Best Heat and Laker NBA Finals performances

Wade and James won two NBA championships together as a part of the Miami Heat.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Wade and James won two NBA championships together as a part of the Miami Heat.

Jarod Hamilton, Editor-In-Chief

Through four games of the 2020 NBA Finals, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Jimmy Butler are all having a phenomenal series so far, each making a case to be named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). 

This is the Lakers’ 32nd NBA Finals appearance and the Heat’s sixth appearance.

With each team having its fair amount of superstars and key role players, I find it best that we list the best individual Laker and Heat performances in the NBA Finals.

For this particular list, only performances that have happened since the start of the millennium will count that way the list is not dominated by Lakers performances from the 20th century. The other rule is that a player can only appear once on the list.  

No. 5 Pau Gasol L.A. Lakers (2010 NBA Finals)

The Spaniard’s 2010 NBA Finals performance is probably not in the top 10 Lakers NBA Finals performances, but in this list, the six-time all-star slides in at No. 5. Gasol was acquired at the trade deadline in 2008 and had helped the Lakers reach the 2008 NBA Finals where they lost in six games to their 2010 NBA Finals opponents, the Boston Celtics. During the 2008 Finals, Gasol was said to be “soft” by some fans and media; however, he redeemed himself in 2009 and 2010 by helping the Lakers win the championship against the Orlando Magic and Celtics respectively. Gasol averaged 18 points per game, on 47 percent shooting from the field, 11 rebounds per game and he led all players with 2.3 blocks per game. Gasol’s best game of the series was in Game 7, when he posted 19 points, 18 rebounds (nine offensive) and two blocks. While Gasol slightly played better in the 2009 Finals, in 2010, he had something to prove to the Kevin Garnett led Celtics and he did just that.  

No.4 Kobe Bryant L.A. Lakers (2009 NBA Finals) 

Bryant appeared in seven NBA Finals in his 20-year NBA career, winning five championships but his best performance was in 2009 versus the Magic. Bryant was not only on a mission to redeem himself and win the championship after coming up short in the previous NBA Finals versus Boston but he was still trying to capture his first ring without Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant and Co. made quick work of the Magic, winning the series in five games and Bryant took home his first NBA Finals MVP after he averaged 32 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists per game (apg). Bryant would win the award the next season as well, when the Lakers defeated the Celtics in seven games. The only reason this series gets the nod over his 2010 Finals performance is because he averaged six points fewer in 2010 and shot 40 percent for the series, which included an abysmal Game 7 performance that saw Bryant go 6 of 24 from the field. 

No.3 LeBron James Miami Heat (2013 NBA Finals) 

James’ best NBA Finals performance is undoubtedly his 2016 Finals performance as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the 73-9 Golden State Warriors after the Cavs were down 3-1 in the series. The 2013 Finals is not even James’ best playoff series as a member of the Heat, that would be the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals versus the Celtics. James was no slouch in this series though as he averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and one block. The Heat would go on to win the series in seven games after James’ 37 points (5 of 10 on three-pointers) and 12 rebounds in Game 7. This series gets the nod over his 2012 Finals performance due to James (with the help of Ray Allen) saving his legacy in the last two games of the series versus an experienced San Antonio Spurs team. The Oklahoma City Thunder team the Heat defeated in five games the previous year were younger and inexperienced in the Finals (seven players were 25 years or younger including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden). 

No. 2 Dwyane Wade Miami Heat 2006 NBA Finals

Wade had a Michael Jordan-esque performance in the 2006 NBA Finals, as he averaged 34 points (the Finals’ third-highest among players in their first NBA Finals), seven rebounds and three assists en route to Finals MVP. Wade led the Heat to their first championship after they were down 2-0 to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. At the time, the Heat had a 34-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, who was still an all-star, but was on the decline from being the most dominant player in the league, as he was the third leading scorer for the Heat this series behind Wade and Antoine Walker. Many see this series as the series that put Wade in the upper echelon of stars in the NBA. 

No.1 Shaquille O’Neal L.A. Lakers 2000 NBA Finals

O’Neal’s tenure with the Lakers was his most productive stint in the NBA. In 2000, O’Neal swept the MVP awards for the season (2000 All-Star Game, regular season and Finals), becoming the third player in NBA history to win all three awards in one season (Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1998). During the 2000 NBA Finals, versus the Indiana Pacers, O’Neal had one of the best Finals of all-time, as he averaged 38 points and 16 rebounds on 61 percent shooting from the field. O’Neal had three games with 40 or more points and had 40 points and 24 rebounds in Game 1. Not only did he put up dominating stats, he did so as Bryant was marred by an ankle injury after landing on Jalen Rose’s foot while attempting a shot in Game 1.

All stats are courtesy of Basketball Reference.