Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James blames himself for depriving the NBA of a showdown between Kobe Bryant and James in the 2009 Finals.
“I know the world wanted to see it,” said James to reporters on Tuesday. “I wanted it. We wanted it. He held up his end and I didn’t hold up my end, and I hate that that didn’t happen.”
James and the Cavaliers finished the 2008-09 regular season with 66 wins, one more than the Lakers. While the Lakers advanced in the playoffs through the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, the Cavaliers were stopped in the Eastern Conference Finals by Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
The Lakers went on to defeat the Magic, and then the Boston Celtics the following season. The Cavaliers were knocked out in the second round in the 2010 postseason.
James had taken the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, falling to the San Antonio Spurs in a four-game sweep. The Lakers went to the next three Finals but haven’t returned since 2010. James joined the Miami Heat for four-straight appearances and two championships.
Last season James re-signed with the Cavaliers but fell short in the Finals to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Dating back to 2007, either Bryant or James advanced to the Finals, but never to face each other.
“We’ve always competed against one another, and we always wanted to dethrone each other,” said James. “We always had that mutual respect, because we knew how much we put into the game. I’ve always voiced my opinion about … how great Kobe is, and obviously there will never be another one of him in our league — ever.”