Two players that have affected the NBA landscape are Stephen Curry and LeBron James, two superstar players that changed the game in their own ways. Curry is the greatest shooter of all time, and recently broke Ray Allen’s three-point record to solidify himself as the greatest marksman in the history of basketball. But even when looking at Curry’s career, the point guard achieved a lot in the game.
3 NBA titles and 2 MVPs are the highlights of Steph’s achievements, along with an incredible run with the Golden State Warriors dynasty that lasted multiple seasons. As a result, many rank Curry as a top-20 player and even in the top-15 considering the way he changed the game. But one name often comes up first when discussing the best player during the 2010s: LeBron James.
At this moment of time, nobody ranks Stephen Curry ahead of LeBron James on the all-time list. After all, The King captured 4 NBA titles and 4 Finals MVPs along with 4 regular season MVPs. James could never shoot like Steph, but he was certainly more successful as an individual. But James is nearly 37, and Curry has a lot more basketball to play in his own career. Could it be possible that Stephen Curry could do enough to surpass LeBron James as a greater all-time player? It is time to find out.
LeBron James’ Achievements
The King won 4 NBA titles with 3 different teams: Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Even if critics will point to the fact that The King needed to join forces with two other superstars in Miami to get over the hump, he still performed when in the brightest moments. Even when playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron James was the best player for the Heat during his 4 Finals runs with the team. Even if James went 2-2, getting the job done on two occasions is incredibly impressive when considering the quality of opponents (Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs).
James also won a title with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The King did the impossible when he led Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the team past the Warriors despite trailing 1-3 in the Finals. The Cavaliers were the most talented team in the East, but they were not supposed to beat a 73-9 squad. This championship took LeBron’s stock to another level, but The King was not done there. The Akron-born star would break NBA news outlets when he opted to sign with the famous Los Angeles Lakers franchise.
Of course, James won an NBA title once the franchise brought in All-Star Anthony Davis. With a pairing built on size and skill, no team stood a chance against the monster Lakers squad. Completing another Finals run with a different team was incredibly impressive because James always seems to raise the level of those around him. James has been the most successful active player because of the way he carries teams whether he is surrounded by talent or not. The King is the best winner in the NBA because 4 championships are no easy feat.
LeBron James might be the greatest regular-season performer in NBA history because 4 MVPs come as a result of his ability to impact the game in almost every area. The King holds a career regular-season average of 27.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.8 BPG over his illustrious 19-season career. James has also captured 4 MVP Awards as a result of his greatness, 2 with the Cavaliers and 2 with the Miami Heat.
James has been the best player over the last decade at a minimum, and he could have realistically won at least 6 MVPs or possibly more. But 4 MVP Awards is an incredible number that will be hard to surpass by any player, no matter how great they might be. While LeBron’s 4 championships are the most important part of his resume, 4 MVPs add an incredible boost to an already Hall of Fame career.
4 Finals MVPs
LeBron has a 4-6 Finals record, but each victory resulted in a Finals MVP for The King. LeBron was the undisputed best player on the floor for all his Finals successes because he impacted the game on every level better than anyone else. It is very easy to see how impactful LeBron was by looking at his Finals stats during each series.
In 2012, James averaged 28.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 7.4 APG on 47.2% shooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder for his first Finals MVP. The following season, The King averaged 25.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 7.0 APG, and 2.3 SPG on 44.7% shooting for his second straight Finals MVP.
James was on point in the 2016 Finals when he put up a monster 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 8.9 APG, 2.6 SPG, and 2.3 BPG on 49.4% shooting from the field. Coming back from 1-3 was incredible and he had himself the best Finals stat line in his career. With the Lakers in 2020, James put up 29.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.5 BPG on 59.1% shooting from the field.
Achievements That Stephen Curry Needs To Win
Stephen Curry needs a host of achievements if he wishes to surpass what James did in the NBA. As things stand, Steph does not have a shot. But with a few more successful seasons leading to a few more major accolades, Curry could be a better all-time player than The King. Here is what Steph needs to accomplish before doing that.
For Stephen Curry to be ranked higher than LeBron, the 3-point king must capture at least 5 championships. He has 3 now, but 2 more would bring a solid separation between himself and The King. Even though Curry benefitted from playing with arguably the most talented superteam in NBA history once Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, LeBron did something similar by benefitting from a host of superstar teammates as well.
In a nutshell, Curry would need to win one more title to convince the masses that he had more of an impact on great teams than LeBron did. The point guard also never experienced a Finals meltdown like the one James experienced in 2011, so that could always be an argument in his favor. With 5 titles, there is no way anyone could dispute the number of championships between the two Hall of Famers.
Stephen Curry has 2 MVPs, including one that was unanimous. Two MVP Awards for a point guard is incredibly impressive, and hardly anyone will dispute that the sharpshooter deserved them fully. By changing the game and kickstarting an incredible Warriors dynasty, Steph only needs 2 more MVP Awards on his resume to start surpassing LeBron James. Curry desperately needs to win this year’s MVP Award, because that gets him closer to the 4 he needs.
Steph is 33 years old and is not getting younger, so capturing this year’s award would be a tremendous boost to his legacy. The point guard is averaging 27.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 6.0 APG on 39.6% shooting from three so far; while leading the Warriors to a 20-6 record (#2 in the West). With LeBron getting close to age 38 next year, Curry has a chance to also be in the MVP race next year and the next 2 seasons at least. As long as Curry can hit threes at an elite level, he will be an MVP favorite with a chance to capture 4 before he hangs it up.
2 Finals MVPs
One major knock against Stephen Curry is his lack of a Finals MVP Award. While winning an NBA championship is more important than any individual award for a player’s legacy, it is very strange for a 3-time NBA champion superstar to not have a single Finals MVP. In the 2015 Finals, Curry averaged 26.0 PPG and 6.3 APG but it was Andre Iguodala who had the biggest impact by preventing LeBron James from winning the series single-handedly.
During Curry’s 2017 Finals run, he averaged 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 9.4 APG but lost out on Finals MVP to the best player on the court: Kevin Durant. The following year, it was more of the same as Steph averaged 27.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 6.8 APG but lost out on Finals MVP to Durant once again. Steph has great numbers during his Finals victories, but he must win both Finals MVP Awards if he manages to win 2 NBA titles before his retirement.
To avoid arguments about being a “sidekick” to other players during his championship runs, Steph must win 2 Finals MVP Awards before his retirement. James has a whopping 4 Finals MVPs, so if Curry can add 2 more titles, 2 more MVPs, and 2 Finals MVPs, he could have a chance at getting LeBron’s place on the rankings.
Stephen Curry Surpasses LeBron James With 5 Titles, 2 Finals MVPs, And 4 MVPs
It seems very unlikely that LeBron James will capture his 5th championship before the end of his career. The Los Angeles Lakers are a mess right now, and there aren’t many options for The King in terms of making blockbuster trades. Anthony Davis is a unique talent but his injury history and lack of motivation could put off potential suitors. Besides, Los Angeles would only trade Davis for a superstar of Damian Lillard or Joel Embiid’s level. But there is almost no chance that the Lakers will manage a deal of that magnitude.
Similarly, there are very few teams that would want to give up stars for Russell Westbrook because he is getting older and is owed over $85 million over the next two years. Unless James wants to make another major move back to Cleveland, The King will be stuck with 4 rings.
That means Stephen Curry will have more championships, equal MVPs, and the all-time 3-point record. Most importantly, Steph did not need to leave Golden State once to achieve that. Unlike LeBron who had to join Miami to taste championship glory, Curry did it his way and with his own team. Many fans and media representatives, especially in the modern-day, might end up placing the legendary point guard ahead of The King as a greater player.
But it would take Steph to be at an unbelievable level to gain those achievements, especially because he has stiff competition for the MVP Award from Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Doncic going forward. The Warriors are an excellent team and will be a force when Klay Thompson returns, but it is still unlikely that Curry will manage to beat out other top teams (Nets, Bucks, Suns) to win another two chips. LeBron’s place ahead of Curry is secure for the time being, but if Curry can capture the MVP and championship this year, anything can happen.