For the 12th straight year, the Lakers will host a Christmas Day game in Los Angeles. This time it will be the new-look Heat and their star-studded lineup facing Kobe and Co. at the Staples Center. The hype will be enormous, for sure, but will it live up to its billing? We've picked the five best Dec. 25 games involving the Lakers over the past decade. And no, Dwayne Wade's 40-point game in 2006 (pictured) didn't make the cut.
2009: Cavaliers 102, Lakers 87
Despite 35 points from Kobe Bryant, the Cavs rolled to an impressive win behind LeBron James (26 points, nine assists), Mo Williams (28 points) and Shaquille O'Neal (five dunks). L.A.'s usually laid-back fans hurled foam fingers on the court when Lamar Odom was ejected late in the game. And Ron Artest suffered a concussion later that night at his house due to a mysterious fall. None of that mattered. Six months later, the Lakers were champs again and LeBron had played his final game as a Cavalier.
2007: Lakers 122, Suns 115
Kobe scored 26 of his 38 points in the second half to overcome Steve Nash's 24 points and 14 assists for the Suns. But the breakthrough performance came from young Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who had a career-high 28 points while dominating Phoenix's Amar'e Stoudemire. "I'm focused on one thing and one thing only -- winning the championship," said Bryant. The Lakers later lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals, partly because Bynum was hobbled by a knee injury.
2000: Blazers 109, Lakers 104
Seven months earlier, the Lakers staged a furious rally in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to beat the Blazers. This time, on the same court, Portland hung on for the win behind Damon Stoudemire's 27 points. The Lakers were the ones who gagged down the stretch as Shaquille O'Neal (pictured) missed four straight free throws. Kobe Bryant fouled out on a charging call with 7.3 seconds left, erasing a basket that would have cut L.A.'s deficit to one.
2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83
After getting thumped by Boston in the NBA Finals six months earlier, the Lakers showed they wouldn't get pushed around again. Kobe scored 27 points, but it was Pau Gasol (pictured) who keyed a 13-2 run to close the game and end the Celtics' 19-game winning streak. Los Angeles went on to win the NBA title, while Boston, minus Kevin Garnett, fell to Orlando in the East semifinals.
2004: Heat 104, Lakers 102 (OT)
After the Shaq-Kobe feud dominated the sports pages all year, the NBA couldn't resist matching the two following Shaq's trade to Miami. The game drew the highest regular-season TV ratings in six years (and wasn't surpassed until the Lakers-Celtics Christmas game in 2008) and lived up to the hype. Though Shaq fouled out, Dwyane Wade lifted the Heat in overtime. Kobe scored 42 points but his 3-pointer rimmed out at the OT buzzer. The Heat ended up beating the Lakers three years in a row on Christmas. Will they do it again this year?