photo courtesy of Keith Allison

LeBron vs. Steph: Next NBA rivalry?

Feature photo courtesy of Keith Allison.

Nearly 20 million people tuned in to the NBA finals game 6 earlier this month, many of them drawn to the matchup of two greats: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As the leaders of their team, they battled for an NBA title that would be historic for either franchise.

This 6 game series may have sparked a potential rivalry.

The current MVP and former MVP known as “the best player in the world” gave people a good reason to tune in to the NBA finals for some good basketball and not a blowout game.

This was James first time back with the Cavs in the finals, after getting two NBA titles with Miami Heat.

Curry was in his first NBA Finals leading the Warriors, whose last NBA finals appearance was 40 years ago in 1975.

Every game of the series was compelling, sometimes leaving the audience with their eyes glued to the television, mouths wide open, waiting to see what would happen next.

Although people enjoyed the NBA Finals matchup, it’s unlikely that a great rivalry will develop after just one NBA finals against each other.

“They play each other twice a year max…they don’t play the same position so they are not up against each other just body to body as much”, said Michael Wilbon, ESPN commentator.

You can’t form a rivalry based off of one season, said Morgan Wootten, Hall of Fame former high school basketball coach at Dematha Catholic high school.

The vast amount of time that two great players play each other is what builds the rivalry.

Two extraordinary rivalries that built basketball were Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird.

“The Chamberlain vs. Russell rivalry is known as the best rivalry in basketball history”, Wilbon said.

The two centers played each other for 10 years.

Eight of those years they played each other in the Eastern Conference finals: 1960, 1962, 1964 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969, Wilbon said.

Bill Russell held an 84-58 record against Wilt Chamberlain, according to the Book of Basketball.

When you have the best offensive player (Chamberlain) ever play against the best defensive player (Russell), you can’t help but embrace the tenacity that they brought to the game of basketball.

Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson added their own spice to the rivalry category.

Magic and Bird played different positions but went up against each other because of their size, Wilbon said.

Magic and Bird only played each other in the playoffs three times: 1984, 1985 and 1987, Wilbon added.

Building great rivalries is not only about the players themselves, but also how many times they play against each other during the regular season and the playoffs.

It’s tough to determine a rivalry off of a single digit amount of games played against each other.

Time is what continually strengthens a great rivalry.

“Rivalries are not automatic, they are not to be presumed”, Wilbon said.

Lebron and Curry are two great players, but playing in different conferences will restrict the amount they play against each other.

Unless they meet in the NBA Finals again, which may not happen.

Photo via Keith Allison
Photo via Keith Allison

Who knows if we will ever see this matchup again.

“I think they both had a tremendous impact on their teams” said Jack Kvancz, former athletic director at the George Washington University.

Curry, the 2015 MVP, won his first NBA title in Cleveland.

Curry set a new record of 3- pointers in a single post season, surpassing Reggie Miller who held a record of 58 3-pointers in 22 games, according to SB Nation.

Curry broke that record in just 13 games.

In comparison, Lebron James, “the best player in the world,” played all five positions, leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists.

James became the 6th player in the NBA history to score 5000+ playoff points and the youngest to ever do so.


“Lebron is the best player in the world”, Wilbon said.

“He can talk that game, and he backs it up”, Kvancz said.

Rivalries have done a lot for basketball. They add excitement, competitiveness, and heart to the game.

Fans love it and it brings the best out of the players.

“It would be nice if they got to be rivals but we don’t know that yet”, Wilbon said.

Rachel McNair

Rachel McNair

I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland, pursuing my masters in broadcast journalism with a concentration in sports.
Rachel McNair

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I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland, pursuing my masters in broadcast journalism with a concentration in sports.