The 2017 postseason marks the 10th anniversary the LeBron James’ an initial run to The Finals, as soon as his play it is provided the Cleveland Cavaliers come their first championship series.

You are watching: How many conference finals has lebron been to

Since that 2007 Finals trip, James has remained in The Finals 6 times, winning 3 championships in that span. That led the Cavs to the title in 2016 and, as the Cavs enter The 2017 Finals, us look ago on exactly how James’ 7 career Finals appearances have shaped both his career and the in ~ large.

* * *

Caron Butler experienced him coming, from mile away.

And that knew there was nothing he and also his Washington Wizards teammates might do to protect against him.

We all saw LeBron James, the young wunderkind through the headband and the otherworldly athleticism, the one-man highlight reel and self-proclaimed “Chosen One” who stormed the league from the moment Commissioner David Stern claimed his name on that stage in new York on draft night in 2003.

Decade of dominance series: part I | part II | component III | component IV

Butler, though, observed what the boy would become: a true technician, a youngster just 4 seasons right into an all-time good career who had actually seemingly already mastered the art of the game, a player who can not just elevate his own game, but additionally the gamings of those approximately him.

It was undeniable, especially for Butler and his Wizards team that had actually to battle LeBron and also the Cavaliers in three directly postseasons ~ above the means to the Cavaliers make their an initial appearance in The Finals in the summer the 2007.


“It was so amazing, you know, competing against him three straight years in the playoffs,” butler said. “We always said to ourselves, when he numbers it out, it’s game over. That was always just the much far better than anyone else. His basketball IQ, the means he obtained to his clues on the floor and was able to score and he took the below average player and also made them really good. As soon as you experienced that, i knew he to be going to it is in on the big stage for countless years come come.”

The reality that we’re 10 years eliminated from LeBron’s an initial trip to The Finals is not lost on Butler, retirement now and working together an analyst for number of networks, consisting of TV and ESPN.

Still, no one might have suspect a decade of dominance like the one LeBron has produced, not based upon the make up of the team that began it all. No one can have suspect the twists and also turns he would certainly engineer and endure follow me the way.

Nine times in his 14 seasons, LeBron has actually led his team come the conference finals. His existing run — seven straight trips come the conference finals, and three right in this, his second go-around v the Cavaliers — is invoice Russell-Celtics-level dominance.

Not even the most optimistic of observers could have foreshadowed this sort of run once LeBron inside wall up together Larry Hughes, Zyldrunas Ilgauskas, Sasha Pavlovic and Drew Gooden because that the opening pointer in the 2007 Finals versus the Tim Duncan-led mountain Antonio Spurs.

A dominant player rises in the East

The Detroit Pistons to be the course of the east Conference, having won a title in 2004 over the room of Fame-laden roster the featured a Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, karl Malone and also Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers. The next season, the Pistons combated Duncan’s spur to the cable in a seven game Finals the adhering to season. They to be in the middle of a operation of 6 straight trips come the conference finals themselves.

The Miami Heat caught the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2006 together LeBron’s good friend and Draft classmate, Dwyane Wade, joined pressures with O’Neal to turn up the warm on southern Beach, yet they weren’t constructed to last and also they entered rebuilding mode.

It wasn’t even clear climate whether or no LeBron to be the young superstar in the league you should bet on, what with Dwight Howard carving the end a space for himself with the Orlando Magic together the league’s most dominant young huge man.

Butler, however, insists us all should have seen the seeds of what LeBron had already planted in his native Northeast Ohio.

“Ask someone, I median a true hoophead, and also they couldn’t tell you who was on the team through him. I remained in those collection and ns don’t remember who we matched up against all these years later.”

Caron Butler, on the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers

“We tried to always add depth at the forward position to save alive human body on LeBron,” Butler stated of just how the Wizards make the efforts to against young LeBron. “It was myself, Jared Jeffries and and other guys. We tried to block the in and also blitz him. However whatever you verified him, he simply dissected it. He was a unique talent, favor I said, high IQ, and he simply picked a defense apart.”

Mike Dunleavy Sr., the’s Coach that the Year winner in 1999 who coached the LA Clippers native 2003-10, agrees through Butler … v the advantage of hindsight. Also from afar, only facing a young LeBron twice a year in an era once the unquestioned most leading player in the game, he believes the indications were there.

“I think anyone knew you could develop a team approximately him,” stated Dunleavy, now the coach in ~ Tulane. “But you figured you have to put some players around him, some genuine players, to obtain to a championship level. And also the other thing, I protected him for this reason weird at an early stage in his career since I believed he was just one the the biggest basketball minds and how he always delivered the sphere on the money. When I saw him pat I claimed to myself, ‘this males is a suggest guard.’ and it transforms out that is a suggest guard, you know.

“There to be this concept that he had to have the ability to score against two and also three players to it is in effective. And I’m like, ‘no, you obtained to obtain him far better players, surround that with men who have the right to make shots.’ the wasn’t around building a wall around him defensively. Us all learned that pretty quickly.”

The Boston Celtics’ tandem of All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen would certainly come later, a super team created to difficulty the upstart Cavaliers and also aging Pistons for east Conference supremacy.

So the organic nature of what occurred in Cleveland in 2007 truly came out that nowhere. In fact, that Cavaliers team wasn’t taken into consideration championship material. LeBron was their only All-Star and also he still had skeptics who weren’t certain if the was all set to bring a team come a championship level.

LeBron’s greatness takes facility stage

The thinking was, ago then, the after a year or 2 of banging their heads against the wall the Pistons had created, the Cavs can be all set to knock the down and also reach The Finals.

“A good player, a transcendent player can accelerate her process,” claimed Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who was the general manager that the brand-new York Knicks native 2003-08. “And ns think there was a agreement even then that he was that form of player.”

When the playoffs started it was clear LeBron was all set to take it his game to another level. The Cavaliers swept the Wizards after season-ending injuries come both Butler and also Gilbert Arenas left them defenseless against the onslaught.

“People don’t also remember that roster, ns bet you,” butler said. “Ask someone, I median a true hoophead, and they couldn’t tell you who was on the team through him. I remained in those collection and i don’t remember that we matched up against all these years later. And also that to be our play-by-play chalk talk. Yet that simply goes to present you … that a credit to his greatness top top what he was capable of doing in state of just how he was able to elevate the level of other guys, mean players in a lot of respects, listed below average even, that lot better.”


The Cavaliers combated the brand-new Jersey Nets for six gamings in the conference semifinals, knocking Jason Kidd and his crew out of the postseason and advancing come the conference finals for simply the third time in franchise history.

Next up was the showdown v the Pistons, the they’d need to go with eventually, if castle were ever going to ascend come a championship level in the east Conference and in the league. LeBron rotate in his best moments, come date, against a stout Pistons team that simply might not prevent him.

Detroit collection signals a star’s arrival

The matchup in between the 2006-07 season’s optimal two groups in the east Conference did no disappoint. LeBron rallied the Cavaliers from a 2-0 deficit after castle lost game 1 and also Game 2 by similar 79-76 scores, offering the hometown fans hope that something distinct was in the offing.

Cleveland hosted serve at home in video game 3 and Game 4, acquisition both that those gritty, defense-first affairs. Yet it was video game 5 that observed LeBron important come alive, turning in among the most spectacular performances in playoff history.


In a one-point game with just over 6 minutes to play in regulation, LeBron came of age. He scored 11 the the Cavaliers’ final 12 points in regulation, all nine point out in the very first overtime and also all nine in the 2nd overtime come lift his team to a shocking 109-107 upset at the royal residence of Auburn Hills.

He finished v 48 points, scored 29 of his team’s final 30 points, consisting of a ridiculous 25 right to placed the Cavaliers in a position to vanquish the mighty Pistons in video game 6 top top their home floor.

LeBron reflected on that performance earlier this season while the Cavaliers to be in Detroit because that their final game in ~ the Palace. He appeared unfazed every these years later by what had actually to feeling at the time choose an out-of-body experience for the baby-faced 22-year-old top top the highlights.

“I haven’t ranked gamings yet due to the fact that I’m still going, I’m quiet playing,” that told reporters. “When ns played that specific game, ns was exhausted. I had nothing left. I left whatever out on the floor. … I’ve had a many memories, obviously, yet it’s been fun to play right here in this building and also get to watch the history. I’ve had a many of games here, battles with great teams. The fans have always been nice great.

“I’ve remained in some good zones before. I’ve placed up some large numbers. I’m not a high-volume guy; I’m not just casting up shots and hopefully seeing if they’re walk in. I’ve constantly understood the scoring time … and also keeping the key focus, and that’s come win.”

The Cavaliers polished off the Pistons two days later on at house in video game 6, cementing LeBron’s heritage as the change agent because that a Cavaliers fan base starved because that the kind of success that seemed on the horizon.

Falling brief in The Finals

Yet, for all that was achieved against the Pistons, the franchise’s very first trip come The Finals would more than quickly. The spur were a championship maker by then. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were every in the primes of your careers and also San Antonio’s roster was stocked wth high quality veterans and specialists in ~ every turn. They were simply too great for every little thing LeBron and also Cleveland might muster.

See more: How Many Calories In Chicken Fries, Homestyle From Tyson, Chicken Fries Nutrition Facts

They swept the Cavaliers v LeBron struggling versus the defense that veteran agitator Bruce Bowen.