In 2009, the NBA came close to seeing a Kobe Bryant and LeBron James NBA Finals matchup. That might have been the most-watched finals in NBA history if it happened. Two of the best players in the league battling in the finals would have been a sight to see.
But unfortunately, that never happened, but the thought of that happening was still amazing. Here’s how the two NBA greats came so close to going at each other in the finals.
Kobe Bryant’s 2008-09 season
That season, Bryant led the Lakers to a 17-2 record to start the season. The Lakers started off hot to begin the season and continued to play at a high-level throughout the remainder of the season. Bryant led the league in scoring two seasons prior to the 2008-09 season. He continued to dominate on the court and carry the Lakers to a successful season. Bryant averaged 28.3 points per game during the 2008-09 season.
The Lakers finished with the best record in the Western Conference at 65-17. Bryant was named to the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team. That season Bryant had a breakout game playing at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. He dropped 61 points against the Knicks and set a record for most points scored at Madison Square Garden.
Bryant was named co-MVP of the all-star game as he finished with 27 points, four assists, four rebounds, and four steals. He shared the MVP award with his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant was determined to lead the Lakers to the finals for the first time in seven years.
LeBron James 2008-09 season
Like Bryant, James had a successful 2008-09 season himself. In the Eastern Conference, James led his team to a 66-16 record. He had a breakout year, becoming the first Cavalier to win the NBA MVP award. James finished second in the votes for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. He showed his all-around potential that season.
James led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks during the season. He was on a mission that year and finished the season averaging 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. James filled the stat sheet night in and night out.
The 2009 NBA playoffs
James and Bryant were the two best players in the league at the time, and it was only right for them to meet up in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Lakers and Cavaliers both made it to the conference finals as most people expected. Bryant and the Lakers had to take on the Denver Nuggets, and the Cavaliers took on the Orlando Magic.
The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 4-2 to advance to the finals, and the NBA world was ready to see LeBron lead the Cavaliers past the Magic and have a Bryant and James matchup. But the Magic defeated the Cavaliers 4-2 and took on the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Lakers had no issues with the Magic in the finals winning 4-1. Bryant was named finals MVP, averaging 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. That was the closest that James and Bryant could have played in the finals and what a series that would have been.