Why does Steph have an advantage over LeBron as unfamiliar stars Originally appeared NBC Sports Bayara
SAN FRANCISCO – In the fourth summer of his NBA career, Stephen Curry can wake up every day wearing a champ smile and then peek at his many MVP awards. In a league of 450 active players, only one other player tested this with the same frequency.
While Carey and James’ careers don’t quite parallel—they were forged six years apart—they are forever linked by the quartet, four straight NBA Finals, where LeBron’s Steve Warriors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers. Every man is in his thirties and neither has known a more consistent and formidable opponent.
They’re two rivals entering twilight, which makes the comparison fair game. Warning: The opinions here stray from a typical NBA discussion. We don’t come to belittle one to flatter the other. Steve and LeBron have earned enough respect to be immune to rips.
There are indisputable affirmations. The first is that LeBron did things Stephen couldn’t do. At the age of 22, he took the Walking List, the 2007 Cavaliers, to the finals. Although they were swept away by the San Antonio Spurs, getting that team through the Eastern Conference was one of the most miraculous accomplishments in American sports in the 21st century.
The second is that Steve has done at least two things that LeBron couldn’t.
The first is that Curry has taken two different incarnations from the same franchise to and through the finals. Most of the warriors surrounding him retired in 2015, and many of those around him in 2022 were in middle school in 2015.
The second is that Curry has influenced the direction of the entire sport. His basketball footprint is bigger than anyone’s since Michael Jordan – and in one way bigger. Steph has taken the 3-point shot, which was once the field of specialists, and made it central to success. It literally changes the rules of the game.
The NBA, by this scale, is Steve’s league — even with LeBron in it.
Andre Iguodala entered the NBA in 2004, one year after LeBron, playing with or against everyone from Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson to Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant. Iguodala is among the most enthusiastic followers of the game and has witnessed its development. He understands Curry’s importance and marvels at his ownership of the 2022 finals.
“You’ve never seen a guy of his size dominate the league like this, just to put the weight of it all on his shoulders during the Finals series,” Iguodala says. “We’ve all seen what the boys have been doing to them. Usually you get a focused guy, like Hakeem[Alwan]or Kobe Bryant, LeBron James – these guys are 6-7 or taller and they can get into their positions and shoot guys.
“But the ‘vertical challenge’ guy just, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. It was unbelievable.”
Curry, who is 6-foot-3, made basketball accessible to many who were fired from the era, Jordan or Kobe, when scouts were looking for overly sporting wings hoping to uncover someone who could do half the things MJ or Kobe did. Steve has scouts roaming the rosters of the 2nd Division Shooters. It’s why Max Strus got a job in Miami, why Desmond Bane could be a star in Memphis and why 6-foot-1 Alfonso Plummer – even at 24 – has a chance to hear his name during Thursday night’s NBA draft.
Another category in which LeBron or anyone could compete with Steph is promoting an inclusive and engaging environment. While LeBron’s teammates at times seemed frightened—or suffocated, in Keri Irving’s case—Carrey was an active recruit in the pursuit of K.D. and sets a friendly tone in which every member of the team feels valued.
“Everyone on this team is selfless, from the top to the bottom of the food chain,” says Jordan Paul. “The humility that guys have, we want to see everyone succeed. We want to win matches. Being able to have that with our talented team is rare.”
This wouldn’t be true if Curry wasn’t around to guarantee it. His combination of generational offensive ability and routine friendliness are the keys to Golden State’s winning more championships than any other franchise since its arrival in 2009.
“The thing with Steve is, you know, without him, none of that happens,” says coach Steve Kerr. “That doesn’t take anything away from the ownership of Joe (Lacobe) and Peter (Joeber), because they’ve built a great organization. Bob Myers, hell of a GM. Our guys, we have a lot of great players. But Steve is ultimately why this run happened. It’s like Pretty much Timmy (Duncan) is in San Antonio.”
Jordan’s cultural influence may never be equal. His shoe brand has thrived across two generations, without any reason to believe it wouldn’t make three or four. LeBron and Steve can’t compete with that.
MJ has won six episodes and five MVP Awards and overall ranks first on any list. LeBron won four championships with three different teams and holds four Most Valuable Player awards, all before Steve won his first championship. Curry has four episodes and two Player of the Year awards, including the only unanimous award. LeBron and Steve belong in the top five of all-time.
What neither MJ nor LeBron do is change the game. So unique.
Steve did. By being the most unfashionable superstar we’ve ever seen.
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