Stephen Curry and LeBron James defined the latter part of the 2010s. It’s not uncommon to hear people say LeBron Goat, but what if there’s a deeper explanation? Steph or LeBron? Does Steph Curry have the edge over LeBron?
During the last half of the previous decade, the two superstars were on opposing sides of many debates as they starred in four NBA Finals in a row from 2015 to 2018. Curry’s meteoric rise to superstardom during the 2015-16 season made discussions even more heated. This was the first time that a player has ever won the MVP award unanimously in the NBA, an award that the Lakers’ LeBron James could have won if it had not been for the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, who opted for Carmelo Anthony rather than James in 2012-13.
If you are comparing the two based solely upon their career accolades, especially if you are examining things from the standpoint of Stephen Curry being a better player than LeBron James, most debates will begin with their accolades and head-to-head battles.
James was easily the best player on the planet during the first half of the 2010s. In 2012 and 2013, he led the Miami Heat to two consecutive NBA championship titles and four straight Finals appearances, including back-to-back MVPs (four in all).
Curry’s Warriors were one of the league’s best teams in the 2014-15 season, posting a 67-15 regular-season record. While James was away, this city’s first NBA championship was the focus of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
There were no problems for either team during the playoffs. The NBA Finals was the first time Curry and James played each other. Curry dominated James and the Cavs in six games in their first meeting, with help from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love’s injuries severely depleting the Cavs’ lineup. Does this mean Steph Curry is better than LeBron James? Not so fast!
When the 2015-16 season rolled along, Golden State plowed through the league again, this time, setting an unprecedented 73-9 record, which still stands as the best regular-season mark of all time. Curry had arguably the greatest individual regular season ever that saw him win his second straight MVP in unanimous fashion, the first in NBA history.
Obviously, what differs between the two superstars is the way they play and dominate the game in their respective ways.
James can dominate his opponents because of his strength and athletic ability. Standing 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, with powerful athleticism, which allows him to bully his way into the basket. Although he can plow through the paint, the 16-time All-Star isn’t just that.
As one of the most proficient passers in league history, he also makes it a point to involve his teammates. The Hallof Famer has developed into a well-rounded player, who has had so many different impacts on the game throughout his career.
Curry, on the one hand, doesn’t have James’ body or athletic gifts. Instead, at 6-foot-3 and 185-lbs, the three-time NBA champion uses his speed, craftiness, and most especially, his elite three-point shooting ability to dominate the game. There’s no doubt at this point that Curry is already the greatest shooter to ever step foot on a basketball court.
With three games left, Stephen Curry and the Warriors had a chance to end a spectacular regular season with a championship after going up 3-1. As James, Irving, and the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to spoil the sweet taste of victory (hence the 3-1 jokes), they abruptly silenced what could have been an amazing season. With his life-long dream captured, James led Cleveland to its very first NBA title.
With this win, Curry and James had won their respective Finals facing each other. Curry’s unthinkable 2015-16 season hadn’t been over until The King ended it. That was the moment he proved he was still the very best.
Kevin Durant was acquired by the Warriors in the subsequent off-season. Including the 2016 champion Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors were on a different level since adding him. Cleveland went on to lose the following two Finals to Golden State. Curry won the Finals that way, 3 series to 1.
The latter half of the decade was defined by LeBron James and Stephen Curry, respectively. Both became global icons, both as basketball greats that had not only stepped foot on a basketball court but as global athletes as well. But a narrative had already emerged around LeBron Goat by that time.
More championships have been won at the highest levels by Lebron James than by Curry. There are four titles he shares with three teams, as well as numerous Finals appearances with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year, he and Anthony Davis won the title together in Los Angeles.
The King has an edge when it comes to winning rings, and that’s what makes him a superstar. The Cleveland Cavaliers ace played alongside basketball greats such as Anthony Davis, Dwyane Wade, and Kyrie Irving, but he was undoubtedly the greatest. In his first championship, Curry led the team, but the next two resulted in Kevin Durant coming out as the better player and he did not play the best game for the Warriors.
Regarding being the best player on the team, LeBron was undisputedly the best on the court during all four of his championship seasons. LeBron was the Finals MVP even if Davis had the most points in the regular season or if Kyrie Irving had the biggest shot in the 2016 Finals.
Despite being the team’s best player in 2015, Curry did not win the Finals MVP award. The Golden State Warriors’ best player was Curry, so this news is surprising. But it was Iguodala, who averaged 16.3 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game while providing terrific defense to LeBron James in the Finals, who won NBA MVP in that year.
There will be no player who can keep up with LeBron James when it comes to regular-season MVP awards. When it comes to dominance on the court, LeBron might be the best player ever. He won the MVP award for four consecutive years between 2009 and 2013. After posting 28.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG in 2009, he averaged 29.7 PPG and 8.6 APG a year later. His back-to-back NBA championships with the Heat were achieved by averaging 27.1 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game, followed by 26.4 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Averaging 30.1 points per game and 6.7 assists per game, Stephen Curry became the first unanimous MVP ever in 2016. With an NBA record of 73-9, Curry set a new record for the best team record in history. He became the greatest shooter we have ever seen.
Nonetheless, Curry had won the MVP and the NBA title for the Warriors one year earlier. For the Warriors, he averaged 23.8 points per game and 7.7 assists per game, cementing his place as the most dominant point guard in the NBA.
LeBron James has extremely impressive regular season stats. Six feet nine and 240 pounds, LeBron has a profound impact on the game in every aspect. When it comes to playing an all-around game, LeBron is perhaps the best in NBA history. He averaged 27.0 PPG and shot over 50% from the field, which put him 6th on all-time lists. His 7.4 rebounds per game ranked 23rd.
It has been said that Curry was the most successful shooter ever, a feat he accomplished with 43.3% accuracy from deep. A total of 2719 3-pointers have been made by Curry, second all-time only to Ray Allen. By the end of his career, Curry will likely be the number one player. In addition to Steve Nash and Mark Price, he has the best free-throw shooting stats in history. Despite Curry’s good shooting, LeBron boasts better statistics overall on both ends of the court.
The NBA is frequently an amusing place to discuss loyalty. Because he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat to play alongside Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, LeBron James is often seen as the player responsible for starting superteams.
With two titles in four years, James managed to silence critics despite his move with the franchise. But his loyalty is often under scrutiny since he sprinted back to Cleveland as soon as Miami started to crumble.
His third title came after he defeated Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors in the Finals, and then he lost to the Warriors after acquiring Kevin Durant. In joining the Lakers, LeBron again made it appear like he was a freelancer looking for jobs.
Curry will be Mr. Golden State many years from now, most likely until he retires. Golden State has benefited from Curry’s contributions and he has been with the team since it began. But Curry didn’t just enter the league as the top point guard, he proved it.
He averaged 17.5 points per game in his rookie season, but injury concerns by his third season led some to expect him to fail. Those accomplishments would come not until 2015 when he became a third-time MVP. Despite his past failures, Curry came back to the Warriors and repaid them with his loyalty.
Curry and James seem to have been friends from 2009 to 2014. According to Curry, he hung out with James in 2009 and watched games and movies.
The 2014-15 season marked the beginning of a shift in trends. After leaving the Miami Heat, James returned to build the next superteam for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Curry won the MVP award and revolutionized the game for the Warriors, who also went 67-15.
A short-handed Cavaliers roster faced the Warriors in the 2015 Finals. The Warriors won the series in six games.
As far as Curry’s rebuttal to the suggestion the Warriors got lucky is concerned, he said: “I apologize for us being healthy. I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry, and we’ll rectify that situation this year.”
As the next season wore on, the rivalry grew hotter. Curry said his goal was to ensure that the visitor’s locker room still smelled of champagne (from the Warriors’ championship celebration in Cleveland) when the Warriors prepared to visit the Cavs.
The 2016 Finals were rife with conflict. The Cavaliers’ comeback possibilities opened up when Draymond Green was suspended for a serious foul against James, as the Warriors lead the series 3-1.
James and Curry got into a fight during Game 6. Cavaliers guard LeBron James trash-talked Curry after blocking a layup attempt from Curry during Game 5 of the series. Having been whistled for fouling James, Curry lost his cool. Curry hurled his mouthpiece into the audience after disputing the call and was kicked out of the game.
Kevin Love stopped Curry on the game-tying shot in the ensuing Game 7, which was a contest in which James had a chase-down block, and Irving hit a dagger 3-pointer over Curry. The Cavs came back to win the championship. After winning the championship, James wore a t-shirt with the words “Ultimate Warrior” to troll the Warriors.
During the Halloween party that year, the Cavs tricked the Warriors with cookies showing tombstones with their names on them. In the summer of 2016, the Warriors acquired Kevin Durant, ending the Cavs’ celebrations. The Cavaliers would go on to win both of the following Finals easily.
Curry and Irving appeared to dance at a wedding in a video posted in summer 2017. In the video, Irving mocked the workout video posted by James a few weeks earlier. It started to spread rumors that James and Curry had a troubled relationship. Curry had been thrown off by James’ behavior toward him.
Bill Simmons of The Ringer and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst discussed the friction between Curry and James in a podcast in 2019, specifically regarding Curry’s rapid rise and James’ perception of his own coverage as soft. During Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, the two sides once again clashed.
In the closing minutes of the game, James blocked a shot from Curry that sealed the Warriors’ triumph. James reportedly told Curry to “get the f— out of his face” after he joked that he should have let the shot go when he tried to joke about it.
Throughout the process, things began to thaw. Two years had passed since the two teams met in a pivotal game.
James chose Curry to be on his team for the 2021 All-Star Game. During the weekend, both players appeared to have fun playing together.
It was even mentioned in a tweet by James. He called it “overdue.”
Marcus Thompson, who had earlier written about the problems in the pair’s relationship, observed that Curry and James seemed much more friendly at the All-Star Game than in recent events.
They haven’t given up their rivalry on the court simply because they’ve rekindled their friendship. At the 2020 play-in tournament, James shot a dagger three-pointer above Curry’s face after going back and forth with the star.
Curry expressed disbelief that James had hit the shot, forcing the Warriors to play another game to clinch a playoff spot after the game. James and Curry came together after the game, exchanging pleasantries, but Curry appeared to be shocked that James had hit the shot.
James, who will be a free agent in 2022, maybe trying to team up with Curry.
The play-in game is by far ESPN’s most-watched game this season with 5.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.
It has been said that James and Curry’s relationship and rivalry are similar to that of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. We might see another James-Curry series if the Warriors can reload their team in the coming season.
How the Stars’ Teammates Factor Into Their Success
It’s simple. Without the acquisition of Kevin Durant in the off-season, the Warriors would not have won the championship in 2017.
You can make the argument that Steph Curry by himself is still Steph Curry, but the addition of Durant, how he outplayed Curry, plus the fact that he won the Finals MVP in his first year as a Warrior makes that argument simply not enough, because although Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history, he cannot win games all by himself.
When discussing the supporting cast, one must mention Kyrie Irving, who despite occasional statistical blips in a series that could have been a nightmare, never looked back during the playoffs in 2016. In an age when ball movement and efficiency are rewarded, Irving reaffirmed his iso-heavy style by having a key role in beating the Warriors, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. Had it not been for LeBron’s brilliant play, he would have been a deserving Finals MVP.
When James was with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, Wade and Bosh assisted him with the second championship, as the series reached seven games. The question remains: Will Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, both in their late 30s, form an unforgettable duo that will propel the Lakers to their next championship this coming postseason?
Curry vs Lebron Comparison: Conclusion
Stephen Curry and LeBron James have a complicated relationship. The two most successful, influential, and renowned basketball players of the last decade were LeBron James and Steph Curry, who were, incidentally, both born at the same hospital in Akron, Ohio. Curry changed how basketball is played and led the Warriors to three titles in four years while James went to eight straight finals and established himself as arguably basketball’s greatest ever.
The two players looked up to each other from afar during their first few seasons in the league, but four straight Finals battles over titles, legacy, and popularity as the face of the NBA uncovered deeply seated rivalries.
All in all, LeBron James is the better all-around player, considering all the factors mentioned above. A player as hyped as he was accomplished unprecedented feats, and he did it without ever getting himself into trouble off the court. He excelled as a role model as the world’s eyes were on him. His dominance on the court and high basketball IQ made him a mix of both Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, both of whom he was being compared to as early as his rookie season.
There have been more MVP awards, more NBA Finals, and more awards won by James than by Curry. As opposed to Curry, LeBron has 10 more appearances as an All-Star and among his many accomplishments, he has been selected for 16 NBA All-Star Teams.
LeBron has done and accomplished more than Curry, even though Curry is the greatest shooter ever. James is the only player to accomplish more at an individual level along with Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.