Stephen Curry and Chris Paul’s history runs deeper than you might think, and I’m not just talking about their standing as two of the greatest point guards to ever play the game.
Both products of the state of North Carolina, their relationship started long before they even shared an NBA court.
A few weeks back, before the Suns played the Warriors in San Francisco, Paul revealed some insight on his first real connection with Curry.
“I do a point guard, an 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 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 worked out and we trained. … I have known Steph forever,” Paul continued.
“When he came into the league, he had my respect because we had spent that real time together training and working out. And Steph just kept getting nicer, and nicer, and nicer. … It was just a matter of time for them to put in the system that was for him.
“The rest is history.”
Curry had also previously cited Paul as a mentor, relating back to those same experiences of attending the future Hall of Famer’s camps and doing tandem workouts in the offseason.
But there is no way either superstar could have ever known their relationship would turn into one of the more subtle rivalries in the NBA over the last decade.
By the time Curry made his NBA debut in 2009, Paul was already an All-Star and MVP candidate. Curry wasn’t projected to turn into who he would become, but it didn’t take long for the understudy to establish himself as a threat to Paul’s throne as the best point guard in the NBA.
In 2014, Curry’s Warriors and Paul’s Clippers met in the first round of the NBA Playoffs – their first of three postseason matchups over their careers to this point.
It was Curry’s first All-Star season and the Warriors were starting to look like a young team with a lot of promise, but Paul’s Clippers owned the third-best record in the NBA and were legitimate title contenders.
Curry and the Warriors took Paul and the Clippers to seven games, giving them everything they could handle in that first-round series. The two star guards dueled it out in the win-or-go-home game, with Paul’s 22 points and 14 assists giving LA the edge over Golden State despite 33 points and nine assists from Curry.
Paul won the first playoff bout against Curry, but that fueled a battle for years to come.
The very next season, Curry came back a different player – he morphed into the immortal sharpshooter we know today, taking home his first-ever MVP award. It just so happens that not one, but two, of his marquee moments of the season just happened to come against his former mentor.
First, it was the double-cross that made Paul the most frequently used meme of NBA Twitter that year, being photoshopped on everything from Twister mats to dance floors and more.
Then, it was this play that looked like the real-life version of an NBA Street “Game Breaker.”
Both were glimpses of the downright ridiculous things Curry can do when he enters his Human Torch mode, but it did start a little bit of an entertaining but petty back-and-forth between him and Paul.
Fast forward to 2018, where Curry was already a two-time NBA champion and 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 coming in his first-ever appearance in a Conference Finals.
You know how this story goes: Paul and the Rockets took a 3-2 series lead, with CP3 even getting back at Curry for some of the moves he put on him in years past.
But the star guard would go down with a hamstring injury at the end of a Game 5 blowout win, forcing him to miss Games 6 and 7, both of which the Warriors would win en route to back-to-back NBA titles. Who knows how Paul’s legacy would differ if not for that incredibly untimely injury, but it just adds another layer to this rivalry that deserves more attention.
Paul and the Rockets faced off against Curry and the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals the following year in 2019, but Golden State handled business in six games, as CP3 came up short of a Finals bid once again.
Paul finally got that weight off his shoulders in 2021, taking the Suns to the NBA Finals in his first season in Phoenix, but he is still chasing his ever-elusive NBA title.
The way things are shaping up during the 2021-22 season so far, this Christmas Day matchup between the Suns and Warriors has all of the makings of a potential Western Conference Finals preview, owning the two best records in the NBA.
Who could have seen it coming that a 35-year-old Paul and 33-year-old Curry would possibly meet in the Conference Finals again at this stage in their careers?
Just like the way their rivalry began, no one, not even themselves, could have guessed it.
But when we look back on the careers of these two all-time greats, we’re going to realize there should have been more attention drawn to two of the greatest guards in NBA history crossing paths in the same era.
It’s not too late to start now.