Which players has LeBron James completely dominated in his career?

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /

With LeBron James on his third team and in his 10th NBA Finals, here’s a look back at some individual matchups he dominated along the way.

There’s no question that LeBron James will finish as a top three all-time player. But as the old adage goes, “In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.” James is no stranger to this as year after year, he has had to defeat players who dared to challenge his supremacy.

Here is a list of a few stars who tried and failed to dethrone LeBron James:

Honorable Mention — Gilbert Arenas

James had a target on his back from the moment he stepped foot on an NBA court due to the ungodly amount of hype surrounding him. So it was fitting that his first-ever playoff series came against Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards. Arenas was a diamond in the rough pick by the Golden State Warriors who immediately established himself in his second year and took his talents to new heights in the nation’s capital.

It was a shame that the 6-foot-3 guard couldn’t sustain the health of his knees during this head-to-head matchup, especially in 2007 and 2008. The 2006 first round series between the fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and fifth-seeded Wizards showed a lot of promise. James exploded for 35.7 points, 7.5 boards and 5.7 assists while Arenas balled out with 34 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.2 steals.

But then Arenas tore his MCL near the end of the 2007 regular season and the rest is history. James barely broke a sweat (27.8 points, 8.5 boards and 7.5 assists) in the Cavs’ sweep of the Wizards and Arenas was nowhere close to fully healthy in the 2008 series (10.8 points and only played four of the six games).

To sum up this matchup, it had a lot of promise early on but the injury gods wouldn’t allow it, especially in Arenas’ case since he couldn’t maintain his career past 11 NBA seasons.

Honorable Mention — Derrick Rose

James wasn’t the only hometown kid expected to lead his city to a long-awaited championship. Derrick Rose came pretty close to accomplishing the same feat in only his third year. Although their 2011 series matchup ended similarly to 2010 in which James’s team won in a gentleman sweep, both players did well individually. James averaged 25.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists and Rose had 23.4 points and 6.6 assists as well.

But the injury gods cut this potential head-to-head rivalry short as well. Rose tore his ACL and is still struggling with the after-effects to this day. Although James and Rose met again in 2015 and took turns hitting game-winning buzzer-beaters, the hype wasn’t as large due to the four-year gap and Rose’s loss of athleticism.

3. Paul George

An argument can be made that the nickname “Wayoff P” originated from James dominating this head-to-head matchup. In their first career meeting on Feb, 8, 2011, James greeted Paul George with 41 points, 13 boards, eight dimes, three steals and one block. Meanwhile, George, who was still backing up Danny Granger in the rotation, had eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

This was a sign of things to come as James significantly elevated his game against George even after he took over the Indiana Pacers, especially in the postseason. They faced each other in the playoffs four times with three of the four series going at least six games long. In the elimination games alone, James averaged 29.5 points, seven rebounds and 5.3 assists.

George put up duds with 15.5 points on 33 percent shooting and eight rebounds. Although he scored 29 in Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was in vain as the top-seeded Pacers were blown out of the gym in Miami.

It would’ve been nice to see these two match up again this year in the Conference Finals, but the Denver Nuggets had other plans. Considering how the 2020 postseason transpired for each individual (James averaging 26.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists so far and George netting 20.2 points on 39.8 percent shooting), it was probably for the best because it most likely would’ve yielded the same result.

2. DeMar DeRozan

When James retires, his legacy will be based on the number of rings he won and Finals appearances he made. But for DeMar DeRozan and Toronto Raptors fans, it’ll be “LeBronto.” Every great player has had at least one team they have consistently conquered. For James, it was the Raptors.

In 14 career postseason games against the Raptors, James averaged 31.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.6 assists en route to a 12-2 record, including eight consecutive victories. DeRozan led a valiant effort (20.6 points on 46.3 percent shooting) and had some of his best games against James, including a playoff career-high-tying 37 points in Game 3 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Expect this matchup to remain one-sided for the foreseeable future now that James will be a consistent title contender with the Los Angeles Lakers while DeRozan struggles to keep the San Antonio Spurs afloat in the stacked Western Conference, or moves on to a new home.

1. Al Horford

Another team that James has historically dominated, especially in the postseason, is the Atlanta Hawks. Most people who think about this matchup immediately allude to the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2016 Semifinals when the Cavaliers blew away the Hawks in both series.

However, James’s dominance of this matchup dates back to Jan. 2, 2008, when he dropped 36 points, six assists and five rebounds as a 23-year-old. The one player who has had the misfortune of constantly being on the short end of this stick is Al Horford.

Horford and James have faced each other 60 times, which is tied for the fourth-most individual head-to-head matchups in James’s career (Kevin Garnett). Thirty-eight of these games occurred with Horford in a Hawks uniform. Either way, the statistics speak for themselves: James has won 46 of the head-to-head matchups, including 19 of 23 in the postseason.

Additionally, the 6-foot-9 forward recorded numbers similar to those he posted against DeMar DeRozan: 30.8 points, 8.8 boards and 7.8 assists. Horford’s stats (11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds) are misleading because he’s never been the best player on any of the three teams he has played for. But the fact remains that the 6-foot-9 center could never find consistent success against James no matter how good his squad was such as the 2015 Hawks.

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