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Though Stephen Curry has undergone a somewhat sudden rise to one of the NBA’s most popular players and the league’s first unanimous MVP, he apparently has work to do within the league.
According to Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group, author of the newly released “Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry,” Curry is not all that popular with some of the league’s biggest stars, including LeBron James.
Thompson was a guest on “The Big Lead with Jason McIntyre” on Sunday to discuss his new book. He said Curry’s sudden rise and popularity, particularly amongst fans and the media, had turned some players against him.
“There’s this thing there with he and LeBron that’s a little weird,” Thompson said.
According to Thompson, James and Curry were close from Curry’s days at Davidson to his early years in the league. Thompson said James was “like a mentor” to Curry, but as Curry’s game improved, coinciding with the Warriors’ rise, he “challenged LeBron’s status.” Since then, the two haven’t been as close, and it bothers Curry.
“The part that’s odd for Steph, like why does that mean there has to be some beef between us? He loves LeBron, he respects LeBron, and he’s like … because the outside world is pitting us together, why do you and I have to now have this disdain between us? I thought we were cool.
“That’s the question that’s in Curry’s mind and Curry’s camp: Why do you not like me when all I did was basically respect everything you did and kind of follow the model you carried out? So there’s an interesting dynamic there, and it’s not just with LeBron.
“Steph wants to be accepted by all these guys. This is what he worked for – for you to say, ‘Man, you’re one of us.’ It seems like they don’t want to give that to him. Not yet, anyway.”
Thompson seemed to be referring to the Cavs’ and Warriors’ back-to-back title clashes. Things got noticeably heated between James and Curry in the 2016 NBA Finals, as James’ Cavs came roaring back to even the series.
In Game 6, James swatted one of Curry’s shots and trash-talked him afterward. The two had bumped each other a few times and exchanged words. Finally, Curry was called for a foul, lost his cool, chucked his mouthguard, which hit a fan, and was ejected. From there, the “beef” seemed real.
Thompson said that the root of this disdain for Curry came from him leapfrogging so many players so quickly in the NBA’s elite and receiving adoration for it. Thompson said members of the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t like that Curry seemingly did that to Chris Paul, whom many people considered to be the NBA’s top point guard.
When McIntyre brought up Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook laughing last season when they were asked about Curry’s defense, Thompson said it was another example of the chasm between Curry and some of the NBA’s stars:
“I think if you ask them and they were being honest, they don’t like all the hype he gets, and they have to direct it that way. I think out of all of them, if somebody doesn’t like Steph Curry, I think it’s probably Westbrook. He just shows no sign of – this really ain’t about Steph. It’s bigger. His seems to be, ‘I don’t like that dude.’
“But LeBron and them, I think they will say: ‘Man, I like Steph. We can have a conversation.’ But there’s something that burns them about the fact that Steph is the one that is exalted, and because of that, they want to go at him and, in fact, kind of demean his hype. They want to take him down.”
According to Thompson, Curry is aware of this and plays with the mindset that if he dominates the competition enough, players will be left with no choice but to respect him.
Curry already has Hall of Fame-worthy accolades. With the Warriors looking like the favorites to make the Finals again and Curry heating up in recent weeks, he may take another step toward earning that respect.