Their respective teams will be battling for the NBA championship in the next couple of weeks and the outcome could easily be swayed by how the two superstars will perform on the big stage. On Friday, June 5 (Manila time), we’ll all be watching excitedly, waiting to see who’ll draw first blood as Curry’s Dubs and James’ Cavs go at it in Game 1.
In the meantime, let's break down the game of these two pack leaders to see who's got the upper hand.
Chef Curry: Steph is an excellent point guard. Although he is better known as an unerring marksman, he rarely fails to make the right plays for his teammates. Golden State is a talent-laden squad and Chef Curry makes sure everybody’s cooking to maximize the strength of the Dubs’ stacked lineup.
Another thing he does that makes his coach Steve Kerr happy is he always dictates the pace of the game to his team’s preferred fast, run and gun tempo. He is basically Steve Nash but with more speed, sicker handles, and a deadlier outside shot.
King James: Technically, LeBron is not a point guard, but he clearly plays point for the Cavs with Kyrie “Mr. 0 Assist” Irving practically delegating himself to the shooting guard position. Looking at the monster numbers he posted in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks—30.1 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game—LeBron clearly has no problems quarterbacking an inspired Cavs crew. If his erratic shooters, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova, keep on clicking, James will continue to look like Magic Johnson on steroids.
Verdict: Chef Curry takes this. Although King James’s point guard skills aren’t far behind Steph’s, the current MVP’s teammates (particularly Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Bogut) are more consistent and versatile than Bron’s boys. Having a more reliable troop gives Curry more options to create winning plays.
Chef Curry: He’s been with the Warriors for six years. He’s been with the team through tough playoff battles and now he’s with them in the finale. He has led the Dubs to a league best 67-15 regular season record and he’s the reigning league MVP. Stephen Curry has paid his dues to become the bona fide leader of the Oakland-based franchise.
King James: He is a four-time MVP and two-time Finals MVP. He was once labeled as a choker, but now we’re seeing him as one of the most commanding characters to ever set foot on a parquet floor. He's also managed to transform a bunch of misfits, outcasts, and underachievers into a cohesive unit, focused on winning it all.
Verdict: This one has to go to King James. It’s nice to see Curry coming into his own as a main man, but the treacherous route LeBron survived to get to where he’s at puts the four-time MVP on a different class when it comes to leadership. He’s a battle-tested captain. In the vernacular: Subok na ng panahon. It’s very hard for an upstart, no matter how great he is, to beat someone who’s already been great and has the know-how to stay great.
Chef Curry: The Bay Area’s baby-faced assassin has a shot perfectly designed for under time-constraint clutch moments. Curry pulls the trigger quicker than those old western gunslingers and he's as accurate as the best of them, making him an extremely dangerous player down the wire.
Although we have yet to see how he’ll handle the pressure of playing in the NBA Finals, his past playoff performances and his MVP season indicate that he’ll be all right.
King James: Nobody has been under the NBA’s bright lights in the past five years more than the Chosen One. His body of work speaks for his mettle when the game is hanging in the balance: his series-salvaging 45-point 15-rebound 5-assist stat-line in Game 6 of the 2012 ECF against Boston; his Game 7 heroics versus the Spurs in 2013; and most recently, his beastly triple-double output in Game 3 of the ECF facing the Hawks. We could go on and on. The man is clutch.
Verdict: Hands down, King James owns this criterion. Again, subok na ng panahon.
Chef Curry: When every ball he hoists up ends up at the bottom of the net, that means he has entered into his "video game cheat mode zone." When Steph starts cooking, all that’s left to do is to open our mouths in awe, or as Calvin Abueva likes to put it, "nganga!"
King James: A LeBron laser-focused on getting buckets is simply unstoppable. He’ll barrel his way in the lane, clutching the basketball like a Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonating a running back, and then he’ll put the ball down through the hoop with such force that it deflates the fighting spirit of the opponent. That’s basically how he’s been able to score at will.
Verdict: As scary it is to see the 6’8”, 260-pound James coming down the court in full speed intent on dunking the basketball, we’re giving the edge to Curry’s long-range bombing. A non-stop barrage of three-pointers is a death blow to any team.
Chef Curry: In case you haven’t noticed, Steph is no slouch on D. Steve Kerr challenged him to be a better defender and he obliged. The harmless looking Curry has become a mean defender, notching a career best 2 SPG in the regular season and an impressive 1.9 SPG in the playoffs. Perhaps, the most glaring evidence of Curry’s flourishing defensive game is his game-saving steal in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, wherein he snatched the ball and the win away from James Harden as the clock ran out.
King James: Three things that sum up LeBron’s immense defensive prowess:
- His unusual combination of tremendous size, speed and power makes him one of the most versatile defenders ever.
- He made chase down blocks fashionable.
- He likes shutting his man down during key defensive possessions (just ask Derrick Rose).
Verdict: Because Bron can guard all five positions and he’s big and fast and we’ve seen how his defense turns games around in his team’s favor more than we’ve seen Steph’s, we have to chalk up this category tor King James.
Chef Curry: If Steph can get his shot off comfortably—and by comfortably we mean just a tiny bit of air space between him and his defender—he can own any basketball game. His three-ball is so lethal he can torch any team to ashes if he’s allowed to. If he starts shooting unconsciously, the damage he’ll cause is irreparable.
To slow him down, a team needs a defender who can stick to him like glue or send a double team the moment he touches the ball.
King James: Nobody today takes control of games like LeBron does. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have done it in the past and now LBJ has picked up the mantle. When he turns the switch on, he transforms into a basketball demigod that would do everything in his power to not let his team lose. He’ll provide points, assists, rebounds, stops, coaching, shoe shine, car wash, load, text mates—the man has no limits. How do you slow him down? Only Kawhi Leonard knows the answer.
Verdict: Steph Curry is the best shooter in the planet, and when he loses his mind his opponents are in for a blowout loss. But LeBron James is the best player in the planet, and when he decides to take over, he’s virtually unbeatable. The slight, razor-thin advantage goes to LeBron.
Basketball is a team sport but go-to guys are essential to a team’s success. Just ask the Atlanta Hawks. They should know because as great as their team game was, they didn’t have an ace player who could get them over the hump. Jeff Teague tried his best to step up but his time has not yet arrived.
The question now is, who’s going to get his team over the hump: Curry or James? Our barometer says it’ll be the King, but who knows? It’s very much possible Chef Curry is whipping something up that could surprise us all.