Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
Not only are the two still top-10 talents in the league but they are also two of the most influential players to ever pick up a basketball. Between them, there are a combined six MVPs, seven NBA titles, 15 NBA Finals appearances and a long list of other accolades that could quickly turn this into a long-form article.
From Feb. 26, 2015 to June 8, 2018, basketball fans enjoyed 28 (!) head-to-head meetings between LeBron and Steph, including two Christmas meetings, three games on Martin Luther King Day and, of course, four consecutive meetings in the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.
While the Finals streak effectively came to an end on July 1, 2018, when LeBron elected to head West to join the Los Angeles Lakers, thus began a new era of the rivalry. The dynamic was changed - while there would be no more meetings with a title on the line, both stars being in the Pacific Division meant that we could see them play four times a year at a minimum, even before taking potential postseason meetings into consideration.
Fittingly, the next chapter of the rivalry officially began on Christmas 2018, when the Warriors hosted the Lakers, the game that LeBron would exit five minutes into the second half with a groin injury that ultimately altered the entire course of his first season as a Laker.
Save for a few preseason games and the 2019 All-Star Game, it took nearly 800 days for the two to share the court again on MLK Day in 2021.
Now, fans are finally granted the opportunity to watch Curry and LeBron face off with regularity once again, something we became so accustomed to doing during the years of the rivalry between the Warriors and Cavs. What once felt like an inevitable ending to the NBA season is now the treat that fans might not have realized they could miss this much.
If the past has taught us nothing else, it's to not take these moments for granted.
While their place among the NBA's elite is still unquestionable, James is now 36 and Curry will turn 33 before the season's end. Both LeBron and Steph have proven to defy logic as their games continue to age in ways that Father Time has yet to find a way to contest, so we could very well see several more years of this, but nothing lasts forever.
While the Warriors and Lakers are in very different predicaments, they're each reliant on their seasoned superstars playing at an MVP level.
For Golden State, Curry is averaging 29.3 points, 6.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds. Attempting a career-high 20.4 field goals per game is what is necessary for the team to remain in the playoff hunt this year. Curry's MVP-form was on full display the first time these two teams met, as he hit big buckets down the stretch to lead the Warriors from down 19 to defeat the Lakers.
STEPHEN CURRY FROM THE BAY pic.twitter.com/kCa85pwwfG- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 19, 2021
These types of performances in Year 13 aren't what we've come to know as normal, but it doesn't come as much of a surprise for a generational talent like Curry.
LeBron, on the other hand, has been a mainstay atop NBA.com's MVP ladder, with averages of 25.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season despite playing the fewest minutes of his career - that's not close to being remotely normal for a player in his 18th NBA season.
👑 @KingJames was all over the floor in the @Lakers home win.- NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2021
28 PTS | 11 REB | 7 AST | 4 STL | 3 BLK pic.twitter.com/gYzfqVniqE
As Los Angeles is a title contender and Golden State hopes to remain a playoff contender, the dynamic between the two stars and their teams continues to evolve, truly making this feel like a completely new chapter.
Including the Finals, James and Curry have met a total of 37 times. Will we see them meet another 37? Both being in the Western Conference certainly makes the prospect a more realistic possibility - especially given the chance they meet in an early round of the playoffs - but nothing is guaranteed.
Before we shift our focus on the next meetings, it's time to focus on the first one that lies ahead. For the third time in the last three seasons, we've got LeBron and Steph meeting once again, and they're both still performing at an MVP level.
For as long as they're at this high level of play, we have to cherish each of these meetings for what they are. It won't last forever.
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