LeBron James is one of the very best basketball players to ever live.
Maybe you are someone who puts him at the very top of the all time list and want to relive some of his greatest moments. Or maybe you have your doubts about the King and want to know who he really beat to get his four rings.
As someone who watched all four championships and has written dozens of articles about the greatest basketball players to ever live, I can help you out.
There have been four LeBron James championships. He won back-to-back titles with the Heat in 2012 and 2013, sealed his hometown legend status with a win for the Cavs in 2016 then took home the bubble championship in 2020 for the Lakers.
Below you can read up on the details of each title, who played with LeBron and who he defeated during each title run. Some of LeBron’s best wins came against Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Jimmy Butler.
LeBron James Championship #1: Miami Heat 2012Embed from Getty Images
Lebron James’ first championship came the second year after he famously took his “talents to South Beach”. Miami lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals in 2011, the first year the Heatles were together. They got it done in year two together.
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Regular Season Record: 46-20 (The regular season was shortened by a lockout).
Heat Starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Chris Bosh
Key Names off the Bench: Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller
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|Oklahoma City Thunder||4-1|
2012 First Round: Heat def. NY Knicks 4-1
The Heat defeated a fairly forgettable 7th-seeded Knicks team in five games in the first round.
- The Knicks starred Carmelo Anthony and had a roster full of fairly big names like Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Mike Bibby and J.R. Smith. But Smith only played one regular season game for the team and others, like Bibby and Stoudemire, were well past their primes.
- The games were not much closer than the series. The Heat crushed the Knicks in game one then cruised to easy victories in the next two.
- The Knicks stole game four to stay alive but were dispatched in an easy win for the Heat in game five.
- LeBron averaged 27.8 points, 6.2 boards and 5.8 assists per game for the series.
2012 Eastern Conference Semis: Heat def. Indiana Pacers 4-2
The Heat got by a young, balanced Pacers team in the Eastern Semifinals.
- The Pacers cruised past Dwight Howard and an over matched Magic team in five games in round one.
- The Pacers were balanced: their big name was David West, who was in his prime at age 31. But they also featured Danny Granger, George Hill and a young Paul George making his playoff debut.
- The Pacers showed some life in the series. The team traded games in Miami before the Pacers took a 2-1 lead with a blowout win on their home court in Indianapolis.
- The Heat shut down Pacers fans’ hopes by taking the next three games and finishing the series off 4-2.
- LeBron averaged 30.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game for the series.
2012 Eastern Conference Final: Heat def. Boston Celtics 4-3
The Heat won the Eastern Conference in a heated 7 game series over the Celtics in the last stand of the Big 3 Era Celtics.
- The Celtics defeated the Hawks in the first round and then the Sixers in the East semis. The team won the Atlantic Division after losing to the Heat in the playoffs the prior year.
- This was the last stand for the Big 3 Era Celtics of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The team also starred Rajon Rondo.
- The series was very much back and forth. The Heat won two games at home to take a 2–0 lead and it looked like the C’s were done.
- The Celtics won the next three games to take a 3-2 lead and Heat Haters were having a field day saying they couldn’t finish.
- The Heat won game 6 then battled back from as many as 11 down to win game 7 going away and advance to their second straight NBA Final.
- LeBron averaged 33.6 points, 11 boards and 3.9 assists per game for the series.
2012 NBA Finals: Heat def. Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
LeBron James won his first NBA title in 2012 as the Heat were able to put away a Thunder team loaded with big names in just five games.
- The Thunder took an incredible path to get to the NBA Finals. They swept Dirk Nowitzki and the deafening-champ Mavs in round one, got by Kobe and his Lakers in round two, then slipped past Tim Duncan and the Spurs in the West Finals.
- All of the Thunders’ opponents were aging, but that is still a tough road to an NBA Final!
- The Thunder were not aging: their big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were all under age 24 and were in their first 2-4 years in the league.
- The series was not as close as you would expect given the talent on the Thunder and their challenging course to the Finals.
- The Thunder won game 1 then got swept in four straight by the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat.
- LeBron averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists for the series.
- LeBron was the Finals MVP. He improved his Finals record to 1-2 with the win.
LeBron James 2012 Playoff Stats
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LeBron James Championship #2: Miami Heat 2013Embed from Getty Images
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Regular Season Record: 66-16
Heat Starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh
Key Names off the Bench: Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole
|San Antonio Spurs||4-3|
2013 First Round: Heat def. Milwaukee Bucks 4-0
The Heat swept a forgettable Bucks team to get past the first round in 2013.
- The Bucks were an under-.500 team who snuck into the playoffs only to be dispatched quickly.
- They “starred,” and I use the word VERY loosely, Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and J.J. Reddick – they had some fun players but not the makings of a strong team.
- The Heat crushed them, winning all four games by at least 10 points.
- LeBron averaged 24.5 points, 7.8 boards and 6.8 assists per game for the series.
2013 Conference Semis: Heat def. Chicago Bulls 4-1
The Heat took one game more than the minimum to get by a balanced and surprising Bulls team in the East Semis.
- The Bulls lost Derrick Rose in the playoffs the year before in 2012 and lost in the first round despite being the #1 seed.
- In 2013 Rose did not play at all. The Bulls were a balanced team without him featuring Carlos Boozer, a young Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. They took 7 games to get past the Nets in the first round.
- True to their pesky nature, the Bulls upset the defending champs in game 1. That was as close as it would get, however.
- The Heat won four straight, including a couple lopsided victories, to put the Bulls away.
- LeBron averaged 23.6, 7.0 boards and 7.8 assists for the series.
2013 Eastern Conference Final: Heat def. Indianapolis Pacers 4-3Embed from Getty Images
The Heat took seven games again to get out of the Eastern Conference, winning the ECF 4-3 over the Pacers.
- The Pacers were now led by Paul George but still featured George Hill and David West. Roy Hibbert also had the series of his life averaging a 22 point, 10 board double double for the series.
- The Pacers won their first two series in six games each, defeating an Al Horford-led Hawks team and Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks.
- The series could not have been more back-and-forth. The Heat took games 1, 3 & 5. The Pacers won games 2, 4 & 6. It all came down to game 7.
- Unlike some other classics, this was not all-time game 7. The Heat won easily, taking the game 99-76.
- LeBron averaged 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists for the series.
2013 NBA Finals: Heat def. San Antonio Spurs 4-3
The Heat won their second of back-to-back titles by defeating the 4x Champion San Antonio Spurs.
- The Spurs defeated LeBron and his Cleveland Cavaliers in his first trip to the NBA Finals in 2007.
- This Spurs team still starred the Big Fundamental Tim Duncan but now had a young Kawhi Leonard along with Manu Ginnobolli and Tony Parker.
- The Spurs swept Dwight Howard’s Lakers, got by a Warriors team with a young trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and swept Marc Gasol’s Grizzlies to reach the Finals.
- Like the Pacers series, this one was back and forth. The Spurs won games 1,3 & 5. The Heat took games 2, 4 & 6. It all came down to game 7. But before it could get there, Ray Allen had to save the Heat in a game 6 classic.
- It would be all but impossible to surpass the excitement of game 6, but this game 7 was a good one. The game went back and forth before a late Heat 5-0 run catapulted them to the win. Both LeBron and Dwayne Wade had double doubles in the deciding game.
- LeBron once again won MVP – his second Finals MVP in his second title. He averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds 7.0 assists per game for the series.
LeBron James 2013 Playoff Stats
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LeBron James Championship #3: Cleveland Cavaliers 2016
After back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, the Heat went to a fourth straight NBA Final in 2014. But they could not get it done against the Spurs team they defeated the prior season.
LeBron then made the decision to head back home. He returned to Cleveland for a four-year stretch where he made the NBA Finals all four seasons.
Unfortunately, for LeBron and Cavs fans, the rosters surrounding him were mostly weak and their Finals opponent, the Golden State Warriors, were not.
LeBron and the Cavs lost three out of four finals to Steph Curry and the Warriors, cementing Curry’s place in history and coach Steve Kerr’s likely place in the Hall of Fame.
But LeBron and the Cavs did get one victory. They won the NBA title in LeBron’s second year back home in 2016, defeating those Golden State Warriors in a classic 7 game series.
Head Coach: David Blatt (30-11) and Tyron Lue (27-14). Blatt was fired about ½ way through the season despite the team’s first place standing and prior Finals appearance. LeBron was more comfortable with Lue.
Regular Season Record: 57-25
Cavs Starters: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson (Timofey Mosgov started more regular season games, but Thompson started all playoff games)
Big Names Off the Bench: Matthew Dellavadova, Iman Shumpert, Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, Timofey Mozgov
|Golden State Warriors||4-3|
2016 First Round: Cavs def. Pistons 4-0
The Cavs started their championship run by sweeping a weak Pistons team in round 1.
- The Pistons were a pretty forgettable 8th seed with a bunch of role players and no real stars.
- They featured: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.
- The games in the series were at least closer than the series itself with the Cavs winning game 1 by five points then game 4 by just two.
- LeBron averaged 22.8 points, 9.8 boards and 6.8 assist per game for the series.
2016 Conference Semis: Cavs def. Hawks 4-0
LeBron and the Cavs got another sweep in round two, dispatching the Hawks in four games.
- The Hawks defeated a fun Isaiah Thomas Celtics team 4-2 in round 1.
- The Hawks had a solid roster but were mostly devoid of real top-end talent. They featured Paul Milsap, Al Horford, future-Cav Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague and others.
- Like the series, the games were mostly not close with the Cavs winning handily in every game except for a game four one-point victory.
- LeBron averaged 24.3 points, 8.5 boards, and 7.8 assists for the series.
2012 Eastern Conference Final: Heat def. Toronto Raptors 4-2
The Cavs took six games to get past a Toronto team that would eventually bring in Kawhi Leonard and win the whole thing themselves.
- The Raptors featured the star pair of Kyle Lowery and DeMar DeRozan.
- Toronto took seven games to get by each of their first two playoff opponents: first Paul George’s Pacers then a Heat team still starring Dwyane Wade.
- The Cavs won the first two games big at home and looked like they might sweep. But the Raptors, true to their gritty nature, won games 3 & 4 at home.
- The Cavs put it away with two big wins in games 5 & 6 winning the pair by an average of 32 points.
- LeBron averaged 26.0 points, 8.5 boards and 6.7 assists per game for the series.
2012 NBA Finals: Celtics def. Golden State Warriors 4-3
LeBron won the Cavs their first, and still only, NBA championship by defeating a transcendent Golden State team in highly-entertaining seven game series.
- Golden State started their journey to the Finals by putting away a James Harden-led Rockets squad in five games then took another five games to get by Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum’s Blazers.
- In the West Finals, the Warriors slipped past Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook’s Thunder in a seven-game classic.
- The Warriors did not yet have KD, that would happen the next season. For now, they featured the trio of Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
- The series was a classic even though none of the first six games finished with a close final score.
- Golden State won the first two games including a 33 point victory in game 2. The Cavs then won game 3 by 30 points. The closest game yet in the series, decided by only 11 points, went to the Warriors who looked to go back-to-back with a 3-1 series lead.
- The Cavs won 15 and 14 point victories in games five and six to even the series and set the stage for a classic game 7.
- In a series of blowouts, Game 7 was easily the closest game of the series. Kyrie Irving cemented himself as an NBA legend with a three to put the Cavs ahead for good with a minute to go.
- LeBron made a pretty sweet block in a tie game with less than two minutes to go.
- LeBron was the Finals MVP for the third time. He averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds for the series.
LeBron James 2016 Playoff Stats
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LeBron James Championship #4: Los Angeles Lakers 2020
2020 was a wild year for the world and for the NBA. The pandemic stopped the world and it stopped the NBA season with it. When the league resumed, they were inside the Disney World bubble.
LeBron, in his second season with LA, was able to make the most of it, leading the Lakers to what would be his fourth NBA title.
The whole bubble title brings some sideways looks among certain NBA fans. It is impossible to say who it helped. But it’s not crazy to think that a 35-year-old LeBron was helped by having no travel during the playoffs in his 16th NBA season.
In any case, neither the Lakers nor LeBron caused the bubble. You can’t blame them too much for taking advantage of it.
Head Coach: Frank Vogel
Regular Season Record: 57-19 (pandemic shortened season)
Lakers Starters: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green and Javale McGee
Big Names Off the Bench: Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley (reg. season)
2020 First Round: Lakers def. Portland TrailBlazers 4-1Embed from Getty Images
The Lakers started their bubble title run by getting by the Blazers in five games.
- The Blazers were an 8th seed with some big names. They still had Dame and CJ McCollum and were trying Carmelo Anthony out as their third scorer.
- Portland stole the first game before losing four straight.
- Anthony Davis led the Lakers in scoring at nearly 30 points per game.
- LeBron had a pretty nice series himself averaging 27.4, 10.2 boards and 10.2 assists for the triple double.
2020 Conference Semis: Lakers def. Houston Rockets 4-1
LeBron and the Lakers coasted by the Rockets in five games to reach the Western Semis.
- The Rockets took seven games to get past Chris Paul and his Oklahoma City Thunder in round 1.
- The bubble Rockets starred both James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
- Like the Blazers before them, the Rockets took the series lead by winning game 1. Also, like the Blazers, they lost four straight to lose the series.
- The four Lakers wins were not all that close with the team winning all four by at least ten points.
- LeBron averaged 25.8, 10.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists for the series.
2020 Western Conference Final: Lakers def. Denver Nuggets 4-1
The Cavs advanced to the bubble NBA Finals with a five game win over the Nuggets.
- The Nuggets didn’t put up too much of a fight against the Lakers, but they were a fun team coming off a fun playoff run.
- They took seven games to put away Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Goebert and the Jazz in round one then won another seven game series vs Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers in round 2.
- The Nuggets starred Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray along with Gary Harris and Paul Milsap.
- The Lakers mostly cruised – winning games 1 & 2 before Denver stole game 5. LA closed it out with two straight close-but-still-in-control victories in games 4 & 5.
- LeBron averaged 27.0, 10.4 boards and 9.0 assists for the series.
2020 NBA Finals: Lakers def. Miami Heat 4-2
LeBron won his fourth ring when the Lakers defeated his former team the Miami Heat in a six-game NBA Final.
- Miami was somewhat of a bubble surprise after finishing fifth in the East in the regular season.
- The Heat swept Malcom Brogdon’s Pacers in round 1, then toppled Giannis’ first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in round two in only five games.
- The Heat got past the Tatum/Brown Celtics in six games to win the East.
- Despite beating my Celtics, I have to admit the Heat were a fun team featuring a competitive Jimmy Butler and young Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.
- The Heat were the Lakers strongest playoff test but the games were still not too close. The Lakers won games 1 & 2 easily before the Heat got their first win in game 3. The Lakers took control with a game 4 win while the Heat staved off elimination with a three point win in game 5.
- The Lakers closed it out with a 13 point victory in game 6 before no fans inside the bubble!
- LeBron James won his fourth Finals MVP averaging 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assist per game for the series.
LeBron James 2020 Playoff Stats
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Beyond LeBron James Championships
If you want to know how these series impacted LeBron’s NBA Finals record, you can check that out through the links below. You can also see how he compares to many of the all time greats.
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Featured Image Photo Credit: LeBron James by Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.