Comparing The LeBron James-Steph Curry Rivalry to Other Rivalries in Pop Culture

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Comparing The LeBron James-Steph Curry Rivalry to Other Rivalries in Pop Culture


Comparing The LeBron James-Steph Curry Rivalry to Other Rivalries in Pop Culture


In life, we find ourselves competing to achieve specific goals that we want. However, there is always that one person that stands in our way. Rivalries can bring the absolute worst out of people and it can also bring the good out as well. With the Golden State Warriors advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals after their Game 7 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Golden State will face off against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

It is also the return of a rivalry between two future Hall of Famers. Lakers forward LeBron James and Warriors guard Stephen Curry will have their rivalry renewed as this will be the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals that these two will meet in the playoffs.  

Granted, the difference is James isn’t in Cleveland. He’s in Los Angeles but there is history between the two. These two are familiar with one another going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors rivalry that dominated the NBA for four years. This rivalry is iconic, but does it draw comparisons to rivalries that aren’t sports related? I can think of a few.

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Goku vs Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)

When you think of the popular anime show Dragon Ball Z, you think of the two main characters. Those characters are Goku and Vegeta. I am not going to do a full deep dive into the show, but the show has multiple arcs. In one of those arcs, Vegeta was able to get the better of Goku in the first meeting until Goku’s backup came, and in the second meeting Vegeta was able to defeat Goku. However, Vegeta was able to defeat Goku by obtaining a special power-up. It’s a long debate on who actually won, but Vegeta became obsessed with passing someone that he viewed as inferior. 

The two eventually became rivals by pushing each other by essentially sparring against each other and training with each other in order to push each other in order to surpass one another. The two eventually became friends by the time of Dragon Ball Super and the two have the utmost respect for one another. How does it relate to Stephen Curry-LeBron James rivalry? At one point, it was a rumor that floated around that LeBron James disliked Stephen Curry. Back in January of 2021, in an interview on The Bill Simmons podcast, retired journalist Jackie MacMullan talked about the relationship between Steph and LeBron. 

Steph is the most lovable superstar maybe ever. No one gets mad at Steph, no one dislikes Steph.” MacMullan said. Simmons responded with this response. “Well no, there’s one person that dislikes him,” Simmons said. He then responded with LeBron as his answer. Simmons also commented “It’s a read between the lines. There’s definitely an iciness with them.” True or not, LeBron may have had some disdain towards Steph during his tenure in Cleveland due to Steph’s rising popularity. 

During their meetings they had in the NBA Finals, LeBron and Steph pushed one another. Similar to Goku and Vegeta, while competing to surpass one another they made each other better. It went as far as to James wanting to play with Curry, as evident by the fact that he picked Steph to be his teammate in the All-Star draft. LeBron has also advocated on numerous occasions on how he wants to play with Stephen Curry in the future and Curry has taken note of it.

The rivalries are similar to one another in regards to pushing each other and while in the process the two have grown to become better players.

Izuku “Deku” Midoriya vs Katsuki Bakugo (My Hero Academia)

Another rivalry that has similarities to Steph and LeBron is Izuku vs Bakugo. In the show My Hero Academia, every person is born with a super power otherwise known as “quirks”. Izuku also known as “Deku” which is his hero name, was born without a quirk and he was deemed quirkless which hampered his dream of becoming a hero. Katsuki Bakugo, someone who Deku grew up with and were childhood friends, began to bully Deku despite him looking up to Bakugo due to the quirk he possessed which was “Explosion”. 

Both want to attend Japan’s prestigious hero high school U.A. Academy and in the process they become rivals by the time they got into the school. Both Deku and Bakugo looked up to the number one hero in Japan in All Might and both want to be the number one hero. However, Deku was able to obtain All Might’s quirk “One For All ” after All Might was moved by Deku attempting to save Bakugo when he was attacked by a villain. All Might became a mentor to Deku and in the process Deku was able to surpass Bakugo despite not having a quirk for most of his life. 

Bakugo resented Deku and viewed Deku as an obstacle in his path to reach the top as showcased throughout the series. Bakugo felt he was getting weaker while Deku was getting stronger and progressing further than him, which led to the two fighting each other on more than one occasion with Bakugo instigating it majority of the time. Bakugo found out about Deku’s quirk and kept it to himself after their last fight and the two have maintained their rivalry but on a friendly, competitive level. In this recent season with Deku having to deal with the burden of his quirk and the toll it took, Bakugo apologized for how he treated Deku throughout the years.

How does this relate to the LeBron-Steph rivalry? While Curry and James are talented, the rivalry has some similarities. Like Deku and Bakugo, LeBron and Steph pushed each other during their NBA Finals meetings but they are challenging each other. In regards to how they can become better players, similar to how Deku and Bakugo were challenging each other to become better heroes. 

Deku was able to learn specific moves that Bakugo used and applied it to his skill set while becoming a hero. Whether it was specific movements or tactics, Deku took what Bakugo did and applied it to his arsenal. It also helps that Deku is extremely smart when it comes to hero tactics and knowing their strengths and weaknesses which helps. LeBron and Steph made each other better players whenever they squared off. When it comes to Curry, he is known for being one of the best shooters in the league. LeBron wasn’t known for his three-point ability once he got into the league but he slowly began to develop a 3 point-shot. As for Steph, he has become a much stronger player from both the mental and physical side. 

Curry isn’t near the physical specimen that James is but his willpower, his drive, and determination to not let his team lose is a credit to LeBron. We’ve seen Curry takeover more games as of late. As we saw on Sunday afternoon in a crucial Game 7 against the upstart Sacramento Kings, Steph Curry took the game over and was the main reason as to why Golden State escaped with a victory.

The rivalry shows similarities due to both parties pushing one another and learning each other’s strengths and maximizing those strengths to the best of their abilities. It is why both LeBron and Steph have been playing at a high level for sometime.

Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson (Lakers-Celtics rivalry)

If those rivalries have a difficult time of understanding, I’ll choose a rivalry that everyone is familiar with. The Steph-LeBron rivalry is close to what we have seen when it comes to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Both Magic and Larry were fierce competitors and pushed each other to become the best. In the process, both Larry and Magic were able to revolutionize the NBA and make it more entertaining and exciting. 

Whenever Stephen Curry and LeBron James play against one another, similar to what Magic and Larry was, it was must-see TV. Both players were going to showcase their talent for the world to see and do it in a way that will leave fans wanting more. Having both players who are the best at what they do playing against one another is something we all want as sports fans. Similar to Magic and Larry, both Steph and LeBron were able to respect each other’s game and it made them not only better players, but better people. 

It’s what makes rivalries so great. When Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors square off against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, it may be the last time these two play in this setting. Appreciate these two and understand why we love sports for this reason.

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