LeBron James scored 27 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds in Miami’s win over Philadelphia on Wednesday in the Heat’s historic 20th consecutive win.
Only three other teams have won at least 20 straight in a single season (the Washington Capitols, who played basketball in the 40′s, won 20 straight spanning two seasons). Two other teams won 19 straight, and all six clubs that won at least 19 in a row had historically great players on their respective squads.
The 1970-1971 Lakers team that won a record 33 games in a row were led by Hall Of Famers Gail Goodrich and Jerry West along with the aging Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Chamberlain was 35 that season, but still put up some incredible numbers, which we’ll soon observe and discuss. The Houston Rockets amazingly won 22 straight during the 2007-2008 season led by Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, the latter of whom suffered a season-ending foot injury 12 games into the streak.
Then there are the two teams that have won 20 in a row, with the current incarnation of the Heat one of them. The other is the incredibly interesting 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks, who were led by Oscar Robertson and a 23-year-old young stud named Lou Alcindor, who led the league in scoring that year with 31.7 points per game. The two teams that won 19 in a row were the 2008-2009 Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, and the Shaq and Kobe-led 1999-2000 Lakers.
The aim here is to determine whether LeBron James’ current run of excellence is the greatest performance by a player during a historical winning streak. For the sake of argument, debate and fun, we’ll compare the win streaks of the half-dozen players who meant most to their teams that season: Alcindor, Chamberlain, Garnett, James, McGrady and O’Neal (in alphabetic order).
These amazing win streaks came at different stages of the players’ careers, and in the case of Alcindor and Chamberlain, it came before the 3-pointer was instituted in the pro game and before blocked shots and steals were official recorded stats in the NBA.
James has shown more versatility during this streak for the Heat than any of the other five players on this list, along with an extremely impressive shooting percentage compared to other players who likely took higher percentage shots in the post back in the day.
O’Neal’s numbers look extremely impressive with a 30 and 14 average, especially considering Shaq played alongside a budding star by the name of Kobe Bryant. McGrady played a LeBron-light during his tenure with the Rockets, but his field goal percentage looks like a joke compared with the rest of the players during their winning runs.
Among the other big men, Garnett’s numbers are certainly impressive in our modern game but pale in comparison to the transcendant stats put up by all-time greats Chamblerlain and Alcindor. Just imagine the ESPN frenzy if a 23-year-old player average nearly 30 points and over 17 rebounds per game led a team to a 20-game winning streak in 2012! And you can tell how special Chamberlain was by the fact that he averaged nearly 20 rebounds per game at age 35, including 20.3 caroms during Los Angeles’ record 33-game run.
But among this sensational sextet of superstars, which one can we call the best player on a team with a historic win streak?
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