NBA

NBA Finals: Just how influential has LeBron James been in each of his four Championship wins?

By Sports Desk October 12, 2020

LeBron James is an NBA champion for the fourth time in his career after playing a typically starring role in the Los Angeles Lakers' 4-2 Finals series triumph over the Miami Heat.

A convincing 106-93 Game 6 win on Sunday earned the Lakers a first NBA title in 10 years, while James became the first player to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises.

James was a two-time champion with the Miami Heat and again with the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago, prior to his latest success with the Lakers.

It is clear the superstar has been an influence in each of his four championship triumphs, but just how influential has he really been?

We crunch the numbers from each of James' four Finals triumphs to take a look.

2012 – Heat beat Thunder 4-1

It was not until his ninth season in the league that James became an NBA champion and it happened in some style as the Heat blew away the Oklahoma City Thunder a year on from losing the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

A 105-94 win in Game 1 proved a false dawn for the Thunder and James was already putting his stamp on the series, providing 30 points despite the Heat's defeat.

There were 32 points in a narrow 100-96 win to tie up the series, while a double-double of 29 points and 14 rebounds in the 91-85 Game 3 victory put the Heat into a lead they would not relinquish.

James really showed his superstar status in the next two games: 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds set up a 104-98 win for a 3-1 advantage, while in Game 5 there were 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a memorable triple-double.

On average, James put up 28.6 points, 7.4 assists and 10.2 rebounds per game across the series, while he nailed 47.3 per cent of his field-goal efforts and 16.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

He made 80.8 per cent of free throws and averaged 0.4 blocks, 1.6 steals and 3.8 turnovers.

 

2013 – Heat beat Spurs 4-3

A year on and a great rivalry produced a great series as the Heat overcame the San Antonio Spurs in seven.

Trailing 2-1 in the series, including a 113-77 rout in Game 3, James came to life to level things again with 33 points in a crucial 109-93 triumph in the fourth contest.

But it was Game 6 when James really produced the goods, where officials had already brought out yellow tape to block out the court for the Spurs' trophy celebrations.

A fired-up James played the entirety of the second half and overtime as the Heat emerged 103-100 winners, with their talisman putting up 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – making the go-ahead shot with one minute and 43 seconds of the additional period to play.

He then scored a game-high 37 points in the decider to lead the Heat to back-to-back titles, the only time James has managed this feat in his career.

Throughout the series, James' numbers were 25.3 points, seven assists and 10.9 rebounds per game, while he was 44.2 per cent from the field.

In terms of free throws, James was 68.3 per cent and his success from three-pointers was 34.8 per cent. Defensively, he had 0.9 blocks, 2.3 steals and 2.6 turnovers on average.

 

2016 – Cavs beat Warriors 4-3

Was this James' finest series win?

With the Cavs trailing 3-1, James led the underdogs to a remarkable comeback against the star-studded Golden State Warriors, who they faced in four straight Finals from 2015 to 2018.

James was the catalyst for putting the Cavs on the board in a Game 3 120-90 blowout, scoring 32 points, collecting 11 rebounds and providing six assists.

Remarkably, he put up 41 points in winning efforts in Games 5 and 6, while a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the all-or-nothing decider inspired a 93-89 triumph to help the Cavs win their only series of the four against the Warriors.

In total, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Additionally, he had a 48.6 per cent field goal success rate and nailed 37.1 per cent of his three-pointers and 71.8 per cent of free-throw attempts.

With 2.3 blocks, 2.6 steals and 4.4 turnovers averaged per games, James also played his part defensively in a famous success.

 

2020 – Lakers beat Heat 4-2

After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 14 years during his first season with the Lakers, James rebounded in style to defeat a familiar franchise this year.

Playing alongside fellow superstar Anthony Davis, the Lakers ended a difficult 2020 – that included the death of the legendary Kobe Bryant and the disruption to the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic – with championship glory.

James was once again series MVP, starting with a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds before putting up 33 points in the 124-114 win in Game 2.

One of his best performances over the six showdowns actually came in a losing effort in Game 5 when 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists were not enough to prevent a 111-108 defeat.

But it was business as usual in Game 6, a triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists contributing to the 106-93 triumph that ended the Heat's brave resistance.

As you would expect, the numbers show James' influence. He averaged 29.8 points, 8.5 assists and 11.5 rebounds.

He was 58.6 per cent from the field, 60.8 per cent from the free-throw line and drained 39 per cent of three-point shots, while there were 0.5 blocks, 1.2 steals and 3.5 turnovers per game.

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a greater impact on Italian football than Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Milan and Juventus head coach Alberto Zaccheroni. 

    The 39-year-old has made a considerable impact since rejoining Milan in January, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances in the second half of the 2019-20 campaign.

    He has been in equally impressive form this season despite missing almost a month after contracting COVID-19, taking his tally to four goals in just two games with a double against Inter at the weekend. 

    One of the best strikers of his generation, Ibrahimovic spent two years with Milan earlier in his distinguished career, a stint that included securing the Serie A title in 2011. 

    Ronaldo, meanwhile, has been just as prolific since he joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018, scoring 68 goals in 91 appearances across all competitions. 

    Zaccheroni, though, is in no doubt which player has had more influence on Serie A. 

    "I have coached great champions in my career, from [Oliver] Bierhoff to [George] Weah up to Adriano but the only regret I have is that I never trained Ibrahimovic," he told Il Giornale.

    "He is eternal and I still don't understand why he never won the Ballon d'Or.

    "In Italy, he has shifted the balance more than Ronaldo. It is no coincidence that many young players have grown exponentially since his arrival.

    "He doesn't just score. He transmits confidence to all his team-mates, carrying the team on his shoulders in difficult moments."

  • Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes? Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes?

    When Frank Lampard was questioned over Chelsea's poor defensive record in his tenure as manager, he suggested his goalkeepers were to blame.

    Ahead of Tuesday's home game against Sevilla, which will kick off the Blues' Champions League campaign, it was put to Lampard that his side were conceding enough goals for him to rank him among the club's worst bosses ever in that category.

    Indeed, Chelsea have conceded nine goals in their first five Premier League games this season – three coming in Saturday's 3-3 home draw with Southampton – and leaked 54 in the 2019-20 top flight, more than any other team to finish in the top 10.

    "I'm aware of the stats and the other stat is we have conceded second least shots," said Lampard.

    "That helps to narrow down the issue. It's something we are aware of with our recruitment and on the pitch with the players to make sure we set up well.

    "We want to concede less, as do all teams at the moment."

    As Lampard referenced with recruitment, Chelsea hope the signing of Edouard Mendy for around £22million from Rennes can solve their goalkeeping issues.

    But is the statistic he cites correct and to what extent can the other keepers, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero, be blamed for the club's woeful defensive record? We have used Opta data to find out...

    CHELSEA RANK HIGHLY IN PREVENTING SHOTS

    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

    Of the 17 sides who played in the Premier League last year and this year, that puts Chelsea in the bottom half (11th of 17).

    The best two records, by comparison, are held by the two Manchester clubs, with City (61 in 65) and United (63 in 67) both averaging 0.94 goals conceded per game. West Ham are the worst, with 1.58 (79 in 50 matches).

    But, as Lampard suggests, there is a significant difference when it comes to shots faced.

    Taking all competitions into account, the Blues have faced 590 shots across their 62 games, an average of 9.52 per game.

    That ranks third of the 17 teams, only narrowly behind Manchester City (7.34 shots per game) and Liverpool (9.46), with Leicester City (9.76) the only other team facing less than 10.

    Of the shots Chelsea have faced, 215 have been on target, an average of 3.47 per game which ranks fifth of 17. 

    So, Chelsea have been reasonably effective in limiting the shots they face and the attempts their keepers have to save.

    However, 15 per cent (89) of opposing teams' shots have resulted in a conceded goal and by that metric, Chelsea are worst of all 17 teams.

    The best is Arsenal (eight per cent) and Manchester United also rank in single figures (nine per cent), so it seems Lampard has a point that his goalkeeping is the primary concern.

    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

    For context, the next worst of those who played at least 25 matches in that time period, were England duo Nick Pope (minus 4.31) and Jordan Pickford (minus 4.17).

    Caballero also has a negative differential (minus 3.73), conceding nine Premier League goals from his six matches when his expected figure was 5.27.

    The best goalkeeping performance in that time has come from Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris (plus 9.87 goals prevented), closely followed by Martin Dubravka (plus 8.57), Dean Henderson (plus 8.35) and Vicente Guaita (plus 7.97) – with those four ranking well clear of the rest.

    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

    The poor goalkeeping is highlighted further when looking at Chelsea and their big six rivals.

    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

    By contrast, Arsenal (62.73) and Tottenham (62.72) rank more poorly.

    However, the actual figures show Chelsea (63) conceded the most of the big six, more than Arsenal (54) and Spurs (55), who were boosted by the positive differentials and fine performances of Bernd Leno, Emiliano Martinez and Lloris.

    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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