In what’s become a common theme for the NBA Finals over the past decade, LeBron James’ presence looms large. LeBron is making his 10th career trip to the NBA Finals, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers to face the Miami Heat, and with all that experience, some tangible LeBron James NBA Finals betting trends have emerged.
LeBron has played in 49 NBA Finals games, which ranks seventh all-time, and he could move up to fifth depending on the length of this year’s series.
But did you know that in those 49 games, his teams have only been favored 17 times and have only covered the spread 40 percent of the time?
Here at Odds Shark, we have one of the most intricate and detailed NBA betting databases in the world for historical game betting odds. Since LeBron has a fairly decent NBA Finals sample size to parse, we thought it would be helpful for bettors to see how King James historically fares in the championship series.
LeBron James: NBA Finals Betting Trends
|Team||SU||ATS||Fave SU||Fave ATS||Dog ATS|
|CLE (2007, 2015-18)||7-19||9-16-1||2-1||2-1||7-15-1|
Look, it’s hard to hear criticism of your idols and heroes. That’s why I don’t throw too much shade at LeBron James and his teams for only winning 18 of 49 NBA Finals games because, in a lot of those series, he was set up to fail.
However, the spread records are what’s very concerning. Outside of an NBA Finals stretch from 2011 to 2014 with the Miami Heat, oddsmakers knew LeBron was significantly short-handed with Cleveland and would adjust the betting odds and spreads based on that.
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So, when you see that the all-time combined record of his teams is 19-28-2 ATS (40 percent) while also 10-20-2 ATS (33.3 percent) as an underdog? That’s a clear sign to sound the alarms.
Even as a betting favorite, LeBron James’ teams in the NBA Finals don’t really cut it. Yes, they technically have a winning record at 9-8 SU and 9-7-1 ATS, but if you bet the spread of LeBron’s teams blindly, you’d still be down money.
LeBron James NBA Finals Betting Records In Game 1s
You don’t get to play in nine career NBA Finals by being some scrub on the end of the bench and at 35 years old, LeBron James deserves all the accolades he gets and probably more. He’s reached the NBA Finals in eight of the last 10 seasons in his attempt to win the NBA championship and what might be more insane is that he’s made the Finals in nine of his 17 seasons in the NBA.
That being said, although he won the title in three of those nine series, his teams have been downright awful in Game 1s of the NBA Finals:
|Team||SU||ATS||Fave SU||Fave ATS||Dog ATS|
|CLE (2007, 2015-18)||0-5||1-4||0-0||0-0||1-4|
Yes, you read the correctly, 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS all-time. So, what gives? Well, earlier in LeBron’s career, like with the Heat, he was a bit more passive to start a series, especially on the big stage. That’s because he needed to see what the defense was giving him before he could start to pick them apart. He’s also only been a favorite twice in Game 1s and is 1-1 SU and ATS in those contests.
The last time a LeBron James-led team won a Game 1 of the NBA Finals was back in 2011 vs the Dallas Mavericks. The second time around as a fave was against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and they lost by 11 points as 5-point favorites. Game 1 didn’t matter much considering the Heat went on to win that series in five games.
But LeBron’s teams also have been the victims of bad matchups because there are at least four instances when he may have been the best player on the court but was playing on a vastly inferior team (see: Golden State Warriors 2015-2018).
Does this mean you blindly fade him and the Los Angeles Lakers for Game 1 vs the Miami Heat? No, not strictly based on this information. But it should raise some minor doubts for anyone who is pegging the Lakers to just walk over the Heat, especially considering that earlier in the playoffs, they lost Game 1 to the Blazers and Game 1 to the Rockets. With no true home-court advantage in the bubble, this game should be closer to a pick’em and not a 5-point spread.
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Odds Shark Staff Thu, Aug 4, 11:20am