The Los Angeles Lakers will be taking on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals in what should be a fun matchup between a Lakers team that has been expected to compete for a title and a Heat team that has taken off in the Orlando, Florida, bubble.
But before we get to the basketball Wednesday night, let's round up some of the Lakers news from the past few days.
We start with LeBron James and a more somber story, as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he and Kobe Bryant had planned to meet up when James joined the Lakers in 2018 and talk about what it would be like playing for the organization.
That meetup never happened because of both men's busy schedules, however, a regret James carries with him:
"Of course, you think there's going to be time for us to get together and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him. I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, 'Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.' That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn't [fully in on me]. A lot of people were saying, 'Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,' and, 'Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to the Finals]?' So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don't ever question myself, but when it's coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot."
"When I played in Cleveland, I grew up 35 minutes away from there, and so I kind of knew the people. When I went down to Miami, [Dwyane Wade] was able to give me the blueprint on that. But I never played for a historic franchise like the Lakers. It's probably like when [Alex Rodriguez] went to the Yankees. He probably heard from [Derek] Jeter on what it's going to take to play in front of this. It's different from playing with the Mariners. It's different from the Rangers. I would have definitely loved to get that side of what it takes, what does it take to win over Laker faithful or how can I make them appreciate my game. ... That would have been something to pick his brain on.
"And then probably talk about us never meeting in the Finals. Just apologizing to him. In f--king '09 when I lost to Dwight [Howard], that would have been a great conversation for sure. You know, just to be like, we didn't give the people what they wanted. We didn't give them what they wanted."
This season has been dedicated to Bryant in Los Angeles after his death over the winter. If the Lakers win a chip this year, it will be the ultimate tribute to the legacy of Kobe and his five titles.
Beating the Heat and securing a championship will require a strong defensive effort. The Lakers have been sturdy on that end, however, a tribute to head coach Frank Vogel and his approach.
Several Lakers, including Anthony Davis, praised Vogel after the team's Western Conference Finals victory over the Denver Nuggets, per Mark Medina of USA Today:
"He's done a great job with all of us. He shoots it straight to us. He wants to win. We want to win. So he comes to me and LeBron with a lot of questions and ideas. We give him our opinion on certain things, but we trust him. He comes in and puts the game plan together. He spends hours and hours of watching film and breaking down games and breaking schemes down to try to figure out what's the best solution for us, what's the best recipe for us to be successful, and he puts the right players on the floor at the right time."
James concurred: "He's been great. He's been unbelievable. It's been a crazy obstacle course for our franchise this whole year. He's been able to manage it the whole time."
Vogel wasn't exactly a lauded hire, especially after he was brought aboard after Tyronn Lue pulled out of the running for the job because he reportedly wanted more years on his contract. Then there were questions about his job security with Jason Kidd—a former head coach—hired as his assistant.
Those questions have likely been answered, however.
As for the Lakers' upcoming matchup with the Heat, NBA Hall of Famer and TNT studio analyst Shaquille O'Neal said on Inside the NBA that, "Something tells me [the Lakers] want the Miami Heat."
He added (h/t Justin Quinn of Celtics Wire): "I'm not allowed to give you my sources, but I know they want the Miami Heat."
It's not clear why. Maybe James wants the chance to go up against Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and his former team. On the flip side, maybe they saw the Boston Celtics as a bigger threat.
Regardless, they got their (reported) wish. It should be a fantastic series.