LeBron James says one of the biggest regrets of his career is that he will never have the opportunity to face boyhood idol Kobe Bryant in an NBA Finals series.
Speaking two days after Bryant announced that he will quit basketball and the end of the season, James told members of the media that he will be said to see the 37-year-old leave the sport.
"It was kind of sad actually. The guy's had a hell of a career," James said.
James added that Bryant was a significant influence on his career, from the time that he was just a schoolboy to the time that they were team-mates on the USA Olympic team.
Nevertheless, James said it still bothers him that the two NBA legends have never met in the NBA Finals.
Either James or Bryant has appeared in every NBA Finals since 2007, but somehow the two have never met on the biggest stage.
In 2009, James' Cleveland Cavaliers were the dominant team in the Eastern Conference, but was shocked by Orlando Magic in the Conference finals. Bryant's Lakers eventually won the title.
"I didn't hold up my end of the bargain in 2009 for the fans, for us, to meet in the Finals," James continued.
"I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, we wanted it. He held up his end and I didn't hold up my end, and I hate that. I hate that that didn't happen.
"I've seen the stat that since '07 either he has or I've been in the Finals but we've never matched up. And that definitely sucks. Not only for us two being competitors, wanting to go against each other in the Finals, but also for the fans."
James and Bryant were team-mates on the gold medal-winning US Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012, and the Cavaliers ace said that he gained valuable insight from Bryant about how to play against Spain's Pau Gasol, then a team-mate of his at the Lakers.
"The first play of the game he ran through the chest of Pau Gasol and got a flagrant. And Pau Gasol was his teammate with the Lakers. I was like, 'Yeah, this guy is on another level'," James added.
"It was one of the first plays of the game. I was like, 'This guy's all about winning and whoever he's playing for or who he's playing with at that point in time.' …It was crazy.
"I knew I had to be better because of Kobe Bryant.
"I knew he was in the gym and I knew he was working on his game. So every day that I didn't want to work out or every day I felt like I couldn't give more, I always thought of Kobe.
"Because I knew that he was getting better and I was like, 'Man, if you take a day off, he's going to take advantage of it. You cannot take a day off.'"