The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are set to square off in the marquee Christmas Day showdown, and the game will contain an individual showdown between arguably the NBA’s two best players, LeBron James and Steph Curry.
Actually, in the minds of the two players, there’s no argument. But it sounds like James and Curry might have to agree to disagree over which one of them is the best.
A profile of James this month in Sports Illustrated went into great detail about how haunted he was by his Cavs’ Finals loss last spring to Curry’s Warriors and about his determination to bring Cleveland a title. In the piece, James said, “I hear the chatter about who is the best player in the league. I see the guys who are barreling down. That locks me in even more.”
As SI noted, that chatter has focused in the past on the likes of Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, but now Curry is the name brought up alongside, if not ahead of James’s, especially considering that the Golden State star has followed up an MVP/championship season with nearly undefeated start this season.
From the SI profile:
For the first time in nearly a decade, James’s transcendence is being matched by another’s. ‘I’m great,’ he says, a crack that recalls his press conference after Game 5 of the Finals. ‘I’m the best player in the world,’ he said then. He is asked if he ever needs to remind himself. ‘No,’ he replies. ‘I don’t need to be reminded.’ He flashes a broad smile, eyebrows incredulously raised.
For his part, Curry was recently asked this question by Time magazine: “Are you the best player in the NBA?” Here is what the Warriors star had to say:
“In my mind, yes. That’s how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night. I don’t get into debates, arguing with people about why I am versus somebody else. I feel like anybody who’s at the level I’m trying to be at, if you don’t think that when you’re on the floor, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
Clearly the two are making somewhat different statements, with James displaying much more certainty about his primacy. For Curry, on the other hand, thinking of himself as the “best player” seems to be more of a psychological ploy than an objective determination.
That said, Curry’s confidence and ambition take a backseat to no one. Earlier this month, he told ESPN (with some prompting) that he wanted to surpass Michael Jordan as “the GOAT” — greatest of all time.
Right now, the “who’s better” argument rages among NBA fans, but there’s no debate about who has the best team in the NBA. James is clearly focused on snatching back that status, starting with the Christmas battle, then letting the individual comparison speak for itself.
(H/T Fox Sports)