The first eight years of LeBron James’ NBA career became increasingly defined by his failure to win a title.
Not only that, but LeBron had been tabbed with one of the league’s worst labels: A choker.
ESPN said he was. Heck, even Forbes Magazine called out LeBron’s choking.
Fast forward to 2014 and it’s comical to remember how the “choker” label dogged LeBron. Two consecutive NBA titles and counting will do that for a player’s legacy.
But before LeBron’s first title in the 2011-2012 season he did flame out in a lot of big games. Here is a look back on King James’ five biggest playoff choke jobs.
#5 – 2007 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 at Detroit Pistons
LeBron’s Stats: 10 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST, 2 TO, 5-15 FG
True, LeBron nearly triple-doubled, but it would have been meaningless. Cleveland lost Game 1 to the Pistons 79-76 as a timid James made just five field goals and, more importantly, didn’t attempt a single free throw. The Cavs ultimately won the series 4-2, but LeBron’s Game 1 choke didn’t help the cause.
#4 – 2007 NBA Finals Game 1 at San Antonio Spurs
LeBron’s Stats: 14 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 6 TO, 4-16 FG
While LeBron deserves major credit for dragging an otherwise average Cleveland Cavaliers team to the Finals, he was a no-show in Game 1 as the Cavs lost 85-76. LeBron’s 4-of-16 shooting hurt Cleveland, as did his six turnovers. The Spurs swept the series after LeBron’s Game 1 choke job.
#3 – 2008 Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 at Boston Celtics
LeBron’s Stats: 21 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 7 TO, 6-24 FG
Two days after his biggest postseason choke job (more on that next), LeBron missed 18 shots and committed seven turnovers. His nine free throw makes salvaged his scoring, but LeBron’s poor play cost Cleveland the game and a 2-0 deficit in a series they would ultimately lose in seven.
#2 – 2008 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 at Boston Celtics
LeBron’s Stats: 12 PTS, 9 REB, 9 AST, 10 TO, 2-18 FG
16 missed shots. Two makes. 10 turnovers. Cleveland lost Game 1 and then the series. Yes, this was a choke.
#1 – 2011 NBA Finals Game 4 at Dallas Mavericks
LeBron’s Stats: 8 PTS, 9 REB, 7 AST, 4 TO, 3-11 FG
LeBron’s Heat led the Mavs 2-1 in the Finals and it looked like King James would claim his first crown. But in the pivotal Game 4, LeBron choked, making just 3-of-11 shots and scoring eight points as the Heat lost 86-83. The Mavs won the next two games and the title, and LeBron endured another Summer of Choke.