A Bron and Steph collaboration would inject energy into the NBA, strengthen their title chances against the league’s next generation

The case for LeBron James and Stephen Curry teaming up

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (left) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (right) during the game at Chase Center on Jan. 27 in San Francisco. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


Last year, the NBA created a promotion that pitted “rivals” against each other to boost ratings and interest. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry have never needed such billing.

Their championship battles are the stuff of legend. Curry and the Warriors won in 2015, overcoming a remarkable individual effort by James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The King had his revenge a year later, with a chasedown block against guard Andre Iguodala and staring down Curry after a block as the defining images of a 3-1 Finals comeback in 2016. Curry partnered with Warriors forward Kevin Durant and took the next two Finals series, allowing James only a single game. The two have each won a title since then, with James getting the better of Curry in a Play-In Tournament matchup in 2021 and last year’s six-game playoff series in 2023.

Any time the two players match up, it’s must-see TV. The two best players of their generation capped off a double-overtime thriller on Jan. 27, with James dropping 36 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 assists, leading the Lakers to a 145-144 win. Before James hit two game-winning free throws, Curry hit a go-ahead 3, the final of his 46 points.

“Steph Curry keeps me young,” James said with a chuckle, then added some postgame commentary from Curry. “How do we keep getting better?” was what Curry told James.

For their individual brilliance, James and Curry have endured bouts of frustration and have struggled to get their teams to .500. The Finals berths that once seemed inevitable are few and far between. As the trade deadline approaches, there’s a clear solution that would benefit the two legends and the league.

It’s time for James and Curry to become teammates.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (left) talks with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (right) after Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 12, 2023, at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles.

James’ name has come up in trade rumors in the past few days – so many that his agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN on Friday that the King “won’t be traded, and we won’t ask to be.”

With respect to Paul, a Curry and James partnership would be clutch. NBA narratives have become tiresome, whether it’s folks complaining about the lack of defense or ranting about load management. Putting Curry and James on the same team doesn’t just give the NBA a profoundly positive headline. It represents a cultural reset.

Of course they were destined to play together: They were born in the same hospital. In a lot of ways, they are the modern-day Earvin “Magic” Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, saviors of the league who transitioned into global ambassadors of basketball. Magic and Bird’s swan song was their presence on the 1992 Dream Team.

A James and Curry collaboration would be a dream. In his 21st season, James is averaging 25-7-7 on 58.6% from the field and 39.7% from 3-point range. Curry, in his 15th campaign, is averaging 25-4-5 on 45-40-95 splits. Imagine Curry and James finally using their talents collaboratively – two playmakers who understand spacing and situation, with Curry’s unlimited range combined with James’ timeless versatility.

What matters more than their stats is their cultural impact. They are impeccable both on and off the floor, exceptional family men with remarkable branding. A Curry-James pairing would dominate the media and demand the spotlight for weeks. The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, three days before the Super Bowl. Imagine the news of Curry going to the Lakers or James to the Warriors hitting practically hours before the big game. It would be a response to the NFL’s encroachment into the NBA’s Christmas Day games.

I can understand where folks might be sticklers on the specifics of a trade. The Warriors are in salary cap hell and currently don’t have any first-round picks in the 2024 draft. Their moves over the past few years are reflective of a franchise willing to mortgage the future to hang onto the memories of the past. Where Curry has been relatively patient with management, largely because they’ve kept their championship core, James has been historically impatient around the trade deadline, and offered a cryptic hourglass emoji on social media this week.

That didn’t stop me from completing a proposal in the NBA trade machine that sends James to the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers would get Klay Thompson, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Usman Garuba. In return, the Warriors would get James and D’Angelo Russell. Save for Thompson and his expiring contract, the pieces matter less than the principle. The Lakers would be looking to rebuild and the Warriors would be looking to pry open their window to contend.

For the Lakers, they get a starter, or perhaps even a star, in Kuminga. Moody, Podziemski and Jackson-Davis are solid pros. Golden State, which has struggled with the balance between retaining its championship core and integrating young talent, would finally solidify its commitment to the vets. Management essentially chose Draymond Green over Jordan Poole, even after the infamous punch at practice in October 2022. Except for Thompson going to Los Angeles — because you can’t spell Klay without L-A — Golden State would have four future (and aging) Hall of Famers on the roster with Curry, James, Green and Chris Paul.

Chief among the Warriors’ concerns is playing out Curry’s extended prime. Imagine adding James’ seemingly ageless talents to the mix. As much as it would hurt to break up Curry and Thompson, the Splash Brothers, combining the Hall of Fame talents for a compelling run or two at a ring would be worth it.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (left) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (right) play during Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals on June 10, 2016, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Golden State isn’t the only group committed to being old. Judging by the narratives that we share regarding the NBA, so are we.

Some of us don’t like the idea of NBA greats teaming up, even though the NBA was built on dynasties like the Lakers and the Celtics. For folks who complained about the modern-day team-ups with James and the Big Three on the Miami Heat and the former Curry-Durant collaboration, understand that for all their dominance, those experiments burned out relatively quickly. Ultimately, they were good for the game, even if they didn’t fit antiquated and inaccurate notions of bitter NBA rivalries. I mean, Magic and Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas used to kiss each other on the cheek before they tried to tear each other’s hearts out on the court.

While NBA fans have complained about team-ups, All-Star games and lack of defense, they have missed the truth of the situation: The NBA’s next generation is here. After James and the Lakers eliminated Curry’s Warriors in a nip-and-tuck six-game playoff series in 2023, Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets dispatched the Lakers in a 4-0 sweep. The Warriors won the title the year before, but only after Curry’s brilliance combined with a collapse from the younger Celtics. The NBA standings are being dominated by teams led with younger superstars, such as Jokić, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards and Jayson Tatum, among many others.

The future is now. Or is it? That’s the question a James and Curry team-up would effectively answer. In my estimation, the choice is clear. We can either restore James and Curry to the high-level excitement that led to Mike Breen’s classic “Bang!” or the two can languish on bad teams as their careers tick down with a whimper.

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