LeBron James and Kobe Bryant knew the situation Thursday night, knew that their rivalry was one step closer to ending. 

James, as is usually the case, came out the winner in the game, but the fact that they were able to go toe to toe once more was not lost on either man.

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Their postgame hug was a moment for the cameras and the fans and, at its core, for the two men themselves.

"It's always fun, a pleasure," James said, according to The Associated Press, after the Cavaliers' 109-102 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center. "It's two of the best competitors this game has probably ever seen, and to be on the same floor with him, somebody I looked up to when I was a child growing up, seeing him go straight from high school to the NBA, it's fun, it's great. I hated him being out of the NBA last year because of injury, and it's fun having him back."

"If we were contending for a championship, I'd be my same moody self, but right now I tend to have a little more perspective, knowing I really won't get a chance to play against him for much longer. So you want to enjoy it," Bryant said, per the AP.

James, who's still working his way back from back and knee issues, carried the Cavs in the fourth quarter and finished with 36 points. Bryant scored just 19, but he set a career high with 17 assists.

He also got in some trash talk after James clanged a dunk attempt off the rim.

"He said, 'That's what old age will get you,'" James told reporters with a laugh. "You start missing dunks when you thought you was up there."

LBJ could laugh a little after topping Kobe's club for the 13th time in the past 16 meetings.

So how many more times will we see this show? The Lakers will visit the Cavs on Feb. 8, and then the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden will take place a week later. After that, there might be a couple meetings next season. And that could be it.

The only thing that's certain is that clock is winding down. Kobe and LeBron know it all too well. That's why this Thursday game

in mid-January meant something.

This article has been corrected.