Through five games of the 2015 NBA Finals, the story has already written itself.
There's LeBron James on one side of the court, running twisting floaters and rainbow threes through the seemingly impenetrable defense of the Golden State Warriors. There was the Cleveland Cavaliers insignia emboldened across his jersey but it felt like it was him, himself, and nobody else next to his side. On the other side, those Warriors found a new way to win; after gritting away an ugly victory in Game 1, then a spark to turn Game 4 into a blowout, Stephen Curry reverted back to regular season MVP Stephen Curry in Game 5.
Make no mistake, there were maybe other aspects of the game tonight that did not go the Warriors way. They kicked and screamed after every whistle in the first half and especially into a third quarter that saw the crowd boo more than they cheered. Oracle Arena resembled more of a wrestling arena when The Rock turned heel for the umpteenth time. And then Curry woke up, LeBron James tired, and the show was on.
A reporter after the game asked about Steph's crossover move on Delly and Curry stared deadpan into the cameras, mulling over what he had done, all while Draymond Green next to him "phew'd" repeatedly into the mic. There's a quiet confidence to the MVP. You don't really see it until..."after we win the championship..." That's how Curry responded to the question. Don't ask him if that's a signature moment now. Ask him when the Warriors have won the championship. That's a confident cat. A different kind of animal.
What kind? Minutes later, LeBron James took the podium and said, "I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world." That kind.
Nowhere was this more exemplified in a scoring duel for the ages. The scene was set mid-fourth quarter. Another affair slowed to a grinding halt, favoring the Warriors, and then, explosions. LeBron James sat on the left wing, like he has all game long, and waited and waited. The sheets were laid out, the pillows perfectly placed, and he laid to rest the rest of the defense, arc'ing in a rainbow three from above-the-break from 34. And to that point, Curry was still hitting jumpers but not so much in dancing around on the wing or splitting doubles. That changed quickly as he moved left, skipped right, and rocked back as he holstered a trey from his hip pocket. Down it went. And down it went again for Klay Thompson in the next possession.
From then on, the league's reigning MVP took over. It was his night, his game, and what seemed like a series too big for him: his NBA Finals.
So now the Golden State Warriors move on to Game 6 in Cleveland as Curry recovers from a game that sent him dizzy to the locker room, dehydrated and drained. The Warriors got their signature MVP performance but will now need one more to collect the trophy every single player dreams of before, during, and after NBA seasons. After 4 subpar games, two saved by the supporting cast known as Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, Curry is here now, ready to smirk, wink, and roar his way into Bay Area history and storybooks read on by generations.
LeBron James is the greatest basketball player in the world, and perhaps the greatest to ever live. But Curry vise-gripped a series that's been more fun to talk about than to actually watch.
Now the Warriors are a game away from finishing off one of the greatest seasons of all time. The bylines of the matchup ran through and propped up LeBron James as the singular aspect worth even discussing. After Game 5, Stephen Curry staked his claim to the series, his series, and his fingerprints on the trophy.