Back in the 2008-2009 season, Nike unleashed a brilliant marketing campaign using puppets to represent the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Cleveland Cavaliers’ star forward LeBron James.
Bryant and James were the two most dominant and most popular players in the league at that time, so Nike was rooting for a Cavaliers versus Lakers matchup in the 2009 NBA Finals. Unfortunately, James and the Cavaliers couldn’t get by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals in order to make this dream marketing matchup a reality.
But now with James fresh off his first championship win and the Lakers adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard during the offseason, the Bryant versus James matchup is looking more and more like a reality.
While I wasn’t at all happy to see the Lakers successfully pluck another potential Hall-Of-Fame player from another team’s roster as they did with the Howard trade, I have to admit that I would love to see the Black Mamba and King James finally meet in the Finals.
Bryant versus James is the sexy matchup that everyone wants to see but it will only be possible because of the other players involved.
The Lakers’ top four players include Bryant, Howard, Nash and Pau Gasol. James’s current team, the Miami Heat, boasts a top four that includes Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and of course James.
Of course there is a lot that has to go right between now and June for this matchup to happen. Both teams face many obstacles this season in order to reach the Finals.
For the Lakers it will be a hungry Oklahoma City Thunder team who will be motivated to avenge their loss to the Heat during last season's Finals. The Lakers may also have chemistry issues.
Howard is expected to miss the beginning of the season after having back surgery which will put him behind in terms of developing chemistry with his new teammates. He will have to do that while simultaneously working himself into game shape.
The Los Angeles Clippers made improvements during the offseason and could be a big obstacle in the Lakers bid for another Finals appearance. The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies are also dangerous teams with championship aspirations.
The Heat will have to deal with a Boston Celtics squad that reloaded over the offseason in the hopes of unseating the Heat as Eastern Conference champs. The New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have also improved and will threaten in the East.
The Heat on the other hand will need to stay healthy this year in order to have a chance to appear in their third straight Finals. Wade, Bosh and Allen have all been using the offseason to recover from injuries they sustained last season.
So a Lakers-Heat Finals matchup is not a given but both teams are definitely the favorites in their conferences to make the Finals. I for one hope they do make it though so that Nike can bring back those entertaining Kobe and LeBron puppet commercials.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at email@example.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.