LeBron James has more assists than any forward in NBA history. In this year’s playoffs, he’s averaging seven assists per game and accounts for more than half of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 17.5 assists per 100 possessions. But what the numbers don’t convey is James’ vision, selflessness, and creativity as a passer. The video above showcases James’ playoff passing in all its glory. Below, we’ve highlighted five of his best individual plays.
A good passer orchestrates the movements of his own team. LeBron James orchestrates his opponents’ movements as well. In Game 1 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Detroit Pistons, James bided his time, waiting for the defense to shift and open up a passing lane. Tobias Harris obliged, sliding over to double-team James and leaving Kevin Love wide open.
James knows when to prioritize team success over personal glory. Later in that same game, he stole the ball near midcourt. With just one defender in his path, James could have added to his personal highlight reel. Instead, he opted to feed his trigger-happy teammate Kyrie Irving. Swish.
Even if you see a teammate breaking open, you still need to figure out how to get him the ball. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James carved up the Raptors’ defense with a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to a streaking J.R. Smith. Watch Toronto’s Bismack Biyombo—the poor guy turns his head a full second too late.
It’s (relatively) easy to make a great pass when everything goes according to plan. Against the Pistons, LeBron turned a broken play into a work of art. In James’ hands, a botched alley-oop from Matthew Dellavedova becomes a no-look, one-handed fling to the corner for an open three.
You can’t make the perfect dish if you don’t try. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis against the Hawks, James spotted Richard Jefferson sprinting toward the rim. With Atlanta’s Jeff Teague on the chase and Paul Millsap further up the court, there wasn’t much of an opening to get Jefferson the ball. James could either wait for the rest of his teammates, or try a high-risk, 20-foot-long bounce pass. He tried the bounce pass. The Cavs’ reward: a fast-break dunk.