to James' three previous teams. While James has never had a better teammate and sidekick than big man Anthony Davis, the rest of the roster wasn't as impressive as previous James squads. While Rajon Rondo brought his vintage self to the Finals, Danny Green's open miss in Game 5 was just a sample of where Los Angeles needed more from the supporting cast and will need more to repeat. If Kyle Kuzma can fully transition into a third weapon, a future version of the Lakers could vault ahead of the aforementioned teams. What was most impressive about this group was winning in the bubble in an adversity-fueled season that had a four-month break. Ample credit there goes to the coaching dynamic of head coach Frank Vogel and assistant Jason Kidd.
Follow reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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