LeBron and Curry have become friends. Or so it seems, after an All Star in which they have played together for the first time in their careers. The rivalry between the two dates back to a few years ago, specifically to the 2015 Finals, where they met for the first time. Since then, they saw each other three more times on the big date, one in which Curry prevailed three times by one of the forward, who emerged gracefully in 2016, in a historic comeback. In all these confrontations a narrative was created around the two references of their respective teams, one that put them face to face and in which they spoke of a rivalry not only sports, but also personal. None of the stars ever went out of tune in their statements, in which they were always highly restrained. Mutual respect for the other was the general tonic of the relationship, which never went beyond the clues and had much-talked-about scenes in those games, with LeBron celebrating a plug in Curry’s face in Game 6 of the 2016 Finals, in the midst of the Cavaliers’ comeback. And now, five years after those mythical duels, it seems that both have settled their differences. Apparently.
In the NBA it is always difficult to talk about personal relationships. In a world full of entertainment and paraphernalia, highlights and a lot of hype, the distance between European culture is abysmal. Actions such as helping or not to lift the opponent, not to throw in the last possession of a decided match or, in the case of coaches, reacting in an undaunted way to what happens during the game, are incomprehensible here, where certain behaviors have been partially imitated, but not generally. Likewise, it is difficult to speculate on what exactly the players do in their free time in the NBA, beyond the already well-known festive side of James Harden or the problems of excesses of LaMar Odom (among others). We have also seen LeBron, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade sharing vacations. But still, what do players do in their spare time? What are the relationships between them really like?
Beyond venturing to answer those questions, it seems difficult to understand how Curry and LeBron have actually gotten along. There has been talk of discrepancies in the environment, personal rivalry and even animosity, but nobody really knows what happened then or if it really goes beyond the merely sporting. But at the All Star, where they played for the first time on the same team (they had not coincided in the United States team or in previous All-Star Games), they were seen in great harmony, playing jokes even in the ritual LeBron’s initial, which Curry watched closely with a smile. In one way or another, age always ends up appeasing the anger of players who caused slight havoc as youngsters, and fostering the mutual respect that ends up being imposed near the end of the stars’ careers. Just as Kobe and Shaq went from being close enemies to a longed-for couple, very close in recent years, LeBron and Curry seem to have left behind the supposed reproaches of the past to even be strangely united during an All Star weirder yet.
A historic rivalry
What LeBron and Curry will leave, beyond a relationship that is still difficult to define, is a historic rivalry. SThey have faced 37 times, with a record favorable to the point guard of 22-15, who also wins on the Finals balance sheet (3-1). Of course, there are few players in history who can compete with the elongated shadow of the King: four rings, 10 Finals (eight of them in a row) and countless records and achievements that make him compete with Michael Jordan himself. The star has also had better fighting averages in the Finals, with a tremendous effort in 2015 and a comeback for the annals in 2016. in a machado for the memory and one of the most unexpected and complicated victories ever.
In 2015, the Warriors won 4-2 after trailing 1-2, and in 2017 and 2018 they won 4-1 and 4-0 respectively. In 2016, the 4-3, crowned the career of a LeBron who has closed the circle on the Lakers, turning public opinion and winning the ring with three different teams. Both stars, like many others, have been able to recover from their most difficult seasons: Curry averages 29.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in a dream course, in which he has to pull his enormous individual capacity to lift an impoverished team forward and make it to the playoffs, something that is going to cost a lot. And he is having a spectacular season after playing only five in the previous oneIn an unfortunate event in which injuries ended a dynasty that has changed basketball, it has pioneered the triple era and has had as its reference the most advantageous of the Splash Brothers.
LeBron followed suit last year, missing more games than ever in 2018-19, his first in Los Angeles, and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Last year he emerged alongside Anthony Davis, led the league in assists (10.2) for the first time in his career and earning his fourth ring with his fourth Finals MVP, something that puts him second in the general classification behind only … wow, Michael Jordan. Now, the King seeks to reissue his crown with 36 years and a fight against time and history, one that he wants to conquer in a definitive way. And, to understand it, it is necessary to mention Stephen Curry, that rival who came to change everything and tries to emerge again. It is difficult for them to meet again in the Finals being both in the West, and also in the short term in a playoff round. But for the memory those duels and that rivalry will remain without which it is impossible to understand them, neither together nor separately. The evolution has been such that, in the All Star, LeBron has assured that he really wanted to play alongside the point guard and has praised him, along with Damian Lillard, as a shooter. And the issue has reached such a level that even journalist Nick Wright has speculated that they might play together for the Lakers starting in 2022, when Curry will be a free agent. Anyway, that is another issue (very very unlikely). So far, they seem to get along pretty well, after all. LeBron and Curry, neither with you nor without you.