LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers would have a major advantage over the rest of the league if the NBA chooses a single-elimination playoff format.
Though he hasn’t won an MVP award in nearly a decade, LeBron James is still the first name mentioned when discussing which NBA player would be most valuable in a single-game for all the marbles. If the league elects to implement a single-elimination tournament as a replacement for the playoffs, James and the Los Angeles Lakers would have a massive advantage.
It’s unclear how the NBA will move forward with the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in an interesting position and it seems we will stay in a state of uncertainty for quite some time.
One thing is for sure, the players want a champion to be crowned, even if it doesn’t happen until late summer. A proposed idea to make this work would be to shorten the postseason and implement a single-elimination format.
In this style, each playoff series would be reduced from best-of-seven to a winner-take-all showdown. Similar to the NCAA’s March Madness tournament, this would be sure to induce a chaotic yet exciting battle for the playoff teams.
Any team can be beaten on any given day. However, it would be tough to bet against James in this hypothetical scenario. Nobody in recent years has been more effective with his back to the wall than The King.
James’ last five elimination games:
- Game 4 of 2018 NBA Finals (L): 23 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists
- Game 7 of 2018 WCF (W): 35 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists
- Game 6 of 2018 WCF (W): 46 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists
- Game 7 of 2018 First Round (W): 45 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists
- Game 5 of 2017 NBA Finals (L): 41 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists
James has become notorious for delivering his best performances when facing elimination. He takes an assassin’s approach to these games, playing with a noticeably different demeanor when the stakes are raised.
Take his iconic Game 6 performance versus Boston in 2012. The Miami Heat were down 3-2 in the series with a difficult road matchup signaling their doom. James responded with a cold-blooded 45 points and 15 rebounds on 19-of-26 shooting from the floor.
This is just one example of James’ elevating his game in times of need. No one will ever forget when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Or, when he scored 25 straight points in 2007 to take a 3-2 lead over Detroit.
In the sixth and seventh games of playoff series, James averages an incredible 36.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 48.2 percent shooting and has an overall record of 12-3. He has never scored less than 30 points in a Game 5 or further and has only lost one Game 7 in his career.
There is no more arguing whether or not James is clutch. James has drilled more playoff game-winners than Michael Jordan and shoots a higher percentage on go-ahead shots.
Despite being dominant in these scenarios there is a reason to be dubious of James’ chances in a single-elimination tournament. He has a habit of coasting in the first game of each series, often using the first matchup as a feel-out game to catch his rhythm.
As a result, James has lost eight of his nine opening games in his NBA Finals career. James won’t have the luxury of testing his opponent in this situation. He will have to bring his best from the jump and be prepared for whatever is thrown at him.
Nonetheless, James has a long backlog of games in which he had the odds stacked against him and still emerged victorious. If the 2019-20 NBA season is decided by one game, I wouldn’t want to be standing in the path of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.