LeBron James has reached the last five NBA Finals. But unfortunately for basketball lovers, LeBron’s peak years have coincided with Kobe Bryant’s decline.
Kobe’s last finals appearance, in 2010, was the last that didn’t feature LeBron. Since 2010, LeBron has reached every final: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 with Miami Heat, and 2015 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The only previous time that LeBron reached the final, in 2007, Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers were ousted in the first round of the postseason by the Phoenix Suns. As fate would have it, the Lakers reached three consecutive finals thereafter, in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but LeBron failed to get there.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday ahead of the Cavaliers’ shootaround, LeBron said he never “assumed” that the dream match-up would take place. “There was so much made about it from commercials to media talk to people just talking about the Lakers vs. the Cavs, Kobe vs. LeBron, but I couldn’t do that to my teammates to kind of assume. I’ seen the stat that since ’07 either he has or I’ve been in the Finals but we’ve never matched up. And that definitely sucks, not only for us two being competitors, wanting to go against each other in the Finals, but also for the fans,” said LeBron.
In 2009, the fourth-seeded Orlando Magic upset LeBron and his top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16) in the Eastern Conference Finals. That postseason was being built up towards a final match-up between Kobe’s Lakers (65-17) and LeBron. LeBron said he “regrets” never facing Kobe in the final. “I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain in 2009 for the fans, for us, to meet in the Finals,” said LeBron. “I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, we wanted it. He held up his end and I didn’t hold up my end, and I hate that. I hate that that didn’t happen.”
LeBron said there would never be another Kobe. Period. “We’ve always competed against one another, and we always wanted to dethrone each other. But we always had that mutual respect because we knew how much we put into the game. I’ve always voiced my opinion about Kobe, how great Kobe is, and obviously there will never be another one of him in our league. Ever.”
— NBA Sneakers (@NBA_Sneakers) December 2, 2015