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5 NBA franchises LeBron James repeatedly ruins in the playoffs, ranked

These poor teams feel LeBron’s wrath over and over.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA playoffs go well for some teams, until they play against LeBron James. We know by now that The King is incredible at this whole basketball thing, and has a special affinity for ripping others’ hearts out.

Through his 15 years in this league, and 13 in the playoffs, LeBron has done nothing quiet. He’s burned bodies and buried franchises six feet under, only to pull up the carcass again the next year and bury them further. Some teams have had it worse than others. The Indiana Pacers felt The King’s wrath in five different summers — and unlike this year, most have been unpleasant.

As we look into LeBron’s future and continue to ponder when and how age will catch up to the indestructible demigod, it’s important to remember the damage he’s already caused to poor east coast souls.

Here are the five franchises LeBron has most disrespectfully punted from planet Earth, remembered by the defining moment they were ruined in and ranked by embarrassment.

5. Indiana Pacers

Playoff record vs. LeBron: 10-20

Crushed by the King in: 2012 conference semis (4-2), 2013 conference finals (4-3), 2014 conference finals (4-2), 2017 first round (4-0), 2018 first round (4-3).

Star players to fail include: Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Al Jefferson, Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson, David West

LeBron’s defining moment: Two obvious ones stand out and we can’t break the tie, so using both. One: this layup in Game 1 in 2013.

Two: the game-winner from the top of the key this season.

The Pacers may have the most series losses against The King in the playoffs (five), but at least they’ve come close enough to force two Game 7s. No other team on this list can say that.

Indiana’s gone through a pair of Lance Stephenson eras, a lengthy Paul George era and a newfound Victor Oladipo one with no luck. But maybe, just maybe, these Pacers have a chance in 2019.

4. Washington Wizards

Playoff record vs. LeBron: 4-12

Crushed by the King in: 2006 first round (4-2), 2007 first round (4-0), 2008 first round (4-2)

Star players to fail include: Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison

LeBron’s defining moment: Two game-winners in the same 2006 series were purely humiliating.

The first came from James’ inhuman strength, barreling to the basket and hanging in the air for an eternity until he muscled through for a layup.

The second flashed his speed, beating defenders baseline for an easy lay-in.

Bonus: The time Gilbert Arenas missed a free throw in overtime of Game 6, and LeBron immediately after told him he lost the series. Ten seconds later, James’ hockey assist for a Damon Jones three made that true.

Another bonus: After DeShawn Stevenson called LeBron “overrated” in 2008 James responded,It’s almost like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy. There’s no comparison. Enough said.”

That led Stevenson to invite Soulja Boy to their first-round playoff series, where he danced, and proceeded to watch the Cavs win.

A young LeBron James was so flashy, so confident and wonderfully cocky that it’s hard not to appreciate. Three or so years into the league, this is when we were starting to find out how special he really was. Little did we know this would continue for another decade-plus.

3. Chicago Bulls

Playoff record vs. LeBron: 5-16

Crushed by the King in: 2010 first round (4-1), 2011 conference finals (4-1), 2013 conference semis (4-1), 2015 conference semis (4-2)

Star players to fail include: Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose

LeBron’s defining moment: Corner buzzer-beater in Game 4 of the 2015 conference semis

The Bulls haven’t come close to beating LeBron James in any of their four playoff matchups, even though they had the better record in 2011 and were close to even in 2015. Most devastatingly, they lost an opportunity to lead 3-1 in the 2015 conference semis when LeBron hit the above game-winner. This is the play James overruled then-head coach David Blatt and said that they were either going to overtime or he was going to win it ... He won it.

James has been the reason for several Chicago reconstructions, and now the team is flat-out tanking.

2. Toronto Raptors

Playoff record vs. LeBron: 2-11 (and counting)

Crushed by the King in: 2016 conference semis (4-2), 2017 conference finals (4-0), 2018 conference semis (3-0 so far).

Star players to fail include: DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas

LeBron’s defining moment: What else other than this?

Also: Hitting eight vicious fadeaways in one night on the road in Game 2 of the 2018 conference semis

LeBron will likely beat the Raptors for the third straight year, and this pattern gets more and more depressing with each rendition.

Every season Toronto vows to get better, executes exactly what they promise in the regular season, and then LeBron ruins it all. It was foolish for anyone to believe that a deeper bench would be the answer to his firepower.

He’s brought a whole dang country to tears in three straight summers, and there’s no sign he’ll slow down.

1. Atlanta Hawks

Playoff record vs. LeBron: 0-12

Crushed by the King in: 2009 conference semis (4-0), 2015 conference finals (4-0), 2016 conference semis (4-0)

Star players to fail include: Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague

LeBron’s defining moment: This dunk in 2015, where James flew.

Three chances. Three! Zero wins. Zero!

The Hawks built a team so complete that all five starters were awarded player of the month, yet they couldn’t combine for a single victory against The King when they had seven more regular-season wins. And don’t get us started about 2016.

These four sweeps weren’t first-round matchups either. Twice they fell in the conference semis, and once in the conference finals.

You can’t beat The King without a team of superstars. History has proven that.


Playoff record vs. LeBron: 0-4

Crushed by the King in: 2013 first round.

Star players to fail include: Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings

LeBron’s defining moment: Sweeping the team Jennings said was going to win in 6 with four double-digit wins.

This series would’ve been so insignificant had Brandon Jennings not promised (sort of) a six-game win for his 38-44 Bucks in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, but here we are.

LeBron dominated the series and swept ‘em without any game coming closer than an 11-point win. Four years later, Jennings would play in China.