Needless to say, all 30 of those showdowns came with James wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey.
But that era is over.
And on Christmas Day, at Oracle Arena, a new rivalry sprouts from the ashes of the old. The Warriors will face James, but it won’t be in the wine and gold that the Cavs don. This time it’s with his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s entirely possible that a dynamic rivalry begins on Christmas. James is, after all, signed for four years, and the Lakers have started to find a groove, and look like they could be an interesting playoff matchup (albeit one that the Warriors would be strongly favored against).
It’s a testament to James’ greatness that the best rivalry in the NBA isn’t between two teams. No, it’s between one team (the Warriors) and one player (James). And it figures to stay that way a while.
Remarkably, James is still evolving in his 16th NBA season. And, as Danny Chau of The Ringer points out, the success of the Warriors dynasty has played a large role in James’ development.
He’s had a remarkable career, and a remarkable rivalry with the Warriors. And the start of the next chapter should excite everyone.
Now, let’s look at the rest of the week.
Position entering the week
Conference standing: 2nd
Net rating: 7th (+4.8)
This week’s games
Tuesday, December 25 vs the Los Angeles Lakers (19-14)
When: 5:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN and ABC
What to watch for: Will we get an excellent game from this rivalry, or will both teams hold their cards close to their chest and go through the holiday motions?
Why they could win: On Sunday, the Warriors withstood one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA history, and still won. Would you like to bet against this team?
Why they could lose: If any team knows the heights that LeBron James can carry his team to, it’s the Warriors.
Opponent to watch: LeBron James. Duh.
Thursday, December 27 vs the Portland Trail Blazers (19-14)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Season series: Warriors lead 1-0
What to watch for: Portland has found their groove lately, with four wins in their last five games. They’ll be looking to prove themselves against the NBA’s cream of the crop, and the Warriors will be looking to not be hungover following the highly-anticipated Christmas game.
Why they could win: When these teams met a little over a month ago, the Dubs won by 28. Seems like a pretty good precedent.
Why they could lose: Portland is an erratic team, seemingly possessed with the ability to beat any team on any night, and lose to any team on any night. When the Blazers are at their best, it takes a great performance by the Warriors to win.
Opponent to watch: Damian Lillard. An All-Star and Oakland native, at Oracle Arena against Steph Curry? Yeah, I’d keep my eye on that.
Saturday, December 29 at the Portland Trail Blazers (19-14)
When: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBA TV and NBC Sports Bay Area
Ahh, the dreaded home-and-home series. There’s not much to say about this game that wasn’t said about the game before!
Happy holidays to the entire Golden State of Mind community!