Research: LeBron has been the top player in more playoff series than anybody else in NBA history

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Research: LeBron has been the top player in more playoff series than anybody else in NBA history

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Research: LeBron has been the top player in more playoff series than anybody else in NBA history

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We recently looked up playoff GameScore ratings from the indispensable Basketball-Reference, an advanced stat created by former Grizzlies front-office member John Hollinger which gives “a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game.”

According to GameScore, LeBron James has been the No. 1 player in more playoff series than anyone else, which speaks to the four-time league MVP’s sustained level of excellence and longevity. James has been the top statistical player 38 times out of the 45 playoff series he’s taken part in, per GameScore, good for a percentage of 84.4 percent.

Not to be outdone, however, Michael Jordan owns the best percentage of series in which he was the best player. Only twice out of the 37 playoff series he competed in was he not the top player, giving him a strong percentage of 94.6 percent.

James and Jordan finish as runaway No. 1 and No. 2 on our rankings here respectively, James with 38 playoff series as the No. 1 player per GameScore and Jordan with 35.

Other eye-opening entries on these rankings: Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Durant and Reggie Miller rank higher than you might expect based on how they are typically ranked in GOAT lists. Olajuwon was the No. 1 statistical player in 19 playoff series (as many as Shaquille O’Neal), Durant in 15 series (three more than Kobe Bryant) and Miller in 11 series (as many as Dwyane Wade).

There is one important caveat to consider here: These numbers are only dating back to 1983-84. If not for that, legends like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would rank higher, and others like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would make the list, though they still wouldn’t beat LeBron or Jordan based on the number of series they played in.

For the full ranking of the Top 22 players with the most playoff series as the top player, just click through the gallery above.

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