For the second year in a row, the NBA gets a chance to showcase its Golden Boy and Homecoming King together on one court who were born at Same Akron Hospital.
We do not know how much Stephen Curry and LeBron James will be matched up one-on-one during the NBA Finals, but we do know both men will be the centre of attention for the opposing team and the public in general. It’s the NBA way.
James and Curry own six combined MVPs and have won three of the last four NBA championships. They also ranked first and second in jersey sales, respectively.
But for all they have in common, it is their differences that make this matchup compelling.
Curry, son of former Charlotte Hornets star Dell, got a taste of the NBA lifestyle at an early age. By contrast James had to seek out father figures while being shuffled around by relatives as his teenage mother struggled to find consistent work.
Yet it was James who was picked out for stardom in his teens, as pro scouts started fawning over him as early as his sophomore season in high school. Curry, however, struggled to secure a scholarship at a Division I collegiate program.
James skipped college all together, learning on the fly as the saviour for his hometown NBA franchise. By the time he would have been a college senior, he was leading an undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers squad to the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, Curry landed at Davidson, a school that had not made much noise since Hall of Fame coach Lefty Driesell skipped town for Maryland in the late 1960s.
Curry would go on to show flashes of the brilliance we now see with the Warriors, but nobody expected him to do it in the NBA.
As Curry was trying to find his way in the league, fighting through injuries and trying to help change a losing culture, James was adding to his legend – winning MVPs, making decisions and adding a couple of championship rings with Miami Heat.
He eventually came back home to Cleveland and formed a new Big Three, adding Kevin Love to an equation that already included a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving. And everyone agreed the title was Cleveland’s for the taking.
But Curry and the Warriors had other ideas. They came back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Cavaliers in last year’s Finals, winning in six games to bring the NBA title back to Oakland for the first time since the Rick Barry era.
Then the Warriors went out and won 73 games this season, including both matchups against the Cavs. And Curry did something not even James had done – by winning the MVP award unanimously.
Not only did he get what James was denied – LeBron was one vote short of becoming the unanimous MVP in 2013 – but the public also seems to have embraced Curry in a way that they have never quite embraced James.
Curry now stands alone as the undoubted biggest star in the NBA and the only way for James to reclaim that moniker is to find a way to win four games before the Warriors pop champagne again.
Can James steal the show this time around, or will the Finals be another coronation for Curry and Co.?