Throughout LeBron James’ career, the NBA superstar’s rivalry with the city of Boston has been a curious one.
The Celtics never have been rivals with James’ teams (remove him and their relationship with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat has been perfectly cordial) but rather with LeBron himself.
So, with James set to return to TD Garden on Friday, we broke down some of the most memorable moments he’s had on Boston’s parquet floor.
Nov. 14 (Celtics 91-82): 35 minutes, 10 points, five rebounds, three assists
James’ first visit to the Garden (then known as TD Banknorth Garden) came just nine games into his NBA career. His 35 minutes are tied for the fewest he’s ever played in a game in Boston.
Feb. 15 (Cavaliers 113-109 2OT): 54 minutes, 43 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks, two steals
The first of many monster games LeBron would enjoy in Boston also was his first true shootout with eventual nemesis Paul Pierce. Pierce also logged 54 minutes in the game and matched James’ 43 points with 50 of his own — all without either hitting a single 3-pointer. The 2005-06 season ended with James’ first playoff berth, as his Cavs advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals before falling to the Detroit Pistons in seven games.
Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 1 (Celtics 76-72): 39 minutes, 12 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, one block, one steal, 10 turnovers
Here’s where the fun really started. James was atrocious in his first playoff matchup with the Celtics, going just 2-for-18 from the floor and 0-for-6 from 3-point range. The Cavs lost despite holding the C’s to fewer than 80 points, and another loss two nights later dropped them into a 2-0 hole in the series.
Game 7 (Celtics 97-92): 47 minutes, 45 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals
James played all but one minute in the series’ deciding game but fell short thanks to another dynamite performance by Pierce (41 points, 4-for-6 on 3-pointers). LeBron attempted 11 threes in the game but hit just three, finishing the series a miserable 3-for-26 from beyond the arc in Cleveland’s four losses.
Oct. 28 (Celtics 90-85): 36 minutes, 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block
After raising their championship banner, the Celtics took down LeBron and the Cavs in their season opener.
Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 3 (Cavaliers 124-95): 39 minutes, 38 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two blocks, one steal
The 29-point beatdown in Game 3 was the largest a LeBron-led team has ever put on the Celtics.
Game 4 (Celtics 97-87): 43 minutes, 22 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block
Game 6 (Celtics 94-85): 46 minutes, 27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, one block, nine turnovers
James’ efforts again were not enough as the Celtics sent the Cavs packing for the second time in three seasons. He turned in a triple-double in what proved to be the final game of his first stint in Cleveland — but the lasting image of the night is that of James shedding his Cavs jersey after the final buzzer sounded.
Oct. 26 (Celtics 88-80): 43 minutes, 31 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one steal
James returned to Boston for his first game with the Miami Heat. The Celtics welcomed back him accordingly.
Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 3 (Celtics 97-81): 43 minutes, 15 points, five blocks, four assists, two steals
Game 4 (Heat 98-90 OT): 50 minutes, 35 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals
After losing five straight in Boston, LeBron finally got his revenge. The Heat’s overtime win gave them a 3-1 lead in a series they went on to clinch two days later.
Eastern Conference finals, Game 3 (Celtics 101-91): 43 minutes, 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks, two steals
Game 4 (Celtics 93-91 OT): 48 minutes, 29 points, six rebounds, three assists, one block, one steal, seven turnovers
Game 6 (Heat 98-79): 45 minutes, 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists
After wins in Games 3, 4 and 5, the Celtics had two chances to knock off Miami’s Big Three and advance to the NBA Finals. James would have none of that. He shot a ridiculous 19-for-26 from the floor in a Game 6 blowout. The Heat went on to take Game 7, too, marking the end of an era in Boston.
Jan. 27 (Celtics 100-98 2OT): 52 minutes, 34 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, one block
This was an emotional one for the Celtics, being both Ray Allen’s first game back in Boston and the team’s first after Rajon Rondo was lost for the year with a knee injury. James led all scorers, but Pierce’s triple-double powered the C’s to their signature win of what was an otherwise disappointing season.
James did not play when the Heat traveled to Boston last season, making Friday’s visit to the Garden his first in almost 18 months.
Photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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