Despite the Los Angeles Lakers winning their last five games and doing all they could to avoid it, they will participate in the first-ever Play-In Tournament this week. LeBron James and the Lakers will face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night with the winner earning the No. 7 seed and a matchup with the Phoenix Suns.
While this is far from the ideal situation, the Lakers have proven over the last two seasons that they have no issues dealing with adversity. And now that they are healthy, they can compete with anyone. Even though James has been through everything in his illustrious 18-year career, even he is facing a new situation with the Play-In Game.
James spoke about the team’s mindset going into their game against the Warriors, and how they need to be looking at facing Curry, who he believes is the MVP of this season.
“You cannot replicate a Game 7, especially with the first game. I’ve always treated Game 1s like a feel-out game but obviously you don’t have that luxury in the Play-In Game so we just got to play to the best of our ability,” James said.
“We got to play Lakers basketball, we got to defend at a high rate. We’re playing in my opinion the MVP of our league this year in Steph so we got to be prepared for everything they have. They have championship DNA as well, they’ve been there, they know what it takes and what it feels like to be in pressure games so we got to be ready for that opportunity and for that pressure.”
The Lakers star then turned his attention more specifically to Curry and what it has been like matching up with him so many times throughout his career. “For our paths to continue to cross in our careers is pretty unique and it’s pretty cool,” James said of he and Curry. “Both of us being born in Northeast Ohio, born in Akron, I know he spent a lot of his time obviously in Charlotte but born in Akron along with me so we got that DNA.
“But our paths have been crossed again and it’s always been a level of respect that’s beyond the game of basketball, the way I feel for Steph. So that’s cool. And just look what he’s done this year, everybody counted him out this year, everybody was saying that now with Klay being hurt, can Steph lead a team on his own, what is he gonna be able to do, can he carry a team on his own? Can he carry a team into the postseason? Can he keep a team afloat? He’s done that and more.”
For James to not only praise Curry for what he’s done this year but also call him the MVP of the league, is a real testament to the relationship they’ve built despite years of people trying to turn them into a rivalry.
At the 2021 All-Star Game, it was clear that there was no bad blood surrounding Curry and James. In fact, the opposite looked to be true, as they genuinely seemed like good friends. Now, they’ll have to face each other in a one-game scenario with a playoff spot on the line.
James likens career to Godfather trilogy
When asked about how his battles with Curry have shaped his career, James used an analogy to describe the various “rivalries” he’s had during his 18 years in the league.
“I don’t know, I’ve had like three, I guess you can look at my career like the Godfather trilogy. It’s been literally like a three-part movie. You got the first seven years and then the next seven years and then I got a couple more years then you got the final seven years. Literally like the Godfather trilogy to be honest so every obstacle that I’ve had, every challenge that I’ve had, every moment that I’ve had has shaped me into who I am today in Year 18. Having a rivlary like we’ve had with Golden State and those years where we played them four straight times in the Finals, shaped a part of my career.
“I’ve had some battled vs. a lot of greats. You look at three of the greatest players to ever play the game just went into the Hall of Fame and I had battles with all three of them. Obviously my battles with Timmy in the Finals, my battles with KG in the East trying to get to the Finals and obviously my battles in the regular season with Kobe every time we played our two games per year. So I’ve had a lot of battles and a lot of things that’s shaped me into who I am today and I appreciate it and I’m not taking anyone of those moments for granted.”
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