The 2018 NBA Finals are upon us once again. And, once again we’ll tune-in to watch the Golden State Warriors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After three consecutive years of Finals matchups, the fourth installment of this series may be the most important. Particularly for the two star-studded leaders of each team, Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
While the game is often mired in stats such as field goal percentages, blocks, rebounds, and steals, the only one that will matter after this series is the number of rings. Reason being is that this historic NBA Finals matchup will play a huge determination in the legacies of both Curry and James.
As it stands, LeBron James currently has three championship rings in his treasure chest, compared to Stephen Curry’s two. Percentages also matter. James has been to eight NBA Finals, but has only managed to win three. On the flip side, Curry has been to three, and has walked away with two wins. That gives James and Curry a 38% and 67% championship winning percentage, respectively. Should James’ Cavaliers lose this series to the Warriors, the self-proclaimed King’s championship winning percentage would further drop to 33%, while Curry’s percentage would increase to 75%.
Then, there’s the bragging rights.
Should Curry notch another ring before James, then the two megastars would each hold three championship rings a piece. That’s certainly not great for James’ brand if he’s yearning to be compared to Michael Jordan from a pure winning perspective. However, that’s a whole other discussion. The truth of the matter is, another ring for Curry before James would give Curry the forever right to say that he bested James in his career. In fact, Stephen Curry has never been to a NBA Finals without playing against LeBron James. Think about that for a minute. For Curry to potentially say that he beat the ‘best’ player of all-time would not only be the ultimate feat, but an oxymoron in and of itself.
We’ve learned from past history though to never count out LeBron James and his will to win, given any supporting cast. A championship win for James would not only separate his treasure chest from that of Curry’s by two rings, but effectively put James closer to the conversation with Jordan, while leaving things on even terms with Curry as it pertains to their Finals rivalry. A win for James, when the odds are so stacked against him, would also be the ultimate bad-beat for the Warriors. The discussion would forever be how James single handedly beat four All-Stars (Curry, Durant, Thompson, Green) with a less-than-stellar team. That wouldn’t bode well for Curry’s brand, especially given the fact that James has already delivered a never-been-done-before comeback victory after being down 3-1 in the 2016 NBA Finals.
However this story ends, legacies are certainly on the line. While both Curry and James strive for individual greatness, there is unfortunately no room for sharing during this NBA Finals matchup. Either Curry or James will emerge as the victor, and the other the loser. Each will carve out a place in basketball history based on the story they co-author today.