LeBron: Hungry for a championship

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Did I miss something? Since when is John McCain starting at shooting guard for the Boston Celtics?

We knew the Boston Celtics were banged up and looking a little, shall we say "long in the tooth" coming into this series against the Miami Heat.

But the way Miami Heat superstar LeBron James dominated them in Game 1, you'd think Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were in attendance the day James Naismith first thought it would be a good idea to start throwing a ball into a 10-foot-high peach basket.

Right now King James is hotter than the logo on his team's uniforms. He's running circles around the Celtics, just like he did in the second round against the Indiana Pacers and in the first round against the New York Carmelo Anthonys ... I mean New York Knicks.

Every year it's the same story: LeBron can move mountains during the regular season, but once the playoffs start, the guy can't close a screen door.

Except for this season.

No Chris Bosh, no problem. The Heat dropped their first two contests without him, but since then LeBron and Dwyane Wade have found another gear and it's pretty scary. James has averaged 32.5 ppg during Miami's four-game postseason winning streak while Wade has put up 30.3.

But come on, the whole "dynamic duo" thing has been done to death.

James is averaging 29.3 ppg for the postseason with Wade checking in at 23.7 ppg. You think that's unique?

Well, not really. Over in the Western Conference, Kevin Durant (27.1 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (23.7 ppg) are doing essentially the same thing. And about 10 years ago at the turn of the century, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal accomplished that feat (two teammates averaging more than 23 ppg in the playoffs) three postseasons in a row.

Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley have done it for the Dallas Mavericks. The Sacramento Kings had Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic do it (2002-03). The Houston Rockets had Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming (2004-05) and the Phoenix Suns had Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire (2004-05). Heck even, Troy Hudson and Kevin Garnett did it once (2002-03) for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But let's go back to LeBron for a minute because individually, what he's doing is pretty amazing. Check out his postseason stat line: 29.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 5.7 apg. That's just silly.

The last time a player scored over 25 ppg with more than 9 rpg and 5 apg over a single postseason? It was in 2008-09 and, yes, you guessed it was LeBron James (29.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 7.6 apg).

The time before that? It was James again, this time in 2007-08 (35.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.3 apg).

The last player other than James to conquer the 25 ppg/9 rpg/5 apg barrier in the playoffs was Garnett back in 2002-03. He put up a filthy 27 ppg, 15.7 rpg and 5.2 apg in that postseason.

James and Garnett might be on equal footing in that respect, but 10 days ago, LeBron was able to do something that KG has never accomplished in 119 career playoff games: score 40 points in one game.

James recorded 40 points exactly in Miami's momentum-swinging Game 4 win over the Pacers, the 10th time he has reached the 40-point plateau in 104 career postseason appearances.

That means James has been able to reach 40 points in a contest about once every 10 games throughout his playoff career. That number compares favorably to Kobe Bryant, who has collected 13 games of 40-plus points in 220 career playoff games (that's one 40-point night every 16.9 games), though it still hails in comparison to Jordan, who scored 40 points or more about once every five games (36 times in 179 postseason outings) during his career.

Though Larry Bird eclipsed the rare 25 ppg/9 rpg/5 apg plateau four postseasons in a row during his outstanding career with the Celtics (between 1983-87, Bird averaged an astonishing 26.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 6.7 apg), he never had the kind of game LeBron had in Game 4 of the Indiana series. Or at least not during the playoffs.

Not only did LeBron net 40 points in that contest, he also grabbed 18 rebounds while dishing out nine assists. Only James could put up a stat line that incredible.

Even Bird, Jordan and Magic Johnson couldn't do it.

James has drawn many comparisons to Johnson throughout his career because of their similar height (both stand at about 6-foot-9), strong court vision and their willingness to distribute and involve others in addition to scoring. But the closest Magic ever came to a performance like LeBron's 40-point/18- rebound/nine-assist night in the playoffs was a 44-point/12-rebound/nine-assist game against the Golden State Warriors back on May 8, 1991.

Jordan, though not the elite rebounder that James is, contributed 40 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and six steals on May 13, 1989 against the Knicks in one of his better all-around postseason efforts.

If James and the Heat take care of business like they're supposed to and dispose of Boston, James will have matched another one of Jordan's hallowed milestones: it will be his third trip to the Finals in nine seasons. In fact, it only took James four NBA seasons to reach his first Finals, a feat that eluded MJ until his seventh season in the league.

LeBron's gaudy stats indicate that he is one of the finest performers in postseason history, on par with Bird, Bryant, Duncan, Garnett, Johnson, Jordan and countless others.

But there's still that 800-pound gorilla in the room. The thing that separates James, described by Colin Cowherd on the radio Wednesday as "20 percent Jordan, 20 percent Pippen, 30 percent Magic and 30 percent something we've never seen before" from true greatness.

Bird, Bryant, Duncan, Garnett, Johnson and Michael Jordan have all won NBA championships ... 24 of them, in fact. LeBron still has zero and with the San Antonio Spurs heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on a 20-game win streak, it might stay that way.

Can LeBron finally get over the hump?

Who knows, but that's why we're watching, isn't it?

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.