LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – LeBron James vs. the Heat.
Pat Riley vs. the Lakers.
Get ready for the NBA Finals — a title series like none other, to end a season like none other.
The matchup is set, with the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers emerging as the last two teams standing in the chase to be crowned champions of the most tumultuous season in NBA history. The Heat won the Eastern Conference title Sunday night, finishing off Boston a day after the Lakers won the Western Conference crown.
So, for the first time — well, excluding the league’s inaugural season — two franchises that missed the playoffs the previous season will meet in the NBA Finals. Game 1 of Heat-Lakers is Wednesday night at Walt Disney World.
“We know why I came here,” said Lakers All-Star forward Anthony Davis, whose first finals trip comes in his first L.A. season. “We want to win a championship. We’re four wins away, a step closer to our goal.”
James is bidding for a fourth NBA championship, as well as a title with a third different franchise — and he’s about to become the first player to win a Finals MVP award with one team and then face that same team in a future championship series. His first two titles were with Miami in 2012 and 2013, the highlights of a four-year stint with the Heat that ended in 2014.
That, not coincidentally, was the last time the Heat had reached this stage. James left to return to Cleveland earlier than the Heat figured he would, Chris Bosh began his fight with blood clots — a condition that ended his career — not too long afterward and Miami descended from magnificent to mediocre in a hurry.