Over the past decade, every NBA Finals besides one has featured two NBA superstars: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, or LeBron James of the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers. The constant epic battles, chiefly their head-to-head meetings with the Dubs and Cavs, created a rivalry between the two icons, similar to the rivalry between Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan and Detroit Pistons icon Isiah Thomas.
Here’s some perspective on Stephen Curry and LeBron James, as a point of comparison: During Thomas’s career, he went to battle against Jordan 43 times in the regular season. He came out on top in those games with a record of 24-19. In the playoffs, Thomas’s record was 12-10 against Jordan.
In the win column, Thomas got the best of the Bulls, but the entire world knew Jordan was the best player on the court at all times. It was one of the many layers to a beef between the two that still exists over 30 years later.
Since Thomas’s Pistons had a better record against Jordan’s Bulls, Isiah felt Jordan wasn’t his competition. He believes it was the other way around. One wonders what Stephen Curry and LeBron James would think of this. People credit Jordan for dominating the 1980s and ’90s, and Thomas doesn’t like it. Many disagree with Thomas and chalk it up as him being jealous of Jordan.
Jordan usually takes the high road when it comes to the controversies which surrounded him and Thomas. He rarely speaks publicly about them and lets everyone else do the talking for him. You could view it as the classy thing to do, or it could simply be that Jordan understands this will get under Thomas’ skin more.
When it comes to pettiness, M.J. might be the GOAT of that as well. Jordan’s superior level of pettiness is why people believe he was the one who kept Thomas off The Dream Team, although he denies those rumors.
When it comes to Stephen Curry and LeBron James, their rivalry has many similarities to Thomas and Jordan’s. Yet, they handle a rivalry in opposite ways, and it might be slightly more entertaining because of this difference.
In the regular season, Stephen Curry and LeBron James met 16 times, and James has a 9-7 record. In playoffs matchups, which have been all NBA Finals games, they went at it 22 times. Curry’s team dominated, winning 15 out of those 22 games. In four straight meetings in the NBA Finals, Curry won three championships to the King’s one.
Every time Stephen Curry and LeBron James face each other, storylines of their epic battles come up. Many questions arrive that try to pin the two superstars against each other. Neither Curry nor James take the bait. They answer most questions respectfully while noting that they want to get the better of the other.
Stephen Curry on LeBron James:
"Respect is always there."
— Mark Haynes (@markhaynesnba) March 16, 2021
Although the two respect each other off the court, it’s all business on the court. Stephen Curry and LeBron James never fail to put on one of the best shows on earth. Their willingness to talk to the media about each other helped add substance to these legendary battles and moments.
Unlike Jordan and Thomas, James and Curry love the idea of playing together, something they have never done until the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, when James selected the two-time MVP to be on Team LeBron.
The entire game, they looked like two best friends who loved the game of basketball. Fans enjoyed seeing them share the floor as teammates as much as Lebron James and Stephen Curry did playing together.
Finally got to share the floor with @StephenCurry30! Well overdue and I loved every single second!! #GreatestShooterOfAllTime#ChangedHowTheGameIsPlayedByHimselfAlone#RespectBeyondWords#JustSomeKidsBornInAKRON🤴🏾
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 8, 2021
It was a scenario we didn’t get to witness with Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. The ongoing beef between the two Hall of Fame players left fans wondering about the real reason Thomas wasn’t on The Dream Team.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry didn’t shortchange the fans. James could have easily not chosen Curry and allowed him to be on the opposing team. More storylines of a superstar feud would have flowed from such an act… but that’s not how this rivalry operates.
These are two very similar rivalries on the court but two different rivalries off the court, between two all-time greats who we love to see play basketball.