The story of Stephen Curry and Chris Paul is deeper than you think, and I’m not just talking about their position as two of the best point guards to ever play the game.
Both products of the state of North Carolina, their relationship began long before they even shared an NBA court.
A few weeks ago, before the Suns took on the Warriors in San Francisco, Paul revealed some insights into his first real connection to Curry.
“I do point guard, elite camp, every summer, and Steph came to camp,” Paul told NBC Sports Bay Area. “So a lot of people don’t know before Steph’s rookie year that he came on a family trip with my whole family. We went to Orlando, like I went to take my kids to Disney World. Steph came with us and we exercised and we train … I’ve known Steph forever, “continued Paul.
“When he came to the league, he had my respect because we had spent that real time together training and exercising. And Steph kept getting kinder and kinder … It was just a matter of time for them to put in the system. it was for him.
“The rest is history.”
Curry had also previously cited Paul as a mentor, regarding those same experiences of attending future Hall of Fame camps and doing tandem workouts in the offseason.
But there’s no way any superstar would have known their relationship would turn into one of the subtler rivalries in the NBA in the last decade.
When Curry made his NBA debut in 2009, Paul was already a candidate for the All-Star Game and Most Valuable Player. Curry was not projected to become who he would become, but it didn’t take long for the backup to establish himself as a threat to Paul’s throne as the NBA’s best point guard.
In 2014, Curry’s Warriors and Paul’s Clippers met in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, their first of three career postseason matchups to date.
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It was Curry’s first All-Star season and the Warriors were beginning to look like a young team with lots of promise, but Paul’s Clippers had the third-best record in the NBA and were legitimate title contenders.
Curry and the Warriors led Paul and the Clippers to seven games, giving them everything they could handle in that first-round series. The two star guards dueled in the win-or-go game, with 22 points from Paul and 14 assists giving Los Angeles the lead over Golden State despite 33 points and nine assists from Curry.
Paul won the first playoff fight against Curry, but that fueled a battle for years to come.
The following season, Curry returned as a different player – he transformed into the immortal sniper we know today, taking home his first MVP award. It just so happens that not one, but two, one of his key moments of the season was against his former mentor.
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First, it was betrayal that made Paul the NBA’s most-used Twitter meme that year, as he was photoshopped into everything from Twister floor mats to dance floors and more.
So it was this play that looked like the real version of an NBA Street “Game Breaker”.
They were both glimpses of the downright ridiculous things Curry can do when he enters his Human Torch mode, but it started off a bit entertaining but petty back and forth between himself and Paul.
Fast forward to 2018, where Curry was already a two-time NBA champion and a two-time league MVP, one of which made him the first unanimous MVP in league history. Paul, now a member of the Rockets, would have his second playoff battle with Curry, this time in his first appearance in a conference finals.
You know how this story goes: Paul and the Rockets took a 3-2 lead in the series, with CP3 even beating Curry for some of the moves he made to her in years past.
But the star guard would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of a big win in Game 5, forcing him to miss Games 6 and 7, which the Warriors would win en route to back-to-back NBA titles. . Who knows how Paul’s legacy would differ if it weren’t for that incredibly untimely injury, but it just adds another layer to this rivalry that deserves more attention.
Paul and the Rockets faced Curry and the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals the following year in 2019, but Golden State handled the deals in six games as CP3 fell short in the Finals once again.
Paul finally lifted that burden in 2021, leading the Suns to the NBA Finals in his first season in Phoenix, but still pursuing his ever-elusive NBA title.
As things are shaping up during the 2021-22 season so far, this Christmas Day showdown between the Suns and Warriors has all the makings of a possible Western Conference Finals preview, with the best two records. of the NBA.
Who could have seen coming that Paul, 35, and Curry, 33, would possibly meet again in the Conference Finals at this stage in their careers?
Like the way their rivalry started, no one, not even themselves, could have guessed.
But when we look back at the careers of these two all-time greats, we realize that it should have drawn more attention to two of the best shooting guards in NBA history crossing paths at the same time.
It is not too late to start now.