NEW YORK – The NBA is bringing Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal together again for Christmas – this time joined by LeBron James.
Bryant and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 25, one of the highlights of the 2009-10 NBA schedule released Tuesday.
It will be the fourth time in the five years since their partnership ended that Bryant and O’Neal will meet on Christmas. Traded to Cleveland in June, O’Neal will return to Los Angeles this year with James, who succeeded Bryant as MVP last season.
O’Neal and James will play their first game together in the NBA season opener, hosting the Boston Celtics on Oct. 27. The four-game slate that night concludes when the Lakers open their title defence against No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
Defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando opens Oct. 28 against Philadelphia, then goes on the road two nights later to visit New Jersey, giving Vince Carter a quick return to his former home.
The Magic will visit the Lakers for an NBA Finals rematch Jan. 18 as part of the schedule on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Los Angeles will play at Orlando on March 7 for the first time since winning the title in June.
Orlando also plays on Christmas, hosting Boston in a matchup of the last two East champions. Miami at New York, the Clippers at Phoenix and Denver at Portland round out that day’s action.