Greatest individual playoff runs in NBA history
With hundreds of players playing in the NBA playoffs each season, it is difficult to select the best NBA playoff runs by a player in league history. Many are able to have an unbelievable performance in one or two postseason games, but only the best have been able to put it all together through an entire playoff run.
Best NBA playoff runs by a player
The playoffs are where a star can become a superstar and a superstar can become an all-time great. The greatest postseason runs by a player include dominating not only a game or a single series, but multiple series on the way to an NBA Finals run.
The players on this list were by far the best player on the court for most nights in the postseason. They also found a way to carry their teams deep in the playoffs. Only those who made the NBA Finals during their amazing run will be considered for one of the best NBA playoff runs by a player since 1980 (when 3-point field goals were tracked).
10. Kawhi Leonard, 2019
Kawhi Leonard was incredible for the Raptors during the entire 2019 playoffs.
In a tight second-round series against the 76ers, Leonard scored more than 30 points in five of the seven games. In game seven, Leonard dropped 41 points, which included the game-winner at the buzzer to eliminate Philadelphia.
He would score at least 30 points in seven of the next 12 games, leading Toronto to their first-ever NBA Championship. Leonard averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals throughout the playoffs. He took home the Finals MVP for the second time in his career.
9. Larry Bird, 1984
In his best playoff performance, Larry Bird won his second NBA Championship in 1984.
Bird did it all for the Celtics throughout the playoffs that season. He had 30+ points in seven games, 10+ rebounds in 15 games, and 10+ assists in four of his 23 playoff games that year. His best game was game seven against the Knicks in the second round, where he had a 39-point triple-double to avoid elimination.
In the NBA Finals, Larry Bird averaged 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game. He scored at least 20 points in all seven games against the Lakers in the Finals. He was named Finals MVP for the first time.
8. Dwyane Wade, 2006
In 23 playoff games, Wade scored under 20 points just once. He also had 11 games where he scored at least 30 points and two games where he scored more than 40 points.
Wade’s performance only got better throughout the playoffs that season. In the NBA Finals, he averaged 34.7 points per game against the Mavericks. In the final four games, Wade scored 42, 36, 43, and 36 points. The Heat won in six games and Wade was named Finals MVP.
7. Hakeem Olajuwon, 1994
Hakeem Olajuwon took full advantage of Michael Jordan’s first retirement in 1994. He averaged 28.9 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks per game during one of the best NBA playoff runs by a player in the last 40 years.
With no help, Olajuwon was averaging 43 minutes of playing time per game. He took at least 20 shots in all but five games in the postseason. Despite averaging more than 22 shot attempts per game, Olajuwon was shooting 51.9% from the field and had five games where he shot above 60%.
In the NBA Finals against the Knicks, Olajuwon was three assists shy of a triple-double in game seven to secure a Houston Rockets championship. He was named Finals MVP.
6. LeBron James, 2016
Everyone knows about the 3-1 series comeback in the Finals, but LeBron James was dominant throughout the entire postseason in 2016.
In 21 playoff games that season, James averaged 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. LeBron scored at least 20 points in all but one game.
In the NBA Finals, James elevated his level even further in one of the best NBA playoff series ever. After going down 3-1, LeBron had back-to-back 41-point games to force a game seven. In game seven, LeBron had a triple-double in addition to the unbelievable late-game block to win his third NBA Championship.
5. Michael Jordan, 1993
One of the best NBA playoff runs by a player, Michael Jordan rolled through the competition on the way to a third straight title.
Jordan averaged an outstanding 35.1 points per game during the postseason. He attempted more than 27 shots per game but also dished out six assists per game. In 19 playoff games, Jordan scored 30 or more points in 13 of those games.
The NBA Finals brought the best out of Jordan, as he was simply unguardable. Jordan averaged 41 points per game in the Finals, which included a 55-point performance in game four.
4. Shaquille O’Neal, 2001
The Los Angeles Lakers went 15-1 in one of the top playoff runs by a team in NBA history. Shaquille O’Neal was a big reason for the success in 2001, as he averaged 30.4 points per game in the postseason.
In addition to scoring 30 each night, O’Neal grabbed more than 15 rebounds per game and averaged 2.4 blocks. O’Neal had three 40-point games during the run and had at least 25 points in 13 of the 16 games.
O’Neal averaged 33 points per game in the NBA Finals as he was named Finals MVP for the second time.
3. LeBron James, 2012
LeBron was a machine in 2012 on the way to his first NBA title.
James averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. In the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, LeBron scored at least 29 points in all seven games. He scored 31 points and had 12 rebounds in game seven to advance to the Finals.
James and the Heat would go on to defeat the Thunder in five games in the NBA Finals. LeBron had a triple-double in the closeout game and was named Finals MVP.
2. Tim Duncan, 2003
Tim Duncan was exceptional for the Spurs throughout the 2003 playoffs. He carried the team to victories over the three-time defending champion Lakers and the 60-win Mavericks.
Duncan averaged 24.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 3.3 blocks per game in the postseason. He had six games with at least 20 rebounds and had two triple-doubles. Duncan also had six games where he scored at least 30 points, which included a 40-point game against Dallas.
In game six of the NBA Finals, Duncan finished with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 11 assists, and eight blocks to secure a San Antonio Spurs championship. He won Finals MVP in one of the best NBA playoff runs by a player in NBA history.
1. Michael Jordan, 1991
In 1991, Michael Jordan gave us the greatest individual postseason run ever.
Throughout the playoffs, Jordan averaged 31.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. He was shooting 52.4% from the field while attempting 22.1 shots per game. Jordan scored at least 20 points in all 17 of his playoff games that season. He also had eight games where he scored 30+ points, which included a 46-point game in the second round against the 76ers.
In the NBA Finals, Jordan would have at least 28 points and nine assists in all five games. In the championship-clinching game, Jordan had 30 points and 10 assists while also collecting five steals. He was named Finals MVP for the first time in his career.
Jun 13, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) celebrate winning the NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors against game six of the 2019 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports With hundreds of players playing in the NBA playoffs…
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