For a second consecutive year the NBA Finals are awarding you, the discriminating fan, the opportunity to stand two very different players side by side for thorough comparison testing and rate for yourself the qualities that are most appealing.
The choices are distinct, as choices should be, a study in opposites in body morphology and the physics of the game.
So, how do you like your stars?
Do you favor the overwhelming physical dominance that LeBron James brings to bear on the court?
Or do your tastes swing to the sly talent of Stephen Curry — who yields at least six inches, 60 pounds and a whole bunch of plates in the weight room to James?
Are you a slave to the latest thing, Curry having won the past two MVP awards as well as taking over the lead in jersey sales? Or do you stand by the classics, James now 31, doing battle with male-pattern baldness and seemingly a part of this sport since the rim was a peach basket?
Are you less put off by the James whiny pleas for every foul that can be called in a game — unbecoming of a King. Or by the Curry shake and shimmy, once kind of cute but now bordering on an act of provocation?
Which kind of back story do you prefer? The one of the privileged son of an NBA star who came to the league from a mid-level collegiate program with all kinds of questions about how he would fit into a grown man’s league (Curry)? Or that of the poor kid from Ohio who was marked for sure-thing stardom not long after getting his permanent teeth, who bypassed college and arrived fully and frightfully formed (James)?
Neither makes the choice easier by being a hazard to society. In fact they both seem to be splendid citizens.
Both can take over a game at the decisive moment, but in quite different ways. James may just power through and over the clutter of lesser humans. Whereas Curry flits through traffic or opts to shoot over it. So, do you prefer the hammer or the hummingbird?
Before he is done, James may well go down as one of the top five players of all time given the completeness of his gifts and the conscientious way he served them (that’s a debate for another time). Curry’s legacy will be a more nuanced, but eventually come down to him being the one who most fully explored the vast riches beyond the 3-point arc.
One of the principals in the comparison has little use for it. Said Curry in the lead-up to Golden State-Cleveland Act II: “It’s really annoying for me — that’s not what I’m playing for, to be the face of the NBA or to be this or that or to take LeBron’s throne. I’m trying to chase rings and that’s all I’m about. That’s where the conversation stops for me.”
Thankfully that’s not where the conversation stops for the rest of us.
Personally, I find Curry the more intriguing player, the one more likely to make me go “Ohhhhhhh” at any time during a game. He has shown himself so much more than a one-trick, long-range shooter.
But let the comparative talent shopping commence. For seven games, if possible.