);
NBA Finals 2020

NBA Finals 2020: Comparing LeBron James' best championship performances

It took about 24 hours for it to hit him, but LeBron James and the Los Angeles are the 2020 NBA Champions.

LeBron is now a four-time champ and four-time Finals MVP, good for second behind only Michael Jordan, who earned the honour six times.

Now that the dust has settled and the teams have returned to their home markets, two discussions have emerged: The inevitable, yet impossible-to-agree-upon GOAT debate and a newer, more intriguing discussion ranking James' four championships and his performances in each series.

James himself even told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt "I think if you line up 35-year old LeBron with 27-year old LeBron, he would dominate him. He would dominate himself from eight years ago," following this year's title.

While James has won four times, there are actually five NBA Finals series - his four wins and his heroic 2015 performance - that stand out as his clear-cut best performances on the game's biggest stage.

To aid with the comparisons, we've laid them out for you to compare and decide:

2012 - The first title

Heat defeat Thunder in five

Series averages: 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals

"It's about damn time."

Those were the words that LeBron used to explain what went through his mind after he had finally become a champion at the end of his ninth NBA season. After suffering two losses on the Finals stage, including a disappointing loss just one year before, James bounced back and dominated as the Heat won four straight games after dropping Game 1 to the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder.

In a tight Game 4 victory to go up 3-1 in the series, James battled through cramps to finish with 26 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, knocking down a big 3-pointer late. Miami closed out the series in dominant fashion thanks in large part to LeBron recording a triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

All the lofty expectations placed upon James from his teenage years weren't unfounded after all.

2013 - Back-to-backLeBron James, Finals MVP

Heat defeat Spurs in seven

Series averages: 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.3 steals

The 2012-13 Miami Heat are one of the best teams the game has ever seen.

Led by James, who was named the season's MVP, Miami won a league-best 67 games, including a 27-game win streak that threatened the 1971-72 Lakers all-time record of 33. But the team found itself down 3-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals

While many talk about Ray Allen's game-tying 3 - and rightly so - they often overlook James' 16-point fourth quarter and overtime layup to put the Heat up for good. He would finish Game 6 with a triple-double of 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in just under 50 minutes.

To close the series out, LeBron showed that his perceived "weakness" as a shooter was no longer a "weakness," knocking down jumper after jumper, including five of his 10 3-point attempts en route to a 37-point, 12-rebound performance to become just the third player in league history to win back-to-back Finals MVPs.

2015 - Herculean effort comes up short

Cavaliers lose to Warriors in six

Series averages: 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.3 steals

After coming up short with Miami in 2014, James was back where his career began with a new big three that featured him alongside Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

By the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, it was only LeBron left.

A shoulder injury suffered in the first round held love out for the remainder of the postseason while Irving suffered a knee injury in the Finals debut, meaning the Cavs featured a starting lineup of James, Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov for Game 2.

In response to being undermanned, James finished with 39 points (on 11-for-35 shooting), 16 rebounds and 11 assists as he saw 50 minutes of action in a Game 2 overtime win. As the series moved to Cleveland, James followed that performance with 40 points (on 14-for-34 shooting), 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals to put the Cavs up 2-1.

Ultimately, Cleveland just didn't have enough to contend with Golden State, a team that had enough bodies to bog LeBron down. James' shooting splits may look ugly, but quickly revisiting the series shows that all he did was out of necessity.

Despite losing, James received four of a possible 11 Finals MVP votes, just three fewer than the winner, Andre Iguodala.

2016 - Promise Kept

Cavaliers defeat Warriors in seven

Series averages: 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals

What would that series have looked like if both teams were healthy? We only needed a year to find out.

With Irving and Love back in tow, the Cavs were now set to face back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors, who were fresh off of posting the best regular-season record in league history at 73-9.

Through four games, they looked as dominant building a 3-1 series lead over Cleveland, then history happened.

Game 5. LeBron goes for 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks as the Cavs win 112-97 to make it 3-2.

Game 6. LeBron drops 41, again. Adding 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks for a 115-101 win to force a Game 7.

27 points. 11 assists. 11 rebounds. The block. "Cleveland! This is for you!" With a triple-double and one of the best defensive plays in NBA history, James and the Cavs completed the first-ever comeback from 3-1 in NBA Finals history to deliver the city of Cleveland its first professional title in over 50 years.

James had delivered upon the promise he made to his home state early in his career.

2020 - Ring No. 4 in LA

Lakers defeat Heat in six

Series averages: 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.2 steals

At 35 years old, LeBron just continues to amaze.

In his first postseason in the Western Conference, James led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years with a new No. 2 by his side in Anthony Davis.

Facing his former team, James looked fresher than ever, serving as the leading scorer in Games 2, 4, 5 and 6, including an all-time performance of 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in a narrow Game 5 loss.

In Year 17, James was named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time and made it clear that he wants the respect he's owed.

He deserves it.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

luka-doncic-102820-ftr-getty
MVP odds revealed for 2020-21 season
Scott Rafferty
devin-vassell-ftr.jpg
2020 draft class has a different type of potential
Kyle Irving
#Silas
Report: Rockets tab next head coach
Gilbert McGregor
chris-paul-102810-ftr-getty
Paul leads march to early-voting site
Scott Rafferty
butler-dragic-adebayo.jpg
How will the Heat approach free agency?
Benyam Kidane
getimage.ashx-25.jpeg
Meet the NBA's new head coaches
Scott Rafferty
More News