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Lakers News: LeBron James Talks Dwight Howard Preventing Finals Clash with Kobe

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball during the game against Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 10, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Dwight Howard has been playing very well for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

On Tuesday night, he went a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in a 105-102 loss against the Indiana Pacers.

Howard finished with 20 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes, which is an impressive stat line, but when LeBron James was asked about it, he recalled what it was like to be on the business end of one of the 6'11" big man's dominant performances.

"No, I've seen Dwight be special before when he averaged 35 [points], 17 [rebounds] and five blocks in the Eastern Conference Finals versus my Cavs," James said after the game, per Spectrum SportsNet. "So him going 10-for-10 is nothing...what I've seen before, knocking me out of a chance to play Kobe in The Finals."

James likely won't ever forget the 2009 NBA playoffs, when Howard's Orlando Magic needed six games to take down Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But his numbers are a bit off.

Howard didn't average 35 points, 17 boards and two swats per game for that series.

He put up 25.8 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 1.1 shots per outing.

The eight-time All-Star did, however, close out the Cavs with a 40-point, 14-rebound, four-assist, one-block performance that still resonates as one of Howard's best.

The Magic went on to lose to the Lakers in five games in The Finals, where Bryant put up impressive averages of 32.4 points and 7.4 assists per game.

The 2009 championship was Bryant's first without Shaquille O'Neal, but for James, it was the year that was supposed to feature The King and The Black Mamba.

"I didn't hold up my end of the bargain in 2009 for the fans, for us, to meet in the Finals," James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin back in 2015. "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."

James is right.

The LeBron vs. Kobe hype machine was in full overdrive that year.

Who could forget the puppet commercials that hyped up the possible match-up for the title?

Cleveland had the best record in the league (66-16), while Los Angeles had the second-best record (65-17) and appeared to be on a collision course for the Larry O'Brien.

"Obviously, there was so much made about it, from commercials to media talk, to people just talking about the Lakers versus the Cavs, Kobe versus LeBron, Kobe versus LeBron, Kobe versus LeBron, but I couldn't do that to my teammates to kind of assume," James said in 2015.

"That's not my job. I've 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."

The LeBron vs. Kobe finale never happened, but the former has a legitimate chance to deliver the Lakers its first championship since the latter won in 2010.

"I mean, in high school I wore a nappy-ass Afro because of Kobe Bryant," James said, per McMenamin. "Because he wore it. I wanted to be just like him, man. And I always said my inspiration came from [Michael] Jordan, but I always thought Jordan was so out of this world that I could never get there. Kobe was someone that I just always kind of wanted to be like and play like."

If James does deliver on his promise to win another title for the purple and gold, he'll actually be like Kobe—at least in Los Angeles—and be forever revered by Laker fans.

      

Maurice Bobb covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow Maurice on Twitter, @ReeseReport.