Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James Credit: Bill Moore photo

Back when the now 38-year-old LeBron James was younger, he attended one of Stephen Curry’s games while the future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer was playing for Davidson College. James, forever the historian and visionary, knew then that Curry was different. Their mutual respect and admiration began to take shape. James was already a superstar, averaging 30 points per game at only 23 during the 2007–08 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Curry was a deadly marksman who put Davidson on the map during the 2008 NCAA Tournament, carrying them to the Elite Eight as a 10th seed.

“Wasn’t some kid to me!” James tweeted in December 2019, recalling the day. “I knew he was SPECIAL that’s why I went to see it up close and personal.”

Today, 15 years later, the approbation continues. “He puts in the work,” James said of Curry this past Monday, one day before his No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers were set to play the No. 6 seed Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal at the Chase Center in San Francisco. “And when you put in the work, nine times out of 10, you’re going to see results. And he’s done that through his entire career.”

James said he has “nothing but the utmost respect” for Curry and “everything he’s been able to accomplish, not only on the floor, but also off the floor, too—it’s great to have people like that in this league, setting an example for the generation to come.”

This is the sixth time James and Curry have met in the postseason. They have battled four times  in the NBA Finals when James was a Cavalier and once in the 2021 Play-in Tournament. Overall, Curry holds a 15-8 edge over James in postseason play after the Lakers’ dramatic 117-112 victory to open this postseason series, led by forward Anthony Davis’s 30 points and 23 rebounds.

Curry topped the Warriors with 27 but shot just 10-24 and James had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Given the familiarity James has with Golden State, the Lakers stealing Game 1 on the road was unsurprising. “One of the first things I learned about LeBron the first time we played him in the [2015] Finals was just how smart he was,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr earlier this week. “Coming out of timeouts, he knew what we were doing.”

The series has the makings of being a classic as well as nostalgic, and is filled with irony.  James and Curry were both born  at Akron General Medical Center in Akron, Ohio; James in 1984 and the 35-year-old Curry in 1988. Warriors guard Klay Thompson is going up against his father’s (Mychal Thompson) old team. James and Warriors forward Draymond Green are not only close friends, but business partners.

On the surface, there’s no bad blood. However, that could change as the series unfolds.

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