LeBron James Reflects On Kobe Bryant And Shaquille O'Neal Comparisons After Win Over Heat
So far, it hasn't been much of an NBA Finals series.
But it's been quite a race for The Finals MVP award.
The Lakers beat the Miami Heat in Game 2 on Friday, 124-114, to take a 2-0 lead, two wins shy of their first championship since 2010.
Over the last two games, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have combined for 124 points.
It's been a stunning mix of strength and grace from a 35-year-old who is playing as though he were a decade younger, and a 27-year-old who is playing as though this weren't his Finals debut.
On Friday, LeBron James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Anthony Davis had 32 points and 14 rebounds.
They became the first Laker teammates since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in 2002 to each score at least 30 points in a Finals game.
James took a moment to reflect on that.
"Being in high school, watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective," James said. "Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with as well. They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys -- myself and Anthony, myself and AD, he's going to kill me, myself and AD -- is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys."
Bryant and O'Neal played together on the Lakers from 1996-2004, winning three-straight championships together from 2000-2002. They were considered one of the best one-two punches of all time until their contentious relationship forced the Lakers to trade O'Neal to Miami in 2004.
James and Davis have said their bond has remained strong because they don't get jealous of each other. But after the Heat cut an 18-point hole to nine points in the third quarter, Davis acknowledged that he and James were not above exchanging a few heated words, though they swiftly moved past them.
"We had multiple coverages that were blown tonight," Davis said. "It was just all piling up and we just kind of had that moment, put it behind us and kept playing. Like I said, it's not always going to be pretty. It always seem like everything is good with me and him. And we do have our times where we do yell at each other and we do argue, but we know it's coming from a good place, so we get over it quickly and move on to the next play. We are just two guys that really want to win and have a love for the game."
James said the Lakers have a lot to work on after Game 2, adding that he can't wait to watch film.
The Heat, who were led by Jimmy Butler (25 points and 13 assists) were without Bam Adebayo (neck strain) and Goran Dragic (torn planter fascia in his left foot).
"Myself and AD, we're not satisfied with just the win," James said. "We want to be great. We want to be great as close to 48 minutes as possible."
It's a mentality that they shared with Bryant and O'Neal.
In fact, James said that both he and Davis had a lot in common with the Laker greats.
"Well, I guess if you look in the sense of the size and the power and the speed that Shaq at his size played with, you could look at my game throughout the course of my career and say that [there's a similarity]," James said. "And then you look at the elegance and the ability to shoot the ball and the ability to play in the paint as well as post up and get to the perimeter, I guess you can say that you can have some of AD's game that could compare to Kobe's game in that sense. Obviously, all four of us are all different positions. Kobe was a natural 2-guard. I'm kind of a -- I don't know, whatever position. Shaq is a center. AD is kind of a hybrid, as well. But I guess all four of us, we have a winning mentality and we just tried to make enough plays out on the floor throughout the course of the game that would benefit not only ourselves individually but, for the most important thing, for the better of the team."
James then paused a moment.
Even for a three-time NBA champion and a four-time MVP, being compared to those two players was powerful.
"I can't even believe I'm up here talking about myself and AD with Kobe and Shaq," he said.