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The Epic Lakers-Warriors Rivalry: A History of NBA Showdowns
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The Lakers–Warriors rivalry is a storied matchup between two of the NBA's most successful franchises, fueled by the epic battles between LeBron James and Stephen Curry over the past decade.

Origin of Lakers-Warriors Rivalry

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The Lakers-Warriors rivalry traces its roots back to the late 1940s when the two franchises joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which later merged with the National Basketball League to form the NBA in 1949. The Lakers, originally based in Minneapolis, and the Philadelphia Warriors were two of the more successful teams in the BAA's inaugural 1946-47 season. The Lakers won the BAA championship that year, while the Warriors finished as runners-up. This early success set the stage for a budding rivalry between the two franchises as they transitioned to the NBA. Though they were located in different regions initially, their status as perennial contenders meant they frequently met in the playoffs throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. The rivalry intensified in 1962 when the Warriors relocated from Philadelphia to San Francisco, establishing a permanent presence on the West Coast like the Lakers had done by moving to Los Angeles in 1960. With both teams now based in California, their matchups took on an added intensity as they battled for state supremacy. Hall of Famers like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor featured prominently in the early years of the rivalry. Their individual battles and the teams' frequent playoff meetings in the 1960s laid the foundation for what would become one of the NBA's most enduring rivalries between two iconic franchises.
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Playoff Matchups Summary

Here is a summary of the Lakers-Warriors playoff series results over the years:
SeasonSeriesResult
2023Western Conference SemifinalsLakers won 4-2
1991Western Conference SemifinalsLakers won 4-1
1987Western Conference SemifinalsLakers won 4-1
1977Western Conference SemifinalsLakers won 4-3
1973Western Conference FinalsLakers won 4-1
1972Western Conference FinalsLakers won 4-1
1968Western Division SemifinalsLakers won 4-2
The Lakers have dominated the playoff matchups against the Warriors, holding a commanding 29-13 overall series record. Their most recent meeting came in the 2023 Western Conference Semifinals, which the Lakers won 4-2 after a tightly contested series. Prior to that, their playoff clashes were spread across the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s decades. The Lakers won all six of those previous series, including a 4-1 victory over the Warriors' dynastic team in the 1991 Western Semis. The 1987 series produced an iconic performance from Sleepy Floyd, who scored an NBA playoff record 39 points in a half during the Warriors' Game 4 loss. But the Lakers closed it out 4-1 en route to a title. While the regular season series has been more competitive, the Lakers have clearly had the Warriors' number when it matters most in the playoffs over their long rivalry.
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From East to West: The NBA's Journey to California in the 1960s and 1970s

The Lakers and Warriors were both original members of the Basketball Association of America (which later merged with the National Basketball League to form the NBA) in the late 1940s. However, both franchises struggled with poor attendance and financial issues in their early years. In 1960, the Lakers relocated from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, capitalizing on the city's growth and establishing a strong fan base. A few years later in 1962, the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco, though they initially faced low attendance before drafting Nate Thurmond to pair with Wilt Chamberlain. Both teams were contenders in the 1960s, making multiple Finals appearances, but fell short against the dynastic Boston Celtics led by Bill Russell. The Lakers finally broke through in 1972 with a championship behind Chamberlain and Jerry West, while the Warriors won their first title in 1975 behind Rick Barry. With the addition of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers rebuilt into a force in the late 1970s, setting the stage for an intense rivalry with the Warriors as both teams made their mark in California.
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The Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s: A Decade of Dominance

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The 1980s saw the Lakers establish themselves as a dynasty, led by the "Showtime" era featuring Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. After drafting Johnson in 1979, new owner Jerry Buss built a powerhouse that won five titles in the decade, including a Finals victory over the Warriors in 1987. Meanwhile, the Warriors endured a playoff drought for most of the 1980s before assembling their "Run TMC" trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin in the late 80s. Their 1987 playoff meeting with the Lakers was a highlight, with the Warriors pushing the eventual champions to the brink in a memorable 4-1 series loss. Game 4 is considered an all-time classic, featuring Sleepy Floyd's record 39-point half. Though the Lakers reigned supreme, the Warriors re-emerged as a contender by the end of the decade, setting the stage for an intensifying rivalry in the years to come as both teams battled for West Coast supremacy.
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Surviving the 90s: The Warriors' Journey to Stay Afloat

With the Lakers' Showtime dynasty fading after 1991, the 1990s saw a shift in the rivalry's dynamics. The Warriors briefly emerged as contenders in the early 90s after drafting Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell, while the Lakers rebuilt around Shaquille O'Neal and a young Kobe Bryant later in the decade. However, the Warriors soon collapsed amid frequent coaching changes. After being swept by the Suns in 1994, they failed to have a winning season until 2006. The Lakers re-emerged as playoff threats behind O'Neal and Bryant, though they often fell to the Spurs. Hiring Phil Jackson in 1999 set up their revival as a force. While the Warriors floundered for much of the 90s, the decade laid the foundation for the Lakers' resurgence and set the stage for an intensified rivalry in the 2000s as both franchises reloaded their rosters.
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The 2000s: Lakers Extend Their Reign in the NBA

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The 2000s saw the Lakers continue their dominance under Phil Jackson, winning three straight titles from 2000-2002 behind the duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Though the Warriors briefly returned to the playoffs in 2006 with players like Baron Davis, they largely remained at the bottom of the league. After a brief lull due to the Bryant-O'Neal feud, the Lakers reloaded with Pau Gasol and made three more Finals appearances from 2008-2010, winning two more championships. Meanwhile, the Warriors began rebuilding by drafting Stephen Curry in 2009, setting the stage for an epic rivalry revival in the 2010s as both franchises rose to power again.
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The Warriors Take Over: Dominance in the 2010s

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The 2010s marked a power shift in the Lakers-Warriors rivalry, with the Warriors emerging as the new force behind their homegrown trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. As Kobe Bryant battled injuries and the Lakers declined, the Warriors rose to dominance, making five straight Finals appearances from 2015-2019 and winning three titles. They had several memorable regular season battles with the fading Lakers, including Curry's streak-ending 0-10 3-point night in 2016 and Kobe's final game in Oakland in 2016. However, the Lakers reloaded by signing LeBron James in 2018 and trading for Anthony Davis in 2019, setting up an epic revival of the rivalry in the 2020s. The Warriors were familiar foes for LeBron from his Cavs days, and both teams were soon contending for championships again, renewing their heated playoff clashes.
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2020s–present: Battling for the Western Conference championship

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The 2020s have seen the Lakers-Warriors rivalry reach new heights as both teams battled for Western Conference supremacy. The early part of the decade was marred by struggles - the Lakers dealt with injuries and poor signings, while the Warriors endured a brief rebuild after their dynastic run. However, they soon returned to contention. In 2021, the Lakers edged the Warriors 103-100 in the Play-In Tournament despite Curry's 37 points. The following year, several stars from both teams like Curry, LeBron, Davis and Westbrook made the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, though only the Warriors won a title by defeating Boston. The 2022-23 season reignited the playoff rivalry, with the Lakers winning an epic second-round series in 6 games after multiple thrillers. The 2023-24 campaign has continued the drama - in a double OT classic ending NBA Rivals Week, LeBron hit game-winning free throws as the Lakers survived Curry's 46-point masterpiece 145-144. With both franchises reloaded with star power, their battle for California supremacy and Western Conference dominance appears set to produce more iconic moments throughout the 2020s.
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LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry Showdowns

The rivalry between LeBron James and Stephen Curry has produced numerous iconic showdowns over the years, including four straight NBA Finals matchups from 2015-2018. Their clashes have featured legendary individual performances, clutch moments, and intense competitiveness from two all-time greats. Some of their most memorable duels include Curry's 46-point outburst in a thrilling 2024 double-overtime regular season game, James' 51-point masterpiece in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals despite the loss, and Curry's NBA Finals debut in 2015 where he outdueled LeBron to claim his first championship. Their longevity and sustained excellence at the highest level have allowed this rivalry to produce countless unforgettable moments that will be cherished by basketball fans for generations.
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LeBron vs. Curry Head-to-Head Stats

Here is a table summarizing the head-to-head stats between LeBron James and Stephen Curry in their matchups:
StatLeBron JamesStephen Curry
Games Played4343
Record18-2525-18
Points Per Game33.025.4
Rebounds Per Game11.55.9
Assists Per Game9.36.3
Steals Per Game1.71.5
Blocks Per Game1.30.4
Field Goal %48.1%42.2%
3-Point %34.9%39.7%
Free Throw %71.9%91.6%
In their head-to-head matchups spanning both the regular season and playoffs, Stephen Curry holds a 25-18 edge over LeBron James. However, LeBron has put up superior numbers across most statistical categories. LeBron averages 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game against Curry's teams. His overall shooting percentages of 48.1% from the field and 34.9% from three are also excellent given his high volume. While Curry lags slightly in scoring at 25.4 points per game, he makes up for it with elite shooting efficiency of 42.2% from the field, 39.7% on three-pointers, and a remarkable 91.6% at the free throw line. His 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game are also impressive. Their individual numbers highlight the contrasting styles that have made the LeBron vs. Curry rivalry so compelling - LeBron's all-around dominance against Curry's unparalleled shooting and offensive brilliance. As two all-time greats, their head-to-head battles have produced many iconic performances and moments.
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The Lakers and Warriors: A History of Their Numerous Coaches

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The Lakers and Warriors have seen numerous coaches take on various roles within their franchises over the years. Several notable figures have served as assistant coaches for one team before eventually becoming a full-time or interim head coach for the other. One prominent example is Luke Walton, who was an assistant under Steve Kerr with the Warriors from 2014-2016. During that span, Walton gained valuable experience as an interim head coach, leading the Warriors to a 39-4 start in 2015-16 while Kerr was sidelined due to health issues. Walton's success as an interim paved the way for him to become the Lakers' head coach in 2016, though he lasted just three seasons. Kenny Atkinson has followed a similar path more recently. After serving as a Warriors assistant and helping them win the 2022 title, Atkinson is now considered a leading candidate to become the next Lakers head coach for the 2024-25 season. His previous head coaching experience with the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-2020 makes him an attractive option as the Lakers look for a new voice to lead their star-studded roster. The Warriors have also hired former Lakers players as rookie head coaches before. Most notably, they tabbed Mark Jackson, who had no prior coaching experience, as their head coach in 2011 after his playing career ended. Jackson helped lay the foundation for the Warriors' dynastic run in the 2010s. Regardless of prior experience, both franchises have shown a willingness to take chances on unproven coaches and allow them to grow into the role. The interim opportunities for Walton and others have served as an invaluable training ground before taking on full-time head coaching duties. As the rivalry continues, the coaching carousel between the Lakers and Warriors is likely to persist for years to come.
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Closing Thoughts

The Lakers-Warriors rivalry has produced many epic battles over the decades, but there is a mutual respect between the franchises and players that transcends the competitive fire on the court. While the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry have engaged in heated playoff duels and pursued championships at all costs, they have also formed a bond off the court rooted in their shared Midwestern backgrounds and love for the game. As Draymond Green stated, "There was always a respect on the court and respect as Black men." This dynamic exemplifies how the greatest competitors can be fierce rivals chasing titles, yet still maintain a deep admiration for one another's talents and accomplishments. The Lakers and Warriors have traded blows in pursuit of NBA supremacy, but there is an underlying camaraderie knowing they are all united in pushing the game forward. As the franchises continue battling for championships and adding to their storied history, the mutual respect between the players ensures this rivalry will be waged at the highest level. Iconic moments at venues like Chase Center and unforgettable performances will be celebrated for their brilliance, even by those on the losing side. In the end, the Lakers-Warriors rivalry represents basketball at its finest - the very best going to war on the court for ultimate glory, while recognizing off the court that they are all partners in growing the game they cherish.
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