SAN FRANCISCO —
As Stephen Curry walked off the court Saturday night, his team having lost a double-overtime classic to the Lakers, the NBA’s baby-faced nice guy grabbed his jersey inside the collar and ripped it apart.
Not long after, LeBron James emerged from an ice bath after playing nearly 48 minutes, his cement-filled legs and feet shuffling towards the locker room. The gray in his beard didn’t make James look old — it was the labored steps.
But as he moved down the hallway to the locker room, James, always aware of the moment, had an ear-to-ear smile.
“It’s been a treat to go against one of the greatest to ever play this game,” James said of Curry. “For us to continue to push each other at the state of our careers, you don’t take it for granted because you don’t know how many times you’re actually going to get the moment to actually be on the same floor with such a talent.”
Those moments, are of course, sweeter on nights like Saturday when James hit the winning free throws in double overtime to beat Curry and the Warriors in a thrilling 145-144 battle.
It was easy to get nostalgic about Curry, 35, and James, 39, trading shots on a national TV stage. Their careers have intersected at so many key points. Curry beat James and the Cavaliers for his first title. James and Cleveland came back from being down 3-1 in the series to beat Curry’s best Warriors team.
Saturday, no championships were decided, just a .500 Lakers team trying to save its season against a sub-.500 team trying to move on in theirs.
James scored 36 points and grabbed a career high 20 rebounds to go along with 12 assists. It was the first 30/20/10 game for a Laker since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1976.
Curry had 46 points, putting Anthony Davis on skates to tie the game at the end of regulation on the way to his season high.
“It’s something I’ll be able to talk about with my grandkids,” James said. “When you talk about me being able to compete versus one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”
In Saturday’s win against the Warriors, five different Lakers logged at least 40 minutes — James, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt and Davis. All five Warriors starters played at least 40, as well.
“It’s tough to get wins in this league, especially in this arena. A game like that, I think it will hurt you to lose,” Davis said. “Obviously, you leave it all on the floor. And every guy in this locker room left it on the floor tonight, and in that locker room as well. And to lose this one, it would hurt.”
Especially if you were the threads on Curry’s jersey.