James and Curry have faced each other in four NBA Finals — with Curry’s teams winning three of them — and now one Western Conference Semifinals. Curry’s teams are 17-11 overall against James’ teams in the postseason.
“I mean, it’s just a battle every time,” Curry said after the Lakers beat the Warriors in Game 6 on May 12. “And I know there are a lot of different narratives within each of the series that we’ve had and different teams and teammates and all the above. But it’s just great basketball, great competition. Understanding who LeBron is and who he’s been his entire career and the accolades and the championships he’s won and the records that he has. Like, he’s an amazing basketball player. And he brings the best out of you and you know you have to be your best if you’re gonna try and beat him. And I think he feels vice versa. And so you love those experiences. Somebody’s gotta win and it’s part of the nature of what we’re dealing with. But there’s so much respect. And again, appreciation for the battles and experiences and the back and forths cuz it’s basketball at the highest level and that’s all you can ask for.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talked about Curry and James’ rivalry as well after Game 6 ended. The 57-year-old said the two future Hall of Famers have been “amazing for the league.”
“No doubt this last decade they have been two of the greatest and they’ve had a lot of meetings in the postseason,” Kerr said. “I think there’s a lot of mutual respect there, but just like Magic and Bird, back in the day, you meet in the playoffs, and that respect kind of takes a back seat. Guys are trying to beat each other and they’re going to do anything to do so. … It’s wonderful for basketball fans, amazing for the league. Just to have two all-time greats at the peak of their powers for almost an entire decade playing against each other frequently. Pretty, pretty awesome rivalry.”
LeBron James on the Warriors: I Have Nothing but Respect for Them
James told reporters that he has nothing but respect for Curry and the Warriors, who have won four championships in six trips to the NBA Finals during the Kerr era.
“First of all, nothing but the utmost respect for their organization,” James said. “But as far as the players — Steph, Draymond and Klay — those are the guys that I’ve had the most battles with. Those are the guys that I’ve been in a war against. And nothing but respect for them. Obviously, for the franchise as well.”
James, 38, dominated the Warriors in Game 6 at home from start to finish. The four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP put up 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in 43 minutes while shooting 10-of-14 from the floor, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 8-of-11 from the free-throw line.
The win advanced the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in the LeBron era. They will face the Denver Nuggets, the same team they beat in the 2020 Western Conference Finals.
LeBron James on the Nuggets: ‘We Give Them a Lot of Respect’
James told Lisa Salters of ESPN that he and the Lakers have a lot of respect for the Nuggets, who are the No. 1 seed in the West. Denver is led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and star point guard Jamal Murray.
“It’s gonna be a great series,” James said. “You got two well-coached teams. They’ve been the No. 1 seed in the West all year long. So we give them a lot of respect. We come in with that series with a lot of respect for Denver and what they can accomplish and what they can do against us. And if we’re not locked in, they’ll put it to us. … We understand what they possess. I know what they possess and we’ll be ready for it on Tuesday.”
The Lakers went 2-2 versus the Nuggets during the regular season.