It was basketball harmony. As if Beethoven himself had descended and started orchestrating something pure and unstoppable.
There was Steph Curry. The Baby-Faced Assassin, two-time NBA MVP and greatest shooter to ever grip the leather. There was Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper, a 7-foot walking bucket, MVP, and most unguardable player the game of basketball has ever seen. To be sure, Dr. James Naismith would have collapsed on the spot if he had ever laid eyes on either of them, let alone seen them conduct their three-year symphony for a Warriors dynasty that filleted its opponents with the greatest of ease.
It was Batman and Superman. Alien and Predator. Freddy and Jason. Two basketball machines armed with every weapon in the arsenal linking up to bring the NBA to its knees and raise as many banners as possible.
Curry was the gravitational center of the greatest collection of talent in NBA history, his unselfishness and desire to win serving as the catalyst for a winning machine that is unlikely to be matched. If Curry was the head of the snake, Durant was the tip of the spear, serving as a trump card no other team could match.
For three years, Curry, Durant and the Warriors ripped through the NBA with relative ease. Injuries and exhaustion were the only forces that finally stopped a beast that had easily brushed aside any would-be challenger.
And then, it ended. Durant ruptured his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals and left to start his own championship contender with the Brooklyn Nets. After his exit, Curry and the Warriors embarked on a journey to restart their dynasty.
Neither Durant, who spent 17 months rehabbing his Achilles, nor Curry, who broke his hand four games into the 2019-20 season, were a factor in their first season apart. Last year saw Durant return to the court and look like his old self while Curry and the Warriors continued to venture through the graveyard where fallen dynasties are put to rest.
Durant and the Nets hammered Curry and the Warriors in each of their two meetings, serving as a stark reminder of what Golden State had lost.
But this year is different. Curry and Durant will meet again Tuesday in their first meeting of the season. The 11-2 Warriors hold the NBA's best record. The Nets are 10-4 and near the top of the East. Both Curry and Durant are playing at an MVP level. Both are missing a running mate as Klay Thompson continues to rehab from his torn Achilles while Kyrie Irving is out until he complies with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Of course, both sides aren't viewing Tuesday's matchup as any sort of NBA Finals measuring stick. It is, after all, November.
“It’s just another game,” Durant said, via Adam Zangoria. “It’s 15 games into the season and obviously they’re the best team in the league and they’re playing at an elite level, but it’s a regular-season game. We obviously want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd but we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves and call this a Finals [preview]. We just want to build on who we are, figure out what we want to do out there and keep pushing.”
“It’s just exciting, fun to play in these games, national TV, lot of star power out there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Lot of hype so I think our players are looking forward to it. Win or lose, we got 69 games left or whatever.”
Yes, it's only November. But Curry and the Warriors returning to the NBA Finals only to see Durant on the other side would be a fitting bookend to a historic partnership, one born out of Golden State's three-games-to-one comeback in the 2016 Western Conference finals.
Fitting not because there is any rivalry or animous between the two stars. But fitting because Curry and Durant's partnership was the NBA's Halley's Comet. A beautiful and mesmerizing phenomenon that is unlikely to be duplicated. Both stars received heat for the superteam they built, with the criticism flying out of both sides of every pundit's mouth.
Durant's title didn't count. Curry won't be able to get back to the Finals without KD. KD needs to prove he can win on his own. Steph has to cement his greatness.
That, of course, is all morning debate show mouth garbage and easily dismissed.
Curry and Durant are two of the top 10-12 players in NBA history. Their greatness has long been established and couldn't be wiped away with any amount of force.
But both Curry and Durant deserve another Finals stage. Multiple.
There might be no better way for Durant to return to the championship arena than to face Curry and the Warriors at Chase Center, a building he helped build that will one day see his jersey in the rafters and his statue guarding its entrance.
So when you're watching Durant and Curry exchange haymakers Tuesday, let your mind wander to June. Envision Curry and Durant conducting dueling orchestras on a stage they once owned together. Envision the Larry O'Brien Trophy looking on in amazement as two basketball legends who once formed an NBA behemoth try to vanquish one another.
It's only Game 14, but it's OK to dream that Tuesday's night matchup could be a preview of something much, much bigger.