Two players that have changed the NBA landscape are Stephen Curry and LeBron James, two superstar players that altered the way the game is played and also the mentality of players. Curry is the greatest shooter of all time and is widely known to have spearheaded the new modern era of basketball where teams live and die by the three-point shot. It is no wonder why Curry and the Warriors have won 4 NBA championships because teams cannot shoot like them no matter how hard they try. Sure, he changed the game, but he also accomplished his greatest accolades yet following Golden State’s Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry has finally added the coveted Finals MVP award to his resume which also includes 4 NBA titles, 2 MVPs, and the all-time 3-point record. Of curse, Curry has been the cornerstone of the Golden State Warriors dynasty that has lasted multiple seasons over the last decade. Before the 2022 NBA Finals, many ranked Curry as a top-20 player and even in the top 15 considering the way he changed the game. But after this victory, it will be hard to convince modern NBA fans that Curry is anything but inside the top 12. Sure, Curry had a ton of advantages playing with other All-Star players in one of the best systems of all time, but his achievements are certainly extraordinary.
The second player mentioned is LeBron James, the greatest small forward of all time and one of the most dominant stars we have ever seen. Without a doubt, James is ranked within the top 5 by the vast majority of fans and pundits, because his 4 titles, 4 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, and the soon-to-be scoring record are undisputedly great. Anytime an all-time great player wants to be ranked, he will have to be placed in the same breath as LeBron James. At this moment of time, even with Curry’s 4th championship, nobody ranks Stephen Curry ahead of LeBron James on the all-time list.
After all, The King captured 4 Finals MVPs along with 4 regular season MVPs while having the most impressive career ever in terms of longevity. James could never shoot like Steph, but he was certainly more successful as an individual player. But James is going on 38, while Curry seems to have 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 by comparing their achievements, and dedication what Curry needs to achieve to possibly be ranked higher than The King and closer to the GOAT, Michael Jordan.
LeBron James’ Achievements
The King captured 4 NBA titles with 3 different franchises: Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Even if The King’s biggest critics will point to the fact that The King needed to continuously join forces with other superstars to win championships, he still performed when in the brightest moments. Even when playing alongside Hall of Fame talents in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis, LeBron James was always the best player for his teams during his 4 championship runs with each franchise. Even if James currently has a losing Finals record at 4-6, James’ accomplishments in the Finals are extraordinary. Of course, he went 2-2 in the Finals as a member of the Heat but the 2012-2014 versions of James might be the single most dominant player we have ever seen in terms of athleticism, basketball IQ, and impact.
James also captured the biggest achievement of his career with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The King did the impossible when he led Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the rest of the roster past the Golden State Warriors despite trailing 3-1 in the Finals. The Cavaliers were the most talented team in the East, but they were not supposed to beat a 73-9 squad led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. By doing the impossible, James had his best Finals performance as his third championship took his stock as an all-time great player to another level. In typical LeBron James fashion, he did not settle where he was and looked for a new chance to win his 4th championship. The Akron-born star would shatter NBA news outlets when he opted to sign with the famous Los Angeles Lakers franchise, a move that was considered polarizing.
Avid Lakers fans refused to accept The King in town, going as far as to deface murals of the player across Los Angeles. It is expected, after all, considering James was Kobe Bryant’s biggest rival when both were competing as the two best players in the league. After missing the playoffs in the first season of his career with the Lakers, 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 talented 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 currently the best winner in the NBA because 4 championships and 4 Finals MVPs are no easy feat.
4 MVP Awards
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 27.1 PPG, 7.5 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.
His first MVP season came in 2009 with the Cavs, when he averaged 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 7.2 APG on 48.9% shooting. That season ended without a championship, however. The following year, with the Cavs, James averaged 29.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 8.6 APG on 50.3% shooting from the field. Without a doubt, even if he wasn’t winning titles, James was staking his claim as the most dominant player in the league.
The next two MVP awards came in 2012 and 2013, following the spectacular season by Derrick Rose in 2011. James was the best physical and mental talent in the league, dominating the court with both of those attributes. The King averaged 27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 6.2 APG on 53.1% shooting in 2012, followed by averages of 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 7.3 APG on 56.5% shooting from the field. Of course, both seasons resulted in two championships. As great as James was in Cleveland the first go around, his dominance as a player with the Heat in 2012 and 2013 was arguably his best years as a player.
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 the 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 MVP Awards
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. Looking at his Finals stats during each series, it is very easy to see how impactful LeBron was. Of course, basketball is played on a court and not on the stat sheet, but James was great in both areas. After The King suffered the biggest collapse by a superstar in the 2011 Finals by only averaging 17.8 PPG on 47.8% FG and 32.1% 3-PT FG, he woke up to destroy the opposition over the next two years.
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. No doubt about it, the Oklahoma City Thunder were not ready to handle an angry and motivated LeBron James who embraced the villain role in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were elite talents, but they were far too young to handle the experience of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
James’ performance in the 2016 Finals was arguably even more impressive, as he put up videogame numbers to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. 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. Of course, we were also blessed with key moments including “The Block” on Andre Iguodala in Game 7.
With the Lakers in 2020, James took what Anthony Davis and the rest of the roster gave him and destroyed the Miami Heat on both ends of the floor. The King 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. Many will claim that James was easily the best player in the series, but Jimmy Butler was at his best by posting 26.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 9.8 APG. The showdown between the two stars was exciting to watch, but James earned his 4th Finals MVP regardless.
Achievements That Stephen Curry Needs To Win
Even with his 4th championship and 1st Finals MVP award in his hands, Stephen Curry needs a few more achievements if he wishes to surpass what James did in the NBA over his own 19-year career. Remember, James is widely regarded as a top-5 player of all time and a lot of modern-day fans place him second all-time behind Michael Jordan. Of course, Curry will never be able to achieve what Jordan did on the court because 10 scoring titles, a Defensive Player of the Year, and 6 Finals MVPs are well out of reach.
But Curry is getting closer by the year, seemingly, and his 4 championships, 2 MVPs, and 1 Finals MVP look very solid. Since the NBA is essentially a three-point competition, Curry has a chance to play at a high level for a few more years. With a few more successful seasons leading to a few more major accolades, Curry could possibly become a better all-time player than The King and actually compete for second place all-time. Here is what Steph needs to accomplish before doing that.
1 Scoring Title
Everything counts when comparing all-time great players, and Stephen Curry will need more individual accolades to start convincing people he is a better player than LeBron James. Of course, Curry is not the all-around talent that The King is, but he has a chance to argue that he is the better offensive player. That is one half of the court, and arguably the most important part of basketball. LeBron James has 1 scoring title that he won in 2008 when he posted 30.0 PPG for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Stephen Curry has two.
No question, winning 3 scoring titles would take Curry’s stock as an offensive star to another level. That would also mean the point guard has 2 more scoring titles than James, which could help his argument that he is a better offensive player. It won’t be easy, as Steph is nearly 35, but it would be something that is considered an advantage over The King. The point guard needs as many accolades ahead of James as possible, and the scoring title would be massive for his career.
For Stephen Curry to be ranked higher than LeBron, the current 4-time champion must capture at least another championship. He has 4 now, but 1 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 including Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, and Anthony Davis as well. Not to mention, Steph attracted players to play with him, while James had to leave to win.
In a nutshell, Curry would need to win at least one more title to convince the masses that he had more of an impact on great teams than LeBron did. With 5 titles, there is no way anyone could dispute the number of championships between the two Hall of Famers, a fact that will be set in stone forever. Stephen will likely never catch James in Finals MVPs, but winning an extra championship could close that gap. It is also expected that Steph will earn the Finals MVP in the next championship he could win, which will also help in closing the gap with The King.
1 MVP Award
Stephen Curry has 2 MVP awards, including one that was unanimous. Two MVP awards for a point guard are incredibly impressive, and hardly anyone will dispute that the sharpshooter deserved them fully because he changed the game and was the cornerstone of a Golden State Warriors dynasty that is still going strong. But it will be hard for Steph to capture 2 more MVP awards to equal what LeBron James has on his resume. Curry desperately needs to win at least one more MVP award, although two would do him wonders in completely passing LeBron James.
Steph is 34 years old and is not getting younger, so finding a way to capture one more MVP award is very unlikely. Remember, Father Time will start affecting what Steph can do on the court, and he will likely entertain “load management” over the next few years. But anything is possible because Golden State can hold the top-3 seeds over the next few years, and if Curry plays enough games, he could win one or two more MVP awards. As long as Curry can hit threes at an elite level, he will be an MVP favorite with a chance to capture at least three of them before he hangs it up.
1 Finals MVP Awards
One major knock against Stephen Curry, before the start of the 2022 Finals, was 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. Of course, that criticism is officially dead because the point guard is now a 4-time champion with the 2020 Finals MVP award in his hands. The superstar averaged 31.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.0 SPG on 48.2% FG, 43.7% 3-PT FG, and 85.7% FT.
Steph had great numbers during his Finals victories over the past few years, but his 2022 Finals run was possibly his best. Curry mentioned that in his post-game interview on the court because he was sick of hearing that he never won a Finals MVP award. With 1 Finals MVP to his name, he will need at least 1 more to get closer to LeBron James and possibly surpass him. Remember, with another Finals MVP to his name, that means Steph will have 5 NBA titles and 2 Finals MVPs to his name, a mark achieved by Kobe Bryant as well.
To avoid arguments about being a “sidekick” to other players during his championship runs, Steph must win at least 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 surpassing LeBron’s place on the rankings.
This Is The Only Way How Stephen Curry Can Surpass LeBron James
Stephen Curry is the best shooter of all time, and one of the most impactful players the NBA has ever seen. The 2022 Finals was his biggest moment because he has 4 NBA titles, 2 MVPs, and finally, a Finals MVP to his name. That gets him much closer to LeBron James, although he still has a ways to go to crack the top 5 of all time. Assuming LeBron James is at least within the top-3, Curry will absolutely need to win his 5th championship to pass The King.
If both players retire with 4 championships, The King has an advantage with 4 Finals MVPs and 4 MVPs to Curry’s 1 Finals MVP and 2 MVPs. But if Curry can win his 5th championship and 2nd Finals MVP, many will catapult Steph above James in terms of being a team-winner, because 5 always beats 4. But Curry cannot stop there, because he needs at least 1 MVP award and at least another scoring title to strengthen his argument. Remember, James has the edge over Curry in assist titles, All-Star Game MVPs, and a Rookie of the Year award. Steph will likely never catch James in those, but a scoring title would be more important.
With 5 championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, and 3 scoring titles, Curry’s legacy would take a massive turn. He has a chance to achieve all of them because if the Warriors dynasty continues over the next few years, it will be hard to argue against Steph being a better player than James. Remember, Curry never left the Warriors to win championships, while LeBron James had to do it four times. The most important accolade for Steph is his 5th championship and 2nd Finals MVP award, because he would be on par with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, while the scoring title and MVP award could take him ahead of The King, LeBron James.