How Many Times Has LeBron James Made it to the Playoffs?

Published 05/27/2021, 2:00 PM EDT
Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, December 22, 2020 – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) exults after receiving his championship ring during an on court ceremony at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


LeBron James is arguably one of the best players the NBA has ever seen. Given that he was drafted in 2003, it is staggering to see the King dominate the league in his 18th year in the league. Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, LBJ is currently in yet another post-season run and is aiming for a repeat this season. But how many playoff appearances has LeBron James made in his career?

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During his career, LeBron James has made it to the post-season on several occasions. Let us take a look at each time James made it to the playoffs.

LeBron James begins his playoff journey

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2005-06: James reached the playoffs with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in his third season with the franchise. The Cavaliers had been historically very poor but were steadily improving since James joined the team. His first playoff series was against the Washington Wizards. The King and the Cavs made quick work of the Wizards in six games. However, they couldn’t get past defending Eastern Conference Finalists Detroit Pistons, despite pushing them to seven games.

2006-07: James returned to the playoffs in 2007 with a vengeance. He led the Cavs to sweep the Wizards, then defeated the New Jersey Nets in six games to book a place in the Eastern Conference Finals. There, he and the Cavs defeated the Detroit Pistons to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in just his fourth season. However, he was no match for the San Antonio Spurs and their big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. He and the Cavs got swept.

Lakers Kobe Bryant argues with a referee as Cavaliers LeBron James laughs at the Staples Center Friday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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2007-08: LeBron and the Cavs entered the playoffs, trying to reach the NBA Finals once again. They defeated the Wizards once again in the first round, this time in six games. However, James encountered another big three, this time in Boston. He pushed the trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen to seven games, but couldn’t overcome the eventual champions.

2008-09: James and the Cavs swept the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in round one and two. Despite making one of his most famous shots during the series, he couldn’t overcome Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, losing to them in six games.

2009-10: The Cleveland Cavaliers once again failed to reach the NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics’ big three in six games in the conference finals. This season, and this series, served as the catalyst for James’ decision.

Here comes the Big Three

LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat, forming a big three of his own with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Thus began one of the most impressive stretches in NBA playoff history.

2010-11: The Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics to reach the 2011 NBA Finals. All things were in place for James to fulfill his destiny and win his first NBA championship. However, he suffered one of the biggest collapses from a superstar in NBA Finals history. He and the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

2011-12: James and the Heat entered the season looking for redemption. The Heat dominated their way through the East to reach the conference finals. But there they were on the brink of elimination. With his back against the wall, James had arguably his best game ever to beat the Celtics in game six. Eventually, the Heat reached the Finals once again, where they defeated Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

February 18, 2014: Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade #3, Miami Heat small forward LeBron James #6 and Miami Heat center Chris Bosh #1 observe the National Anthem before an NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Miami defeated Dallas 117-106 (Photo by Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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2012-13: Now the defending champions, James and the Miami Heat made their way back to the NBA Finals. This time, James got revenge for his first Finals disappointment. They faced the San Antonio Spurs, but this time, James had more help. The Spurs dominated the Heat, until game six, when Ray Allen made one of the most clutch shots in NBA history. His shot allowed the Heat to push the series to game seven, where they won the NBA title.

2013-14: The Heat failed to go back-to-back, as they lost to the Spurs in a rematch. The Spurs dominated the Heat, with a young Kawhi Leonard dominating James on the defensive end to win Finals MVP. This was the end of James in the Miami Heat.

‘Cleveland, this is for you!’

2014-15: LeBron shocked the world and returned to Cleveland, where he had left four years prior. He formed a big three with current Cleveland star Kyrie Irving, and the recently acquired Kevin Love. The trio led the Cavs to the NBA Finals. However, both of them got injured in the Finals, as James lost to the Golden State Warriors, led by Stephen Curry.

2015-16: The Cavaliers were able to reach the NBA Finals once again. This time, all three of their stars were healthy. But they lost to the Golden State Warriors in their first four games, leaving the series at 3-1. The Cavs then went on to complete the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, defeating the Warriors. James completed an iconic block on Iguodala to secure the Finals MVP title.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (2) and Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (23) return to the locker room after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 13, 2016. Cleveland defeated Golden State 112-97. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)
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2016-17: The Cavs reached the NBA Finals for the third year in a row. However, they were outmatched by the Golden State Warriors, who acquired superstar Kevin Durant after their loss in the Finals last year. They lost to the Warriors in five games.

2017-18: The final chapter of the historic Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry took place in 2018. The Cavaliers, this time without Kyrie Irving, took on the Warriors one more time. A last-second blunder by J.R Smith cost the Cavaliers game one. After that, the Cavs ended up getting swept again. Thus came to end the second spell of LeBron James in Cleveland.

LeBron James finally conquers the West

In 2018, James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was his first stint in the Western Conference. However, his first season with the Lakers was far from successful. James suffered a groin injury that ruled him out for a significant amount of time. By the time he returned, he could secure a playoff spot.

Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, December 22, 2020 – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) puts on his NBA Championship ring during an on court ceremony at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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2019-20: This would end up being the longest season in NBA history. Prior to the start of the season, the Lakers traded for superstar Anthony Davis to pair with James. The duo became the best in the NBA and led the Lakers to best record in the West. After the season was resumed in the Orlando Bubble, the Lakers made their way through the Western Conference to reach the NBA Finals. There, James was able to beat his former team the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship.

2020-21: James enters the playoffs as the seventh seed, the lowest seeding of his career. He and Anthony Davis led the Lakers to victory over the Warriors in the play-in game. Now, they are in the midst of a hotly contested series with the Phoenix Suns.

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LeBron James has reached the playoffs 15 times. Of these, he has reached the Finals an astonishing 10 times. So James has a 2/3rd success rate of reaching the Finals across his career. James’ playoff record is elite on every level, and it looks like he will continue to improve on it as time goes on.

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Aaditya Krishnamurthy

1313 articles

Aaditya Krishnamurthy is an NBA & NFL journalist for EssentiallySports, before which he worked at BusinessWorld magazine. He has been a fan of Basketball for over 10 years now, since Shaquille O’Neal was a Phoenix Suns player. During his time at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, he started a sports magazine for the college called the Overtime Tribune and hosted the Overtime Tribune Podcast until he graduated.

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