As time wound down on Game 6 of the NBA Finals, an emotional Anthony Davis wandered off the floor and down a tunnel. He came face to face with a giant banner depicting a Larry O’Brien Trophy and pawed at it. LeBron James grabbed Davis from behind and guided him back toward the court while – as Davis later put it – “bothering me, saying, ‘You’re soft. Oh, you crybaby.’”
This was no time for Davis to stand alone in the dark grasping a championship fantasy.
It was time for sharing brotherly joy and the teasing that comes with it.
It was time for the real Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Davis and LeBron led the Lakers to a title in their first season together, fulfilling the promise of their star-studded partnership. LeBron boosted his legacy. Davis got the ring and prominence he sought when requesting a trade from the Pelicans.
Though LeBron won Finals MVP, Davis (25.0 points, 10., rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals per game) definitely made his mark against the Heat. Davis’ game score (22.8) is among the best on record in the NBA Finals by someone who didn’t win Finals MVP.
Here are the non-Finals MVPs with the highest game scores per team game in the NBA Finals since 1984 (as far back as Basketball-Reference has data). Players whose teams lost the series are in black. Players whose teams won the series are in purple, Davis in gold. Finals MVP are in brackets:
Notice Jimmy Butler near the top. He played an incredible series. But like LeBron in the surrounding Cavaliers years, Butler lost.
Davis – whose box-score statistics don’t even fully illustrate his game-altering defense – won.
He won with LeBron as they believed would be possible. They pushed each other without jealousy. They accentuated each other’s elite talent. They formed the big brother-ascending star relationship LeBron never did with Kyrie Irving.
Davis looked excellent in New Orleans, but he never had an opportunity to prove himself at the highest level. Thanks to LeBron, Davis got that chance.
LeBron is great. We already knew that. But he had also gone three straight seasons without a ring, his longest drought since joining Miami.
That skid has ended – thanks in large part to Davis.