How many great players have had a great Game 7?
By Game 7 I'm referring to a Finals Game 7. The Superbowl of basketball. The only night where the Larry O'brien trophy is literally just waiting around in the building for a team to inevitably claim it. By my account here are the great players in history's contribution to Game 7's before this year.
Kobe Bryant in 2010 - 23/15/2 on 38% TS. Terrible, terrible game for Kobe. He played really good defensively and rebounded but dude isn't Kawhi Leonard. His main contribution is his ability to score and create opportunities for his teammates. As a Lakers fan I lost a lot of respect for Kobe on this night. To the point where I literally felt weird after the game, because my team had won but my childhood hero had played so horribly that it almost cast a dark cloud on it. Looking back, this is the moment I realized that the team will always be bigger than the players. Regardless, Kobe had a really **** game.
Tim Duncan in 2005 - 25/11/3 on 42% TS. Again a really inefficient game. Manu was the star of this one, much like Ron Artest bailed Kobe out in 2010.
Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994 - 25/10/7 on 44% TS. Following the trend, Hakeem misses most of the shots he takes in the biggest game of his career. His Rockets are the first team to get to 90 points among the 6 teams looked at so far, which indicates that as nerves and defensive effort increased scoring went down. This makes sense. Subpar game for Hakeem.
Patirick Ewing in 1994 - 17/10/1 on 43% TS. Ewing pretty much couldn't score on Hakeem the entire series so it wasn't like he had an abnormally bad game when the stakes were the highest. Still a poor performance for someone who was averaging 22/12/3 on 50% TS for the postseason.
Magic Johnson in 1988 - 19/14/5 on 76% TS. The first good game within the list. Magic brought it, although you'd be foolish to call him the best player on the floor, or even on his own team, as Worthy had the game of his life in posting a line of 36/16/10 on 68% TS. So among 5 elite talents we have looked at we see one good game but still no count where the best player on the team performs as such. Well maybe Hakeem played the best on his team, but he certainly did not perform up to caliber.
Isiah Thomas in 1988- I'm not even gonna count him because he was so badly injured. But he would definitely belong in this discussion if that weren't the case (although he might not have been in a Game 7 in the first place if he didn't get hurt in the 3rd quarter of Game 6.) His inclusion is just me trying to indicate the level of player that I'm attempting to analyze.
Larry Bird in 1984 - 20/12/3 on 6/18 from the field and 12/12 from the line (no TS percentage data.) Larry had an atypically inefficient night but got to the line more often than he usually did. Both follow in line with what other superstars did when the defense got really tight in this situation.
Magic Johnson in 1984 - 16/15/5 on 5/14 from the field and 5/8 from the line. Not up to Magic's standards on this night, although he did distribute the wealth as he always did. Still, he missed most of his shots and made a couple key errors down the stretch (he had 7 TO overall.)
I'm gonna stop at that point because it's the 30 year mark (and I'm too drunk to keep going.) Anyways what I'm getting at is that most superstar players play poorly in this context. Of my 7 examples only Magic in 88 had a good game. He was the only one who shot above 50% TS (I'm assuming Bird's 84 outing was below that number.) So in most cases, the superstar will score less than he usually does and will miss most of his shots. The relevance of this is something that I do not enjoy illuminating. As much as it pains me to do this, we should compare these numbers to Lebron's Game 7 performance-
Lebron James in 2013 - 37/12/4 on 70% TS. Not only did Lebron outscore every one by double digits, he did so on an efficiency that was nearly unparalleled. I really don't like the guy but we need to acknowledge that Lebron clearly had the best Game 7 performance that anyone under 40 has ever seen. A guy who we always liked to claim didn't have it in him to perform in the big moments did so at a level that is unparalleled in the last 30 years.
I know Russell had a 30/40 game somewhere along the line in one of his many Game 7's, and Jerry West had a triple double where he scored over 40. But this conversation is about post-merger ball. My question to you guys is, how does this affect Lebron's legacy? Is it as big a deal as my inner (primitive minded) basketball fan tells me it is? I'm honestly really taken back by how little this community has discussed how well this transcendent, highly criticized player performed in the pressure cooker that is a Game 7.