LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – They were rivals once, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James. Rondo was in Boston. James was in Cleveland and Miami. Their paths would cross most every year in the playoffs, an annual placing of a thorn in one another’s side.
James may have had different words to describe Rondo then.
These days, however, the words James uses when speaking of the Los Angeles Lakers’ backup point guard include cerebral and determined. And that approach — smart and tough — has Rondo on the doorstep of a most exclusive club.
Rondo helped the Boston Celtics win their 17th NBA championship. He’s on the brink of being part of title No. 17 for the Lakers as well, something that could come as early as Friday night when they take on the Miami Heat in Game 5 of these NBA Finals. The Lakers lead the series 3-1.
“I won at (22) years old, and now being 34, it’s a completely different experience, and understanding that this doesn’t come often or annually,” Rondo said earlier in the series. “Being back here over a decade later is a very humbling experience.”
The Celtics and the Lakers have long been the NBA’s royal families, the leaders in titles and probably the league’s best rivalry. Plenty of players have played for both franchises — but only one, Hall of Fame forward Clyde Lovellette, played on championship teams with both clubs. And even that comes with a tiny asterisk; Lovellette won titles in 1963 and 1964 with the Celtics, and his first ring came in 1954 when the then-Minneapolis Lakers.
So, Rondo could be the first player to win a title for both Boston and Los Angeles. Bill Sharman pulled it off but not as a player in both cities — he won 10 NBA rings in his lifetime; four as a Celtics player, one as the coach of the Lakers in 1972 and five more as a Lakers executive in the 1980s.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed to continue playing this game for this long,” Rondo said.