In Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday, LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 65 points, which made them the first pair of Lakers teammates to score more than 30 points in a Finals appearance since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined for 71 points in Game 3 of the 2003 NBA Finals.
The Lakers are 20-1 when James and Davis score more than 30 points each, which is tied for the best winning percentage (95.2%) among duos that have met that total in at least 15 games in a single season. The duo that they’re tied with? Shaq and Kobe.
While Davis might have been too young to appreciate the greatness of Shaq and Kobe in real time, James, who was a high school student during the Lakers’ “three-peat” era, remembers it vividly.
“Watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective,” James said on Friday. “Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well. They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor.”
Now, James and Davis are the Lakers’ one-two punch, and nights like Friday have earned them comparisons to O’Neal and Bryant. Those comparisons, along with the expectations that Shaq and Kobe set during their time in Los Angeles, might be too much pressure for some players, but James has relished everything that has came with being part of yet another dominant Lakers duo.
“To be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and Anthony,” James said before pausing. “Myself and AD — he’s going to kill me — is just very humbling. Because I know I grew up watching those guys. I grew up admiring Kobe; obviously, a kid coming straight out of high school. Admired that, as a kid when I was young, and obviously got the opportunity. And the force that Shaq played with.
“It’s very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats.”
Davis hasn’t shied away from the challenge of filling the massive shoes left by Bryant and O’Neal, either. In fact, he went as far as to say LeBron is Kobe and he’s Shaq because of their styles of play. However, Davis recognizes that there’s one big difference between the Lakers’ current duo and the Shaq and Kobe duo: the relationship between the two star players.
On Thursday, James and Davis talked in length about the respect they have for each other, and how that’s left little room for jealousy between them. The same obviously couldn’t be said of Bryant and O’Neal, whose dynasty was cut short due to their clashing personalities and egos.
But Davis doesn’t think their differences should take away from what they were able to accomplish together: three championships in seven years.
“I know they had a little sit-down and they were talking about they were arguing because they both wanted to be so dominant,” Davis. said. “They both wanted to be great and they both wanted to win, and that’s why they jelled together outside of everything else that you might have heard that they were going through.
“But you know, those two guys were selfless. They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win. I think me and Bron are the same way. We are two guys who want to win no matter the circumstance. We both want to make sure that we do whatever it takes to help our team win.”
Unfortunately, James and Davis don’t have time on their side like Bryant and O’Neal did because James will turn 36 years old in December. O’Neal was Davis’s age (27) when he won his first championship with the Lakers, and Bryant was 21 years old, which would make him the second-youngest player on this year’s team.
Davis is mindful of that, and he wants to make the moment of it while it’s still here.
“It’s rare you see it,” Davis said. “We know we have something special with us two and this team, and we’re just trying to capitalize on it.”
James and Davis might not get to three championships, but they’re two wins away from winning their first together this season. If they can get the job done this season, it won’t matter how many more they win together.