Stephen Curry and LeBron James are bitter rivals on the basketball court, but they’ve always been fans of each other, dating back to Curry’s college days with Davidson. In 2008, James made the trip to watch Curry play in the NCAA tournament, and later gifted the budding superstar with a subtle shot at North Carolina legend Michael Jordan.
After 14 years and four fights between the two in the NBA Finals, Curry still cherishes the gift and even hangs it in his parents’ house to this day.
LeBron James saw something special in a young Stephen Curry
James recognizes a future NBA star when he sees one. When a young, thin Curry began to lighten college basketball at the unfamiliar Davidson College, he immediately caught LeBron’s attention.
In 2008, while James was in his fifth season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the future Hall of Famer watched closely as Curry led the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 appearance behind two electric offensive performances in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. In that moment, LeBron knew he had to see this boy for himself.
So James traveled to Detroit to watch Davidson take on Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, and he was not disappointed in the least. Curry stunned the crowd with NBA series threes and acrobatic finishes on the rim en route to 33 points in the upset win of 73-56.
LeBron knew that night that Curry would become a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, as he later confirmed in a 2019 tweet.
‘Wasn’t some kid to me! I knew he was SPECIAL, so I went to see him up close!” James tweeted in response to a video of Curry’s performance that night.
LeBron sent a veiled shot at Michael Jordan with his gift to a young Curry
A pure fan of basketball that he is, James was so impressed with Curry’s game as a 20-year-old that he contacted him to send him a personalized gift. Fourteen years later, Curry still has that gift hanging in his parents’ house.
He recently told the story to Hanif Abdurraqib for a cover story of GQ.
I was a sophomore in college and LeBron came to my games! I actually still have the sweater he gave me. He signed a sweater for me. I think that was November of my freshman year. On my wall at my parents’ house in Charlotte, it’s still there. And he wrote it to me, called me the king of basketball in North Carolina. So I guess it’s kind of like the corny idol-turning-rivals thing.
But it is real.
It must have been surreal for Curry to see one of his basketball idols at his college games and receive an autographed shirt the same year. But to be called the “king of basketball in North Carolina” – the state in which Michael Jordan grew up? Perhaps LeBron went a little too far with his message.
Still mutual respect between the two
Just a few years after Curry received the autographed jersey from James, the two went from fans to bitter rivals in the NBA. Curry’s Warriors later met LeBron’s Cavs in the NBA Finals four straight years from 2015-2018, with Golden State taking the best of Cleveland in three of those matchups.
But despite all this, the two superstars have not lost the mutual respect they share for each other. When Curry broke the NBA record for three-pointers last month, James was one of the first to praise him for the achievement.
“I wish I could be there to congratulate him,” James said at the time. “I will be one of the guys in our league who will congratulate him socially.
“We are all witness to what Steph Curry has done in his career and the way he has changed the game. He is a once-in-a-lifetime basketball player.”
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