Passing the Torch


Following the Golden State Warriors loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, ESPN put out an Instagram post with the caption: “Passing the torch”. In the photo were Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant embracing at the end of the game. This touching photo drew the question of when was the torch truly passed?



The Era of the Black Mamba (2000-2010)image1-300x533



From 2000 to 2010, Kobe Bryant ruled the NBA. He won 3 NBA Championships alongside Shaquille O’Neal. During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Kobe was the NBA scoring champion and he earned the title of MVP in the following year. Then, he went for back-to-back Championships on his own in 2009 and 2010.
After winning the NBA Championship in 2009, many thought that he was too old to compete for another Championship. Analysts saw Lebron James’ rising talents and thought that was the year that Kobe would pass on the torch. However, Kobe had other plans. He outshined James and went on to earn himself another ring to complete his back-to-back.

During the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, Kobe dribbled down court alone on a fast break and Lebron eyed the Black Mamba, eager for a block from behind. Kobe went up strong with Lebron against his hip and dunked the ball home to Lebron James’ dissatisfaction. As Kobe turned back around, he patted Lebron on the back as if to say, “this league is still mine.”
Kobe Bryant (L) of the L.A. Lakers playi

In the five years following that dunk, Lebron competed in the Finals each year while Kobe hardly even got a sniff of the playoffs. Injuries plagued the remainder of his career, so he symbolically gave up the torch to The King.


The Era of King James (2010-2015)


Since Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, he has not missed a Finals series.

He played alongside two future Hall of Famers in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. He carried that team to the NBA Finals for four consecutive years. He won back-to-back Championships in the 2012 and 2013 seasons and then decided to go back home after losing to the San Antonio Spurs the next year.

During his years in Miami, Lebron James became the face of the NBA. In households that knew barely even a lick about basketball, Lebron James was a name that still had meaning and connotation to them.

Whether you glorified his existence or vilified his name, it was an undeniable truth that Lebron was the greatest player at the time. His two MVP seasons during his two Championship campaigns are material proof that he was the best.

At the start of the 2015 season, many believed he would continue to reign and possibly go on to win another championship. Stephen Curry had other plans though.




The Era of the Baby-Faced Assassin (Present)

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers, 2015 NBA Finals
Before the 2015 season, the Golden State Warriors were a blip on a title contender’s path to the Finals, analysts predicted Lebron James and Co. to win the Championship, and Bruce Jenner was still Bruce Jenner.

All was right in the basketball world.

Steve Kerr, the Warriors new head coach, entered the league ready to change the atmosphere in Golden State. He took the ball out of Curry’s hands and made him a key piece in an offense focusing heavily on ball movement.

This simple change led to the breakout season that catapulted Curry into the upper echelon of players and to his first MVP award.

In the 2015 Finals, he was met by Lebron James. Lebron put up video game numbers in the series with 30 points, 9 assists, and 11 rebounds per game. Curry put up a much more efficient 28 points along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. His scoring combined with his team’s stout defense subdued The King and made it possible for Curry to take the throne.

He only averaged 24 points and 8 assists per game through the whole season. However, he led his team to an NBA Championship. At the end of the season, the team made NBA history by recording one of the top six regular season records ever.

This year, Curry is on his way to producing one of the best seasons a player has posted in NBA history.

He is averaging 30 points a game and has a PER of 32.3, which will go down as the greatest PER recorded by a player, if he continues to play this way through the remainder of the season.

Along with the personal records, he is leading his team to posting the best record ever in an NBA season. Currently, they have the best record through 61 games.

Right now, it seems that Lebron symbolically passed the torch to Curry in the 2015 Finals series. However, it is all determined by if Curry can continue to produce at the high levels he has been the past two seasons.

If he sustains this type of play through this year and the following years, then this league will truly be Stephen Curry’s league.

All Stats from www.basketball-reference.com
Photos from @sportcenter

About Emanuel Godina

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