Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal was known for giving nicknames during his NBA career and “The Big Recruiter” sounds like a perfect Shaq-approved title for LeBron James. No player uses NBA All-Star Weekend more as a recruiting tool than James who has been a captain the last four years. After Team LeBron’s blowout win, James took to Twitter to give Steph Curry a special shoutout.
“Finally got to share the floor with @StephenCurry30!” James noted on Twitter. “Well overdue and I loved every single second!! #GreatestShooterOfAllTime #ChangedHowTheGameIsPlayedByHimselfAlone #RespectBeyondWords #JustSomeKidsBornInAKRON🤴🏾”
The comments immediately turned heads given Steph Curry has yet to sign a contract extension with the Warriors and is slated to be a free agent in 2022. It did not take long for photos of Curry wearing a Lakers jersey to circulate like the one below.
James went on to praise Curry’s shooting ability along with Blazers star Damian Lillard.
“By the way @Dame_Lillard & @StephenCurry30 simply ain’t fair!!!” James tweeted. “I literally kept telling them to back up further and further to shoot and what did they do?? EXACTLY 🤦🏾♂️.”
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Steph on Playing with LeBron: ‘We Had Fun in the Locker Room Chopping It Up’
After years of squaring off against each other in the NBA Finals, Curry finally got to share the court with James as a teammate. Curry described being James’ teammate as a “great experience” adding that he enjoyed “chopping it up” with the Lakers star in the locker room.
“It was a great experience,” Curry noted in his postgame press conference. “We had fun in the locker room chopping it up. I know he was managing his minutes tonight, but it was good energy in the first quarter. That’s part of being around this league long enough. Obviously, the new format with the All-Star game mixing and matching conferences, even though he’s in the West now. It’s bound to happen, and we had a great time. Obviously, representing him as the captain, KD on the other side and we got the win. So, it was a memorable night for sure.”
The Lakers Only Have 5 Players Under Contract in 2022
The Lakers currently only have five players under contract through 2022, per Spotrac but this number could rise this offseason if Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker sign new deals. While the Lakers are projected to have some cap flexibility, adding a player like Curry would be challenging given James and Anthony Davis combine to make more than $82 million in 2022. James’ salary alone is $44.47 million, and it is hard to imagine Curry wearing anything other than a Warriors uniform.
If there were Vegas odds, the Lakers’ chances of landing Curry would be low, but the NBA landscape continues to shift giving players the ultimate power on where they want to play. The Lakers would likely need Curry to zero in on wearing purple and gold which means James has a bit more recruiting to do. James has continued to deny that he uses his temporary GM powers as a recruiting tool, but he did not say anything about All-Star Weekend itself.
“I think that’s a great conversation,” James told ESPN in 2019. “Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk. Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don’t know, [guys that have] player options. That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport.”
LeBron & Steph Are Rumored to Have a ‘Pretty Real’ Rivalry
During a 2019 podcast with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons described the rivalry between James and Curry as “pretty real”. Things have obviously subsided a bit since James moved to the Western Conference, and the Warriors have fallen off in recent years.
“It is not friendly,” Simmons noted, per NBC Sports. “I think LeBron really has genuine disdain for him. And I think Curry’s kind of like, ‘F— you, I’ve won as many titles as you have.’ And you could feel it festering in this 2016 (Finals) because there’s this underlying current of LeBron has gone back to Cleveland, the King is back, and then Curry comes in and kind of grabs the crown a little bit. And more importantly I think to LeBron … became really popular.”
Smart money is on the Warriors eventually signing Curry to a contract extension. Curry recently noted that his goal is to retire with the Warriors, but we can expect James to put out feelers if the sharpshooter eventually hits the free-agent market.
“That’s a huge goal, for sure. It’s an elite club of guys that you look at that have played with the same organization and been successful and achieved greatness in that respect,” Curry noted in December 2020, via Sports Illustrated. “So that would be an awesome accomplishment. Something that I’ve obviously spoken publicly about and am very committed to. But that also goes with there’s a lot more to be accomplished on the court, and again I can’t fast forward to what the end is going to be and not enjoy the moment, enjoy the challenges we have in front of us and what I have left to accomplish as a player.”