LeBron James and Stephen Curry have faced off a staggering 37 times as opponents in the NBA. Of those 37 games, 22 have taken place in the NBA Finals, where they’ve battled four times, and 15 have been in the regular season. This is somewhat common among perhaps the two best players of a given generation, but here’s something that isn’t: entering Sunday, James and Curry had never played a single game as teammates at any level.
James has sought out a number of star teammates in free agency and trades, but he and Curry never united in the NBA. They played in opposite conferences for most of their careers, so until 2018, teaming up in the All-Star Game was out of the question. Even in the first game of the All-Star Draft era, Curry and James were opposing captains. Giannis Antetokunmpo selected Curry in 2019, and Curry was injured in 2020. Both have played for Team USA on multiple occasions, but they have never overlapped. Arguably the two best players of this era of NBA basketball managed to nearly go an entire career without ever playing together in any capacity.
That finally changed on Sunday. James selected Curry in Thursday’s All-Star Draft, and the two started alongside each other on the winning team in Sunday’s game. Curry shined with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, whereas James played a scant 13 minutes in the victory. Even so, he was sure to tell Curry, and the world, just how much he enjoyed their first-time partnership.
Curry returned the favor, tweeting his enjoyment in response.
To those wondering about the tampering implications of these tweets, rest assured, an actual NBA partnership between the two remains highly unlikely. Curry is a free agent after the 2021-22 season, but the Lakers are likely to be capped out with several players due for new contracts this offseason. Even if Golden State was open to hearing trade offers (which they won’t be), the Lakers spent most of their assets acquiring Anthony Davis in 2019. James is under contract through 2023. Golden State will still be paying hefty salaries to Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at that point, so preserving enough space for Curry and James beyond that probably won’t be possible. James has expressed interest in playing with whatever team drafts his son Bronny once this contract expires, though, so perhaps Golden State could lure him that way.
Even if they don’t, the basketball world deserved to see James and Curry share the floor as teammates at least one time. The two Akron-born superstars will be tied together forever for their Finals battles and influence on the NBA. Even if it was only in the All-Star Game, millions of basketball fans got to check the James-Curry partnership off of their bucket lists on Sunday. Curry’s performance alone made it well worth the wait.