When looking back at this series, two things stand out most about the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic. First is the small-ball dominant lineups that Orlando would employ to take out the top-ranked Cavs and eventually change the way the game is played today. Second, of course, is the game-winner from LeBron in Game 2.
What people don't talk about when reminiscing of this series is the level of play that LeBron was at over the course of these six games. Buzzer beater aside, LeBron was a one-man wrecking crew in this series, doing all that he could do possibly do to win, yet coming up short. Comparisons to this past year's Finals would seem valid, except the fact that the Cavs were the favorite and that LeBron was super-duper efficient this series.
That last part is crucial, mainly because efficiency is a very important part in the value of a player, but also because his Game 1 performance was out-of-this-world good. As in, "he took 30 shots and made 66.7 percent of those shots" good. Since 1985, only four other players have taken 30 shots and have made 66.7 percent of them in a playoff game, all of whom are currently in the Hall of Fame.
Look at it this way: in this year's Finals, LeBron took at least 30 shots five times in this year's Finals, and exactly zero of those times did he shoot above 50 percent from the field. Yes, the talent around LeBron was better in the 2009 ECF than in the 2015 Finals. Yes, 2015 Golden State was a better team than 2009 Orlando. But the lack of talent was still there in 2009 and the both Golden State and Orlando were the top-tanked defense in their respective years.
Not only is putting up an insane field goal percentage against the best defense in the league extremely impressive, but also is the 49 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals that went along with that. Since 1985, no one else has achieved that statline in a playoff game.
The fact this game is rarely brought up when speaking about LeBron is not surprising. The Cavs were heavy favorites and lost the series, and little does history reward the losers. However, this was no ordinary performance. This was a performance that few have ever seen. This was LeBron at the peak of his talents doing things only he can do.
LeBron's not the only player to play well in losses. In fact, the player he is most compared to has one of the greatest performances in a playoff loss of all-time, if not the greatest. The circumstances were vastly different between Jordan's and LeBron's game, but they were each great in there own rights. And to be fair, LeBron's game is right behind Jordan's in terms of game score.
Even though there are more memorable outcomes from this series, the level that LeBron performed at in Game 1 should not be washed away over the years.