National Basketball Association
Steph Curry, LeBron James relishing opportunity to renew rivalry
National Basketball Association

Steph Curry, LeBron James relishing opportunity to renew rivalry

Updated May. 2, 2023 2:55 p.m. ET

Last April, LeBron James revealed which active NBA player he'd like to play alongside. 

"Steph Curry is the one that I want to play with, for sure, in today's game," James said in an episode of 'The Shop.' "I love everything about that guy. When he gets outta his car, you better guard him from the moment he pulls up to the arena."

Playing against him? That's a different story. 

James and Curry have met in the playoffs four times, all in the NBA Finals. Curry is 3-1 in those series. But James' lone win made quite an impression, considering it happened when he led the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to become the first team in NBA history to storm back from a 3-1 Finals deficit to win a title. 


Now, two of the best and most celebrated players in the league will meet once again, when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, with Game 1 set for Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET at Chase Center. 

This could be their most important matchup of their careers. 

James, 38, has had an incredible season, once again defying Father Time. But it's unclear how much longer he'll be able to play at this level. And it's clear that his championship window is closing. 

And Curry, 35, knows how important a deep playoff run could be to keeping him, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green together. All season long, there has been talk that this could be the end of the dynasty. 

Both players are at very unique points in their incredibly storied careers, with this chapter holding a lot of significance. Not to mention, both are hoping to win their fifth championship. 

"Just two of the most competitive players that have ever played this game," James said after Monday's Lakers practice. "And we want to etch our names in the history books as much as we can. But playing and doing it our own way."

For a while, it looked doubtful the league's two biggest stars could be pitted against each other in the postseason.

In early February, the Lakers were in 13th place in the Western Conference. And all season, the Warriors couldn't seem to figure out how to win on the road, finishing with a dismal away record of 11-30. 

But James and Curry found a way to will their teams to the Western Conference semifinals. That's what once-in-a-generation players do. 

Look no further than Game 4 of the Lakers' first round series against Memphis, when James became the oldest player in NBA history to finish with a 20-point, 20-rebound performance in his team's 117-111 overtime win. 

Or Game 7 of the Warriors' first round series against Sacramento, when Curry scored 50 points in his team's 120-100 win, the most points in a Game 7 in league history. 

James is widely considered one of the greatest players of all-time. Curry is considered the best shooter ever.

And lucky us, we get to see them go at each other again. 

That's why Green cautioned everyone to take a breath and appreciate what's unfolding before their eyes. 

"This series against the Lakers is going to be epic," Green told reporters after Game 7. "You got Steph, you got Bron, doing it all over again.

" ... What I will say is stop trying to turn the page on us so fast," Green added. "Stop trying to turn the page on Bron so fast. We get so caught up in what's the next thing, we don't appreciate the current. Then you get to the next thing, and you're looking back, like, 'Man, I wish we still had that. I wish we could still see this.'"

James and Curry first met in the 2014-15 Finals. At the time, James had already won two championships with Miami and deeply wanted to prove to the world he could win with Cleveland, without a superteam. Curry, on the other hand, was a relatively unproven entity, playing for a team that had long struggled for relevance. 

In a sense, Curry made his worldwide debut on that stage, leading his team to its first championship. The Warriors and Cavaliers would go on to meet in the Finals in four straight seasons, with their last battle coming in 2018. 

Five years later, they're still atop the league. 

"It's amazing because you're still in the fight," Curry said. "It's better than the alternative of [being] on the outside looking in. Having been down 0-2 in this series [against Sacramento], nothing is guaranteed and you don't take anything for granted. It is special to know from the first series we played [James] in Cleveland in the '14-'15 season to now, we're blessed to be playing at this level still. And excited about a new chapter."

How's this for some perspective on how little they've aged: In 2014-2015, James averaged 25.3 points on 48.8% shooting, six rebounds and 7.4 assists. This season, he's averaged 28.9 points on 50% shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists. As for Curry, he averaged 23.8 points on 48.7% shooting, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists in 2014-2015, compared to 29.4 points on 49.3% shooting, 6.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. 

Lakers head coach calls LeBron vs. Steph ‘the best rivalry of this generation’

"He puts in the work," James said of Curry. "And when you put in the work, nine times out of 10 you’re going to see the results. And he’s done that throughout his whole, entire career. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Steph and everything he’s been able to accomplish, not only on the floor but also off the floor, too. It’s just great to have people like that in this league to set an example for the generation to come."

When you talk about championship DNA, look no further than those two.

James has been to the Finals 10 times, half of his 20-season career. Curry has been to the Finals six of the last eight years. James has won four MVPs and four Finals MVPs. Curry has won two MVPs, and, last season, won his first Finals MVP.

When they face off, they bring out the best in each other.

How about the time James scored 51 points in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, leading his team to overtime against a much, much deeper Warriors team that went on to sweep the series.

Or the many times Curry wowed with his deep buzzer-beaters or 3-pointers from the parking lot, as James recently joked about.

"It’s the best rivalry of this generation," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

All we can do is feel grateful that we get to witness it again. After all, even the guys who will be on the court alongside them feel that way. 

"For me and our guys, we are going to appreciate this every step of the way," Green said. 

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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