);
Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Christmas Day 2018: LeBron James vs Golden State Warriors and other great rivalries in NBA history

NBA-Christmas_Rivalries-nba-com-illustration
James, Jordan and Chamberlain were involved in three of the most storied rivalries in league history (NBA.com Illustration)

This year's Christmas matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors will mark the 50th time (regular season and postseason) LeBron James will face off against the Warriors.

With four-consecutive NBA Finals matchups, a number of game-winners and legendary performances, the matchup between James-led teams and the three-time champs from The Bay has cemented itself among some of the greatest rivalries in league history.

As LeBron and the Lakers prepare to enter a new era of the rivalry, let's take a look back at how things came to be and revisit some of the other more notable rivalries the NBA has ever seen…

LeBron vs. the Warriors | Jordan vs. the Pistons | Wilt vs. the Celtics | Reggie vs. the Knicks

LeBron James vs. Golden State Warriors

Regular season: 14-13 (1-2 on Christmas) - 28.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 7.0 apg

NBA Finals series record: 1-3 (7 wins, 15 losses)

While the rivalry's beginning is often viewed as blooming in the 2015 NBA Finals, it's something that had been brewing for years.

Let's go back to Jan. 23, 2009, when it took a buzzer-beating step back jumper on the left wing from LeBron James to earn a one-point win over the Warriors, who fell to 13-31 on the season.

LeBron went on to lead the Cavs to 66 wins and earned his first of four MVPs, while Golden State won just 29 games and earned the No. 7 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft - a pick it used to select point guard Stephen Curry from Davidson College.

LeBron's game-winner marked the second of six straight wins he earned over the Warriors from 2008-11. In 2012, the Warriors snapped their losing streak to LeBron-led teams in January then drafted Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli in June to join their young backcourt of Curry and 2011 draft pick Klay Thompson.

Green's last-second layup against the Heat in December of his rookie year gave the Warriors their second-consecutive win over a LeBron-led team. Golden State was 15-7 while Miami fell to 14-6. It was becoming more and more clear that something special was being built out in the Bay.

While LeBron was winning his second title in 2013, the Warriors ended a five-year playoff drought and added veteran Andre Iguodala in the offseason.

The 2013-14 season saw the Warriors win 50 games for the first time in 20 years, and it took another game-winning jumper on the left wing from LeBron to lead Miami past Golden State. After a first-round loss, the Warriors parted ways with head coach Mark Jackson and hired Steve Kerr as his replacement. After the Heat lost in the 2014 Finals, LeBron made his return to Cleveland and the Cavs in July.

Fast forward 11 months from the busy offseason of 2014 and the Cavaliers meet league MVP Steph Curry and the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals. Despite being without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, James nearly willed the Cavs to a Finals victory, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists while playing 45.7 minutes per game. 2013 Free Agency acquisition Andre Iguodala earned Finals MVP for his defensive efforts on James.

The rivalry that had been brewing for years had officially been solidified.

The 2015-16 season saw Golden State sweep Cleveland (with one win coming on Christmas) en route to a record-breaking 73-9 season that ended with Curry unanimously winning the league's MVP. Both the Cavs, who finished 57-25, and the Warriors cruised through the playoffs to set up a Finals rematch in which Golden State was heavily favoured to repeat.

The Warriors infamously built - and blew - a 3-1 lead, becoming the first team to ever do so in the NBA Finals while LeBron (29.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 8.9 apg) won his third NBA title and Finals MVP.

How did the Warriors respond to the letdown? Adding 2017 NBA MVP Kevin Durant in free agency while Barnes and Ezeli would move on.

Durant, a top-three player in the league, heavily shifted the balance of power in the rivalry, as the Warriors have won 11 of the last 13 games over LeBron and company, including back-to-back NBA Finals wins in 2017 and 2018.

2018 did see LeBron put forth an all-time effort with his 51-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist Game 1 performance in the NBA Finals, but ultimately was not enough as the Cavs were swept by the Warriors.

In the offseason, James signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, ushering in a new era of the rivalry between him and the Warriors. While the NBA Finals streak will come to an end at four consecutive years, James will now face his divisional rival four times per year in the regular season and could very well face them in any round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The 50th meeting between James and the Warriors marks a new chapter of a rivalry that won't be ending any time soon.

Michael Jordan vs. Detroit Pistons

Regular season: 33-31 (2-0 on Christmas) - 29.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.3 apg

Postseason series record: 1-3 (10 wins, 12 losses)

Is there a more storied rivalry than Jordan and the Pistons?

Jordan entered the league in 1984 as a dynamic guard, unlike anything the NBA had ever seen before. In his rookie campaign, Jordan went 3-3 in the regular season vs. Detroit, averaging 29.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the six-game span.

Six is a significant number, as Jordan and the Bulls would advance to the postseason in each of his first six seasons in the league (1985-90), but failed to get past the same roadblock in Detroit from 1988-90.

The "Bad Boys" made things extremely difficult for Jordan, using physical defence to stymie him and limit his offensive prowess. Jordan put forth one of most impressive seasons in NBA history in 1987-88, earning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 35.0 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. In the Conference Semifinals, the Pistons held Jordan in check to won the series in five games.

Detroit would go on to win the East before falling to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

It was gradual improvement for the Bulls, who took the series to six games in the 1989 Conference Finals, but the Pistons would go on to advance to the NBA Finals and win the first title in franchise history.

Chicago took Detroit to seven games in the 1990 Conference Finals, but the defending champs used their home court advantage to make their third-straight finals appearance where they would win their second consecutive title.

In 1991, the Bulls won 61 games to earn the East's No. 1 seed, easily advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals to meet the Pistons for a third consecutive year. With home-court advantage for the first time in this series, things were much different.

Jordan averaged 29.8 points, 7.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks as the Bulls made light work of the Pistons, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history by virtue of a 4-0 series sweep.

The number six becomes relevant again as Jordan and the Bulls went on to win their first of six NBA titles in the 1990s.

The Pistons would not reach the NBA Finals again until Jordan was retired for good; in his last-ever meeting against Detroit, it took overtime for the Pistons to get past the Wizards and a 40-year-old Jordan, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Wilt Chamberlain vs. Boston Celtics

Regular season: 46-66 (1-0 on Christmas) - 28.7 ppg

Postseason series record: 1-7 (20 wins, 29 losses)

Wilt Chamberlain is a one-of-a-kind physical marvel that immediately took the league by storm - averaging 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game in his rookie season.

Amazingly, Chamberlain was only able to capture two NBA titles in his 14-year NBA career as he was forced to deal with Bill Russell and the dominant dynasty that resided in Boston.

Of the 13 times Chamberlain-led teams advanced to the postseason, they were eliminated by the Celtics seven times. Wilt began his career with the Philadelphia Warriors, who were eliminated by Boston in two of his first three seasons.

In Chamberlain's fourth season, the team relocated to San Francisco and moved to the NBA's Western Conference, but failed to qualify for the postseason. The franchise earned a Western Conference title in 1964, but met the Celtics once again in the NBA Finals and lost in five games.

During the 1964-65 season, Chamberlain was traded back to Philadelphia to play for the 76ers, a team that relocated from Syracuse in 1963. The Sixers advanced to the East Finals where they would lose to the Celtics in seven games. The 1965-66 season brought about more of the same, as Chamberlain fell to 0-5 all-time in the postseason against Boston as Philadelphia suffered a five-game series loss in the East Finals.

After five postseason losses, Chamberlain and the Sixers finally saw a breakthrough in 1967. Behind Wilt's 21.6 points, 32.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game, the team defeated Russell and the Celtics in a five-game East Finals en route to the second title in franchise history.

In the 1967-68 season - Chamberlain's last in Philadelphia - the Celtics would once again earn an East Finals series win over the Sixers, dropping Wilt's all-time postseason record against Boston to 1-6.

Chamberlain spent the final five seasons of his NBA career back in the Western Conference, as a trade in the summer of 1968 sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Naturally, Wilt's stint in LA began with a loss to the Celtics in the 1969 NBA Finals in seven games. In what was Chamberlain's last postseason meeting with Boston, the centre averaged 11.7 points, 25.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Though he would no longer meet them in the postseason, Chamberlain would face the Celtics 21 more times in the regular season before retiring - the Lakers were 10-11 in those games.

As dominant as Chamberlain was, the Celtics had his number - he finished with a regular-season winning percentage of .411 and a 1-7 series record in the postseason.

Reggie Miller vs. New York Knicks

Regular season: 26-41 (1-0 on Christmas) - 18.4 ppg, 2.9 apg, .344 3P%

Postseason series record: 3-3 (18 wins, 17 losses)

Miller entered the league in 1987 and won his first two meetings with the New York Knicks while playing a reserve role on a rebuilding Indiana Pacers team. The Knicks would proceed to win 10 consecutive regular season games over the Pacers from 1988-90, making things a bit lopsided.

That win streak proved to be symbolic, as the Knicks served as the obstacle that Miller and the Pacers couldn't get past for years to come.

The first postseason meeting between the Pacers and Knicks came in the first round of the 1993 playoffs, where New York would advance in four games despite Miller's 31.5 points per game.

The next season, a much-improved Pacers squad met the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals as things were wide open following the retirement of Michael Jordan. This was the year that the rivalry would truly come to life.

After both teams defended their home court through four games, Miller's 39-point performance at Madison Square Garden gave the Pacers a commanding 3-2 series lead as things returned to Indiana. The Knicks would go on to earn an impressive Game 6 win at Market Square Arena before returning home to defeat the Pacers in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in 21 years.

It was back to the drawing board for Miller and the Pacers, who would win 52 games in the 1994-95 season before their third consecutive postseason meeting with the Knicks in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

In Game 1, Miller famously scored eight points in the final 19 seconds to propel the Pacers to a stunning road victory over the Knicks. Miller's performance would set the tone in an instantly classic series in which Indiana finally advanced past New York in seven games.

The Knicks would meet Miller and the Pacers three more times in the postseason, including back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals matchups in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, the No. 8 seed Knicks advanced past the Pacers to complete their historic run to the NBA Finals and in 2000, the Pacers advanced past the Knicks to make the lone NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

Miller would end his career with a postseason series record of 3-3 against the Knicks; in his final meeting against New York, a 39-year-old Miller finished with 34 points in a one-point loss.

More from NBA.com

davis-harden-usa-ftr.jpg
Lillard, DeRozan latest to withdraw from Team USA
Kyle Irving
#George #Harden
Clippers targeted Harden & Beal before George trade
Benyam Kidane
Marc Gasol
Gasol happy Grizzlies ignored his desire to stay
Benyam Kidane
Zion Williamson
Zion signs with Jordan Brand
Kyle Irving
pacific-division-offseason-rankings-072319-ftr-nbacomillustration
Divisional Rankings: Did Clippers or Lakers win offseason?
Gilbert McGregor
getimage.ashx-14.jpeg
Which L.A. duo is better?
NBA.com Staff
More News