LeBron James Vs. Stephen Curry Rivalry History
LeBron James Stephen Curry Lakers Warriors
(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

The history of the NBA is remembered for different eras throughout time and the current one has largely been defined as by the LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry rivalry that has decided multiple NBA Finals matchups.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar is arguably the greatest to ever play the game while the Golden State Warriors’ superstar is climbing up the all-time ladder as well. And despite the different paths they’ve taken, James and Curry’s careers are forever intertwined.

For James, the pressure was on him from the moment he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated while still in high school. No player in history entered the NBA with higher expectations and yet somehow LeBron has exceeded all of them.

Entering the league in 2003 as the top overall draft pick, James had great individual success but wasn’t able to get over the hump with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would then take his talents to Miami where he was arguably at his individual peak and finally won his first two NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013.

He would then return to Cleveland to grab his most iconic ring in the 2016 NBA Finals, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat these Warriors, before leaving to join the Lakers in 2019 and winning his fourth championship in 2020.

Along the way he has become the most decorated player in the history of this league and his accomplishments are too many to name. That being said, James is a four-time NBA Champion with four regular season and NBA Finals MVPs. LeBron is also a 19-time All-Star and 18-time All-NBA selection with 13 of those being First Team. He broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record in 2023 but also ranks in the top-10 all-time assists and steals as well.

On the other hand, Curry had the complete opposite journey, being a small-time high school recruit who attended little-known Davidson College where he rose to fame. But even after an unreal college career, there were questions about whether his game would translate to the NBA and he fell to the seventh overall pick.

Ankle issues made transitioning into the league rough for Curry early on, but he eventually figured it out and then went on an absolute tear, completely changing the game with his unreal shooting ability. It all came together in 2015 when Curry won his first MVP and led the Warriors to their first NBA Championship in 40 years. The following year, Curry became the first ever unanimous MVP and led the Warriors to the best regular season record in of all-time.

Curry would add two more championships in 2017 and 2018 and a fifth consecutive Finals appearance in 2019. After a couple down years for the team, he would then blast back on the scene with a run for the ages in 2022, leading the Warriors to their fourth championship in eight years while also bringing home his first NBA Finals MVP Award.

So far in his career, Curry has won a pair of regular season MVP Awards along with his one Finals MVP. He is a four-time NBA Champion, nine-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBA selection. He has also demolished the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made record and continues to grow that gap.

LeBron James vs. Steph Curry rivalry

This individual rivalry was built, as the best ones usually are, in the playoffs and particularly the NBA Finals. With James and Curry being in opposite conferences for most of their careers, the only way they would be able to meet in the playoffs was to decide who would hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy and they did just that four consecutive seasons.

But this was also about more than that as Curry challenged LeBron’s spot as the face of the NBA and the league’s best player, a title James had held for quite some time. Curry was the first player in some time to truly approach that level and while they likely wouldn’t admit it, it did add some extra spice whenever the two met.

2015 NBA Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 2

The first NBA Finals meeting between James and Curry was an unfortunate one as Cleveland had lost big man Kevin Love to a dislocated shoulder in the prior series, while Kyrie Irving played just one game before succumbing to injury.

It was Curry’s first trip to the Finals and while his numbers were good, averaging 26 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists, he was not quite as good as he had been during the regular season. LeBron, meanwhile, was a force, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the series.

Some argued that James should win the Finals MVP Award despite losing the series, but that honor ultimately went to Andre Iguodala, and it was something held against Curry for years.

2016 NBA Finals: Cavaliers 4, Warriors 3

The most iconic playoff moment in James’ career as he led the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to win their first NBA Championship in franchise history. LeBron was unreal, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists and in the deciding Game 7, put forth a triple-double to lead the way.

This series also included arguably the most contentious moment between the two as James blocked a Curry layup in late in Game 3 and stood over him after the fact, sending a message that he was still the unquestioned best player in the league.

Curry would struggle even more in this series, averaging just 22.6 points and committing more turnovers than assists. His lackluster Game 7 in which he scored just 17 points furthered the perception that he couldn’t get the job done on a Finals stage.

2017 NBA Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 1

Golden State’s addition of Kevin Durant completely changed the complexion of these Finals meetings as the all-time great was unbelievable in this series and took home the Finals MVP Award. But lost in that shuffle was Curry delivering as well.

Curry averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 9.8 assists in the series and in the closeout Game 5 dropped a 34-point, 10-assist gem to put things away. Because Durant dropped 39 in that same game, Curry’s performance was overshadowed, but he still proved that he could be excellent under the brightest lights.

LeBron was outstanding as usual, averaging a triple-double for the series with 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists, but it simply wasn’t enough to overcome the Warriors’ firepower.

2018 NBA Finals: Warriors 4, Cavaliers 0

James put forth one of the greatest individual games in playoff history in Game 1, finishing with 51 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in leading a clearly inferior team to the brink of stealing the first contest against the heavily-favored Warriors.

But things didn’t work out that way and the Warriors would sweep James and the Cavaliers with Durant again winning the Finals MVP over Curry. This was despite the Warriors star putting together a 37-6-4-3-3 line to complete the sweep. For the series, Curry averaged 27.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists

LeBron, on the other hand, continued his legendary level of play averaging 34.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists. Even though he was swept, James still drove home the point that while the Warriors team was better, he was still the NBA’s best player.

2021 NBA Play-In Game: Lakers 103, Warriors 100

It may not count as playoffs, but it is definitely more than a standard regular season game when James and Curry met in 2021. In the first year of the NBA implementing the Play-In Tournament, it was James and the Lakers facing off against Curry and the Warriors with L.A. edging it out despite Curry’s best efforts.

The Warriors star finished with 37 points while knocking down 6-of-9 from deep to nearly knock off the Lakers on the road. James and Anthony Davis would lead the Lakers back from a 15-point halftime deficit to get the win.

LeBron would have another triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in what ultimately propelled the Lakers to the postseason and gave James another win over his longest rival.

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