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Ranking the best individual player runs in NBA playoff history

Legends are made in the key moments of the NBA Playoffs, but it takes consistency all postseason long in order to win a championship.

In this article, we'll take a look at the best postseasons by individual players in NBA history.

Bill Walton - 1977

NBA legends including Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, George McGinnis, and Elvin Hayes played in the 1977 Playoffs, but then-Portland Trail Blazers center Bill Walton stood above them all en route to an NBA Championship.

In the playoffs, Walton led all players in total rebounds, total assists, total blocks, defensive rating and defensive win shares, and he finished in the top five in points per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game. He averaged 18.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 3.4 blocks and 1.1 steals in the postseason.

Walton led all players in rebounding in all six games of the Blazers' NBA Finals series against the Philadelphia 76ers. In the championship-clinching Game 6, he dropped 20 points with 23 rebounds, seven assists, and eight blocked shots, one more block than the entire Sixers team that game.

LeBron James - 2012

LeBron James in 2011/12 was at a crossroads. He was coming off the biggest disappointment of his career, which was the Miami Heat's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals in his first season in South Beach, and it was the worst statistical postseason of his career to that point.

In the 2012 postseason, James bumped all of his per-game averages from the 2011 playoffs: he went from 23.7 points in the 2011 playoffs to 30.3 in 2012, from 8.4 rebounds to 9.7, and from a 46.6 field goal percentage to 50 percent. Plus, he led all players in postseason minutes with 42.7 per game.

James scored at least 25 points in 21 of his 23 playoff games in 2012. The only stat of his that decreased from the 2011 postseason to the 2012 edition was his assists, which went from 5.9 to 5.6, and that explains how his field goal attempts went from 17.8 in 2011 to 21.8 in 2012.

His best performances were 40 points, 18 boards and nine assists in a second-round win over the Indiana Pacers, 45 points on 73.1 percent shooting in an Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 win over the Boston Celtics after three straight losses, and 26 points, 11 boards and 13 assists to clinch the title in Game 5 of the Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard - 2019

Kawhi Leonard was upset with his first NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, due to differences in opinion over injury treatment and he made it clear that he wanted to go home to a Los Angeles-based team in a trade. Instead, the Spurs shipped him to the Toronto Raptors.

Leonard spent just one season in Toronto, and he led the team to its first championship in franchise history while averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals throughout the postseason.

These playoffs are best known for the biggest moment of Leonard's career, a series-winning buzzer-beating shot against the Philadelphia 76ers which capped off a 41-point performance. In six games against the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, he averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks.

Hakeem Olajuwon - 1994

Michael Jordan's playoff success meant that plenty of legendary players in the 1990s went without rings. The best opportunity to win a title was during Jordan's temporary retirement, and Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon took advantage in both Jordan-less postseasons.

The one we're highlighting here is The Dream's 1994 playoff run where he averaged 28.9 points, 11 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.0 blocks and 1.7 steals on 51.9 percent shooting. He had nine games with at least five blocks, and in the Finals he averaged 26.9 points, 9.1 boards, 3.6 assists, 3.9 blocks and 1.6 steals.

Olajuwon's most notable performances included a 46-point, 10-rebound, six-assist, six-block performance in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, 37 points with 17 boards and five assists in Game 7 of the second-round series against the Phoenix Suns, 41 points in Game 2 of the Conference Finals against the Utah Jazz with John Stockton and Karl Malone, and 30 points with 10 boards and four blocks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the New York Knicks.

Dwyane Wade - 2006

In 2005, the Miami Heat decided to go all-in around Dwyane Wade, who at that point was a 24-year-old shooting guard who couldn't shoot from the perimeter in his third NBA season.

The franchise surrounded its young star with veterans, including then-33-year-old Shaquille O'Neal, 37-year-old Gary Payton, 35-year-old Alonzo Mourning and 30-year-old Jason Williams. Long story short, it worked, and Wade only got better as the playoffs went on.

Miami beat a young Chicago Bulls team featuring Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon in five games in the first round and then beat the New Jersey Nets, led by Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, in the second round.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami took six games to beat a Detroit Pistons team that still had much of the same roster that won the title in 2004. Wade did it all in that series with averages of 26.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting 61.7 percent from the field.

Wade got even better in the Finals. The Heat dug themselves into a 0-2 deficit against a Dallas Mavericks team with Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry and Josh Howard, but Wade led the comeback.

He averaged 31 points, nine rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals in the Finals, and in the four wins, he dropped 39.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals and one block in 44.6 minutes per game.

Michael Jordan - 1991

With six NBA Championship rings won during one of the most physical and talent-heavy periods in NBA history, there are plenty of postseasons to choose from when it comes to Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls teams. We're going to focus on his first ring, which he won in 1991.

Jordan was 28 years old at this point, and he had previously dominated postseasons without going all the way: he led all postseason players in points on four occasions before 1991. He dropped 43.7 a night in the 1986 playoffs, 35.7 points per game in 1987, 34.8 ppg en route to a Conference Finals loss in 1988, and 36.7 points in 1989.

His 31.1 points per game in 1991 was his second-lowest playoff average at that point of his career, but he grabbed the most rebounds per game (7.2) and dished out the second-most assists per game (8.4) of any playoffs he had played in by then. Plus, he led all players in playoff steals at 2.8 per game.

Jordan had a bunch of legendary games in the 1991 playoffs. He scored 28 points while shooting 3/4 from three, grabbing six boards, dishing out six assists, and getting two steals in a 41-point Game 1 win over the Knicks in the first round. He dropped 29 points with eight rebounds and eight assists in a 21-point win over the Detroit Pistons to advance to the Finals.

After losing Game 1 of the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, Jordan led the Bulls to four straight wins to take the series in five games. He averaged 31.2 points, 6.6 boards, a whopping 11.4 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks in those Finals against the Magic Johnson and James Worthy-led Lakers.

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