As the NBA is set to release the full 2018-19 regular season schedule, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers already know will open the campaign against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center on Thursday, Oct. 18.
Two days later, it will be LeBron James’ highly-anticipated home opener against James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets.
Despite James being heavily linked with the Rockets, he ultimately signed a four-year, $153 million contract with the Lakers in free agency. As the two teams are looking to dethrone the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, the game will serve as an early measuring stick.
While some fans were hoping the Lakers would face Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder, this marks their sixth home opener against the Rockets since 1999 and eighth overall, which dates back to 1980.
The two teams split the first two games in the early 1980’s, then did not face each other again in the Lakers home opener for another 18 seasons.
In the 1998-99 lockout season, which marked their final season at the Great Western Forum, Shaquille O’Neal (30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists) and Kobe Bryant (25 points and 10 rebounds) led the Lakers past Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley.
They later met in the first round of the playoffs where Los Angeles defeated Houston in four games.
Nearly 10 seasons later and at Staples Center, Bryant and the Lakers hosted Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and the Rockets to begin the 2007-08 season.
While Houston earned a narrow road win, Bryant was booed during the beginning of the game because of a trade request made during the offseason. However, he finished with 45 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and eventually won his first and only MVP Award.
Three seasons later, the Lakers hosted the Rockets as the two-time defending champions. With new additions Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, Los Angeles came back from a first-half deficit led by Pau Gasol (29 points and 11 rebounds).
Unfortunately, they were not able to three-point and lost to the eventual champions in the second round of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks.
With the two teams heading in different directions to begin the 2014-15 season, Bryant made his long-awaited return after only appearing in six games due to a broken bone in his left knee. Although Bryant finished with 19 points, the Lakers not only lost by 18 points, but Julius Randle suffered a season-ending leg injury 13 minutes into his rookie season.
And most recently to begin the 2016-17 season, there was great optimism with the Lakers finally establishing a young core.
Led by Jordan Clarkson (25 points), D’Angelo Russell (20 points), and Julius Randle (18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists), Los Angeles defeated Houston in former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s return to the sidelines, 120-114.
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