All-time conference finals players
LeBron, Hakeem, Jordan rank among conference finals top 10
- Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James' stellar Thursday night performance further elevated his conference finals résumé.
LeBron James had an incredible performance against the Pacers on Thursday night, pouring in 30 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists, including a dominant stretch during the third quarter in which his 16 points gave Miami a stranglehold on the game and the series. For most players, that would have been the game of a lifetime, to perform at that high of a level on such a big stage. But for James, it was pretty much par for the course; in fact, it wouldn't have even cracked his top 10 greatest conference finals performances.
The numbers support it; last night's showing ranked 11th in James' pantheon of conference finals games. I ran the calculations on every conference finals performance since 1986, the first year for which Basketball-Reference.com has complete box scores. For each player, I computed Alternate Win Score (AWS), a linear-weights formula that multiple studies have found to be the best of its kind in terms of predicting future team performance. I also made adjustments for the quality of the opponent, location of the game and team defensive performance that isn't captured by the box score, and I weighted everything by championship leverage index to account for the game's level of "clutchness."
What follows are the results of that study -- the 10 best conference finals performers of the past 28 seasons, according to AWS per game (minimum 10 conference finals games played).
Was James' performance Thursday good enough to put his career average over the top?
Just Derek Fisher, Shaquille O'Neal, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Rasheed Wallace and Robert Horry have played more conference finals games than Bryant since 1986 (Michael Jordan is tied with Kobe at 45). And just Fisher, Horry, Pippen, Jordan and Rodman can beat Bryant's 28 wins in that span.
Signature performance: Bryant tallied 30 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists at Sacramento in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals (4.8 leverage index).
To see the full list of the top all-time conference finals players, become an Insider today.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.
MORE NBA HEADLINES
- Clips extend streak to 7 behind Griffin, Paul
- Source: Phil considers Knicks front-office job
- Anthony's 26 pace Knicks in win over Cavs
- Sources: Lakers not ready to fire D'Antoni
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2013 NBA FINALS
- NBA Home
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Toronto Raptors
- Chicago Bulls
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Detroit Pistons
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Miami Heat
- Orlando Magic
- Washington Wizards
- Heat Index