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Familiar rivals ready to roll

ORLANDO • The National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat is a clash between old friends and foes.

Lakers forward LeBron James will be up against his former team, with whom he won the first two of his three NBA titles during his stint from 2010 to 2014.

Pat Riley, the former Lakers player and coach, is the Heat's president who has been rebuilding the team, particularly since James' exit.

Lakers guard Dion Waiters, who played for Miami before his move to Los Angeles in March, could be in line for a ring no matter who wins.

These are the names who are linked to both sides but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who helped build James into a winner, could also be considered as one who knows his former star inside out.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, he was asked how James is different now as to when he last appeared in a Heat jersey in 2014.

He said: "He's seen everything. At this point in his career, it's just about winning. And his ability to do what he does at his age is incredibly uncommon. But there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes."

By reaching the championship round, the 35-year-old James joins Bill Russell (12), Sam Jones (11) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10) as the only players with 10 or more NBA Finals appearances.

Not only is he back in the title decider, he is also doing it while still playing at an elite level, having recently finished runner-up for the Most Valuable Player honours.

"To see what LeBron has done, when he moved on to Cleveland and then to (Los Angeles), it really is just a testament to his greatness and his commitment to winning," added Spoelstra. "To be able to do it with different rosters and uniforms is really remarkable."

On the eve of the Finals, James reflected on the four seasons he spent with the Heat, a team he joined when he was 25.

"I was still a kid and still trying to figure out who I am as a person and as a man," he said. "I grew, and they allowed me to grow."

The Heat are a team who are the work of former Laker Riley, who knows all about winning as a coach.

He won four titles in the 80s heyday of Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar, another with the Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal-led Heat in 2006, and then acquired the team of James, Wade and Chris Bosh for their 2012 and 2013 triumphs.

"Probably one of the greatest minds this game has ever had… This league is not the same without Riles," said James. "He's a great guy, great motivator, someone who just knows what it takes to win."

He added of Spoelstra: "The players know how great Spo is. He prepares his team every single night. They are going to play hard, they are going to play together."

Meanwhile, Waiters is waiting to get his first NBA ring. Before joining the Lakers as a free agent, the 28-year-old played just three Read More – Source