LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers will take on Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors on the opening night of the 2022/23 NBA Season.
While both teams have a roster packed with All-Star players who’ve made all NBA teams on multiple occasions, the narrative for the night will be driven by a different battle.
Curry made a statement with the title and Finals MVP award wins last season. This was also the season when he became the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history.
Kevin Durant left in 2019. Multiple players were injured in the following seasons, Curry included. Warriors ended 2020 season in last place. But, Curry braved it all. He stood by as the team was rebuilt, and the 2022 season brought the reward.
The fourth ring got Curry level with LeBron, who too is navigating a turbulent tide.
Since he brought the NBA title to Los Angeles in 2020, Lakers’ first in 10 years, time seems to have caught up with LeBron. Even the king cannot cheat it, perhaps.
Injuries have seen him take the court for only 45 and 56 games in the last two seasons. This is low given that the six-foot-seven marauder used to breeze his way through 70 games every year.
Further, it has been a case of everything that could go wrong, going wrong for LeBron and his Lakers side. Anthony Davis faced a similar fate as LeBron and suffered a season ending injury in 2021.
This meant LeBron’s handpicked roster comprising Russell Westbrook, Davis, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard failed to fire last season.
Lakers have still shown faith. A bumper $97 million two-year extension for LeBron over the offseason means that ‘King James’ will be helming the side again.
Tied at four titles each, the curtain raiser at Chase Center on Tuesday night will see Curry and LeBron set out to establish parity with Kobe Bryant, who won five titles.
Though, the LeBron faithful might swoop in to assert the superiority of his titles over those of Curry’s, the current race between them cannot be denied its share of limelight given that LeBron wanted to play with Curry.
“Steph Curry is the one who I want to play with in today’s game,” LeBron had said in an interview in 2021. What would make LeBron say that?
One of the highlights of the 2010s in NBA was the Curry-LeBron NBA Finals rivalry. LeBron, then with Cleveland Cavaliers, faced Steph Curry, who was just building his empire with the Dubs, in the Finals in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Warriors won three of these while LeBron took the Larry O’Brien trophy home in 2016 - the famous 3-1 comeback.
The two got nostalgia kicking in, in 2021 when Warriors and Lakers faced in the Play-in tournament. With both teams needing a win to qualify, LeBron made a buzzer-beating dagger to take Lakers through to the Playoffs. The handshake between the two following the match showed the mutual respect and admiration.
Cut to 2022/23 season, both sides have rosters that can challenge for the title. While Warriors, after a fourth title win under coach Steve Kerr, come in with a stable and established lineup, Lakers have a fresh look to it. The constants from 2021, and even the 2010s, are the men leading the charge.
While the outcome of the race could be decided this year, or the next, or maybe never if both fail to win a fifth title, the anticipation and stakes make for a swashbuckling spectacle.
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