LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time due to his sustained excellence and leadership.
1. Lance Stephenson
LeBron James ruled the East for a decade as many of the league's superstars headed to the Western Conference. There were a few teams who tried to stop King James, and one of the most memorable ones was the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers were able to take the LeBron James-led Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and to six games in 2014. They were the team that was the closest to toppling the reign of King James.
While Lance Stephenson was not particularly excellent in any one thing, he can give you a little bit of everything - points, rebounds, assists, steals, and hard-nosed defense. Lance was also an irritant to the opposing players as he would pull off antics such as huddling with opposing teams. He famously blew air on the ear of LeBron James.
Lance's finest season as a Pacer came in the 2013-2014 season when he averaged 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 4.6 APG. Ironically, Lance would join LeBron's Lakers in the 2018-2019 season as a teammate.
2. Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince is not a household name, but he was an integral part of the Chauncy Billups-led Detroit Pistons team, which went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals and two straight NBA Finals. He was drafted with the 23rd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft out of the University of Kentucky.
This incarnation of the Pistons was the first Detroit squad to win a championship since the Bad Boys era. Tayshaun was often tasked to guard the best players of opposing teams, such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Paul Pierce. Tayshaun's mobility, height, and long arms often made life difficult for the opposing team's star players.
The season the Pistons won their championship was Tayshaun's sophomore season where he averaged a solid 10.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Tayshaun's most remembered moment was a chase-down block on Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals.
He would also be instrumental in stifling Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant in the 2004 NBA Finals. This helped Detroit win their first championship since the 80's.
Prince's Pistons would vanquish King James' Cavaliers in 2006 and 2009 while King James would get his revenge in 2007.
Tayshaun was solid for the rest of his tenure with the Piston averaging 13-14 points, 4-5 rebounds and 2-3 assists.
3. Bruce Bowen
Bruce was an undrafted player in the 1993 draft who played out of Cal State Fullerton. Despite not being selected by any team, Bruce lasted nearly a decade and a half in the NBA.
He spent his first six years bouncing around Miami, Boston, and Philadelphia. He then found a home in San Antonio beginning in the 2001-2002 season. He spent eight seasons with the Spurs and won three titles while playing alongside great players like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker.
Bruce would often defend the best player on the opposing team, whether it be Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. Bruce was an elite defender, although there were times that his tactics bordered on being dirty.
Bruce was also known to be able to hit the corner three-pointer. He was a precursor to the modern 3-and-D player that all teams want nowadays. Sadly, Bruce will be more remembered for the flying kick he gave Wally Szczerbiak and for sticking his foot under Vince Carter when he was taking a jump shot.
4. Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce is one of the better-known modern-day players for the Boston Celtics. There was a time when he had Antoine Walker as his running mate; the two were able to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
When Walker was gone. Pierce had a lot of young talent around him, but none of them were ready for a serious playoff run. General Manager Danny Ainge, a former Celtics player, dealt his young talent and draft picks in order to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The superteam Celtics were able to reach three Eastern Conference Finals and two NBA Finals during their run. They even got a championship for the legendary Boston Celtics franchise. Pierce and his Celtics eliminated LeBron in 2008 and 2010.
LeBron got his revenge in 2011 when he had his own superteam to deal with the talent-laden Celtics. After a 15-year stint with the Celtics, Pierce played for the Nets, Wizards, and Clippers.
Pierce had career averages of 19.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG.
5. Kobe Bryant
This was the Finals match-up everyone wanted to see. Kobe was the modern-day version of Michael Jordan and LeBron was the modern-day version of Magic Johnson. The NBA kept hyping this match-up every season since LeBron gained superstardom.
Alas, it never happened. The closest we came to this was in 2009. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard bested LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals and this set up a match between Dwight and Kobe instead.
Kobe was the closest thing to Michael Jordan at the time. He had 5 championships, 2 Finals MVP, 1 regular season MVP, 18 All-Star appearances, 4 All-Star Game MVPs, 11 All-NBA First Team selections, 2 All-NBA Second Team selections, 2 All-NBA Third Team selections, 9 All-Defensive First Team selections, 3 All-Defensive Second Team selections, 2 scoring titles, and 1 Slam Dunk Contest championship. He had career averages of 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 4.7 APG.
© 2021 Jan Michael Ong
Jan Michael Ong (author) from Metro Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2021:
Agreed Troy Taylor
Troy Taylor from Anywhere on April 28, 2021:
Bron vs Kobe is the greatest Finals matchup we never got