(CNN) Akron General Medical Center, Ohio – Birthplace of the NBA’s Greatest Game, where our story begins.
On December 30, 1984, LeBron James was born in that very hospital, and in a script that only the gods of basketball could have written, just four years later so was Stephen Curry.
Since that very day, the journeys of two of basketball’s all-time greats have been forever intertwined. Now, the matchup that dominated basketball in the late 2000s is back again for the fifth round, as the pair square off in the Western Conference Semifinals.
How did both teams get here?
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 4-2 in the opening round of the playoffs.
In a game that was just as exciting off the field as it was on the hardwood floor, the Lakers’ experience showed that the young Grizzlies lacked the latest technology to get over the line.
In another battle between big and small, the Golden State Warriors beat the Sacramento Kings in an exhilarating seven-game series.
Along the way, both Curry and James broke records for the most talked about preparation of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Golden State sniper Klay Thompson said he “waited for this for 12 years,” while facing his father’s former franchise, and teammate Draymond Green spoke to reporters about James v. Warriors’ legacy.
“This series against the Lakers is going to be epic, you’ve got Steve, you’ve got Bron, doing it again,” he said.
“Stop trying to turn the page on us so quickly,” Green added. “Stop trying to turn the page on Bron so quickly. We get so caught up in what’s next we don’t currently appreciate it.”
After years of experience against the Warriors, James knows the Lakers have to be at the top of their game.
“You must be a super prankster,” the 19-time all-star said, per the Los Angeles Times. “You can’t make a mistake. You can’t. You can’t make a mistake or they’ll make you pay. It’s literally that simple. Some of the teams I’ve played for in my career have had this idea of you and they’re one of them.”
The first ever NBA Finals matchup was between LeBron and Steve in 2015. The Rookie Warriors were the new kids on the block, and led by MVP Curry, the best team in the NBA that year with a 67-15 record.
Steve Kerr’s Warriors made it to the NBA Finals, losing just three games in the Western Playoffs, and Golden State met LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.
The Cavs had only dropped two games on their way to the Finals and James was on fire heading into the Final.
The finals turned into a straight shootout between the two stars of their respective teams. James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists and Curry led the Warriors with averages of 26 points and 6.3 assists.
Despite James’ heroic efforts, the Warriors sealed the 2015 Finals with a 4-2 series victory and cemented their status as the most exciting team in the NBA.
The Cavaliers and Warriors met again for an NBA Finals game the following year.
Dub Nation somehow improved on their record in 2014-15 and surpassed the 1996 Chicago Bulls and their 72-10 record – finishing the season 73-9.
Chef Curry was the back-to-back regular season MVP – winning the unanimous vote after averaging 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds in his team’s historic campaign.
Although Cleveland leads the East, they were heavy underdogs heading into the Finals against the Warriors and their heavy three-point offensive game.
The Finals looked like it was going according to scenario with the Warriors leading 3-1 in the series, but LeBron had second thoughts in what turned out to be the return of all comebacks.
King James and Kyrie Irving’s double team brilliantly recovered for the Cavs and led Cleveland to a historic title.
Finals MVP James finished the series averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists to go with 27.1 points per game.
The series’ moment also became an iconic NBA play. LeBron’s stunning stalking block on Warriors forward Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the Finals was the statement of the game – the brilliant defensive effort is now widely referred to as “The Block” solely because of the size of the stoppage.
The Golden State Warriors responded to their loss in the 2016 Finals by recruiting Kevin Durant in the off-season. The additional scoring of “The Slim Reaper” turned the Warriors into a certified superhero team and they once again became the favorites to go all the way to make another ring.
The Cavs and the Warriors met for the first time this season during an incredible game on Christmas Day. The Cavaliers won the thriller 109-108, and with that win, they also took bragging rights ahead of a potential finals game.
Come to the end of the season, the Warriors led the West, while the Cavs were good enough to finish second behind the Boston Celtics in the East. This difference in quality was evident in the finals.
The addition of Durant put an end to the competitiveness of the Titans’ previous struggle as the six-foot-10-inch forward led the Warriors to an easy Finals victory.
Durant won Finals MVP honors by averaging 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists with LeBron’s impressive triple-averaging proving to be nothing in a 4-1 Warriors win.
After the loss, Irving was looking for new pastures and left LeBron to fight the Warriors’ dominance on his own.
The 2017-18 regular season suggested that the joint dominance between Golden State and Cleveland was finally coming to an end.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets lead the West, with the Cleveland Cavaliers finishing fourth in the corresponding conference.
However, playoff experience and dominance from either side proved to come in the clutch, and it featured a fourth consecutive final for both teams.
In the most mismatched encounter between the two teams, the Warriors swept the Cavaliers, winning four straight games in a disappointing final battle between the modern-day greats.
After a disappointing end to his second stint with the Cavaliers, LeBron moved out West and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Finally, after five years, we get a chance to see the LeBron Lakers take on the Steves Warriors in a matchup between two certified superstars – and this time without Durant’s involvement.
With the Western Conference wide open, whoever wins this game will feel like nothing can stop them from winning it all.