LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers are once again battling Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a third straight NBA Finals, with new teammate Kevin Durant rounding out a quarter of arguably four of the best ten-fifteen players in the league.
The league has had a great history of teams following up one great championship battle with another the very next season. An example of recent vintage featured the very same King James and his Miami Heat taking down the San Antonio Spurs for their second straight title in 2013 only to succumb to Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich's fifth and final title together the next year. Michael Jordan took down Stockton and Malone and the Utah Jazz for the final two of his six rings in 1997 and 1998, Bird and Magic split two in the mid-80s for their respective Celtics and Lakers dynasties, and the same teams met for back to back finals in an incredible three different occasions in the 60s.
But never before was there three straight years of this. Until now. If you are an NBA fan and a fan of greatness, this series is for you. And so to, is this quiz. Let's see how well you know the stars that have made history. We'll give you an interesting fact about a player you might not have known, and each answer will be either LeBron, Kyrie, Steph, or KD.
He married his high school sweetheart.
They were both only 16 years old when they met and had their first date at Outback Steakhouse. She recalls "I knew he loved me when I left my leftovers from dinner in his car. I’d totally forgotten about them, and he brought them to me. I think he just wanted another excuse to come and see me." Things quickly became serious however when she got pregnant with their first child and went to prom visibly showing at five months.
He wasn't a top five pick in the NBA Draft.
Amongst them there are two #1 picks, a #2 overall that definitely should have been a #1, and, shockingly a #7. In that draft class, there were two young men selected ahead of him that have had long All-Star NBA careers, but two others are already out of basketball. He was labeled a "tweeter" with questionable shot selection and a skinny body. Needless to say, nobody is questioning his shot selection today. "What people who didn’t like him didn’t see is he is a tremendous worker and cares about the game," the general manager who selected him says today.
He almost played for Team Australia in the 2016 Olympics
When he was a teenager, none other than Team USA's Mike Krzyzewski convinced him not to play for Team Australia. "It was very serious. It was a legit thing, until Coach K intervened,” he recalled. “He strong-armed me. As a young fella, he did tell me I had a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself." He was born in Melbourne while his father played professional basketball for the Bulleen Boomers and still says he is "an Australian at heart."
He was ranked #4 on GQ's "Most Stylish NBA Players Ever"
They credited him for his "preppy wardrobe" and nicknamed him "Captain Backpack" and praised his "next-gen role model status." As for the player himself, he has listed as a life goal to sit next to Kanye West at New York City's Fashion Week and "would describe my style as off-the-wall, I like stuff that doesn't match, I just like to standout." And as for the unique nickname, "I own about 25 to 30 backpacks. I started carrying those just to put my things in, to be honest."
KD may have been #4, but he was #2 for GQ
"He's seized the finer points of modern style", GQ wrote of him, "prep, Euro-sleek, cardigans, nerd glasses, hell, even a murse - and made it his own." His stylist, Rachel Johnson, refers to herself as a "lifestylist", which she started providing as a service for NBA players in 2003. She describes his look as "Italian playboy... sexy but relaxed, effortless, confident, more color and more playful." She saw the time she began working with the league's stars as a turning point as athletes began to want to be more "entertainment looking."
He was once engaged to a WNBA player.
While more famous for being this player's ex-fiancee, Monica Wright was a 7-year pro in the WNBA, the first six with the Minnesota Lynx, where she won two championships. Her best season was probably her rookie year, when she started in 24 of the 34 games she played, and averaged in double digits in scoring. She got engaged to this star in 2013, and unfortunately, in her words, "it kind of changed that relationship big time because I was going in a direction that unfortunately a lot of people aren’t willing to sacrifice their lifestyle for."
78 NBA Players will, unbelievably, make more than him this season
In fact, this player is only the fourth highest paid on his own team. He has a good head about it though. "One thing my pops always told me is you never count another man’s money,” he recounted. "If I’m complaining about $44 million over four years, then I’ve got other issues in my life.” Also, he will be eligible to sign a max contract worth about $207 million over five years this offseason and will most surely get it.
An amateur photographer, he shot Super Bowl 50 for the Players Tribune
He has a stake in the Players Tribune, so it was probably easy to gain such a high profile assignment. He almost didn't make it however; on his way to the airport he realized he had left his Canon 7D camera on top of the dresser. Once he arrived he found the event to be too hectic to figure out what to focus on. He began to predict who the play would go towards and just focus on that player. And he did it all without an official credential photographer's vest... it was too small.
In his own words, "I've been second my whole life."
He once said, "I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I've been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I'm tired of being second. I'm not going to settle for that. I'm done with it." Indeed, while the Golden State Warriors/Cleveland Cavaliers rivalry has re-written the narrative for so many of the two teams' stars, this player perhaps has had the biggest shift of all as a result.
None other than Rihanna is his biggest fan.
The common thread between them is probably Jay Z, whom both have been friends with since they were teenage stars. They were first spotted together in 2009 when they grabbed lunch at Manhattan's Philippe Chow before going together to the grand opening of Carol's Daughter Back Room Hand and Foot Spa. Rihanna then celebrated her 23rd birthday at a charitable dinner he hosted in 2011 and she brought her own jersey with her favorite player on the back to see him in 2013. She even referred to him in a song and once wrote his number in sunscreen on her mid-riff.
He won this year's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award
His "efforts to help young people are exemplary", Professional Basketball Writers Association President Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel said of this NBA star. For a decade, he has used his foundation to give opportunities to disadvantaged youth in his hometown, and will open the new "I Promise School" in 2018 which will provide free college education for its enrollees. To "make their dreams become reality, that’s what means more to me than anything," he says about his charitable work.
He is a previous winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award
The 2010-11 winner, he received 88 first place votes out of a possible 347 in part for building homes for Habitat for Humanity, which received a $10,000 donation to continue its good work as a result. But the award is primarily given for "ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity", and is named for Hall-of-Famer Joe Dumars, the first recipient. He became the youngest player ever to earn the honor, particularly noteworthy because he did so by vote from his peers, other NBA players.
He is the only one of the quartet to win NBA All-Star MVP this decade
All four guys started for their respective East and West squads and played notable games in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron scored 22 points and tied for a game-high 3 steals. Kyrie had a game high 14 assists. Steph shot 11 three pointers and had 11 assists of his own. And KD tied for a game-high 38 points and played a game high 34 minutes. But there could be only one MVP of the game held in New Orleans' Smoothie King Center.
But he's the only two-time NBA All-Star MVP winner
He hadn't won NBA MVP yet when he became only the 11th two time All-Star Most Valuable Player. He scored a team high 29 points the first time in a tightly fought 122-120 win for his squad, and then nearly went for a triple double two years later, scoring 27 with 8 rebounds and 9 assists in another close 134-128 victory. Perhaps ironically, the year in between was the only one of the three where he was the top vote getter amongst fans.
He collects tattoos of hip hop stars
Rick James, Aaliyah, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Tupac Shakur, and the Wu Tang Clan are all inked on his left leg. He noted that he grew up listening to James "while grandma cleaned the house", Aaliyah was his "first big crush as a kid" and his "world in 7th grade" and that Lopes' "music takes me to my happy place." And if you know anything of this history of hip hop there is hidden meaning in telling you the Tupac tattoo was a significant recent addition.
He was lightly recruited out of high school
His dad played at Virginia Tech, so they "generously" offered him a walk-on opportunity, opting instead to give a scholarship to Nigel Munson, who averaged three points and an assist as a freshman before transferring out. "I remember going up and playing with the guys on an unofficial visit and feeling pretty comfortable up there," the current NBA star recalled. "When you see them … pretty much at all your games and practices, you think something good's going to happen."
This season, for the first time since all four have been in the league, he was the top scorer of the quartet
Despite having one of the lowest scoring outputs of his career this season, in finishing 8th in the NBA in points per game, he still outpaced the other three Cavaliers and Warriors stars. Both teams have to spread around their shots, with James and Irving sharing with Kevin Love and Curry and Durant sharing with Klay Thompson. The teams sent seven players combined to the All Star Game, with the addition of the Dubs' Draymond Green. It might surprise some to know that this player has actually only won one previous scoring title actually, even before this recent run.
He only played 11 games in his college career.
He injured the big toe in his left foot in the 9th game of his freshman season, missing 26 straight contests before returning to come off the bench in the first game of the NCAA tournament. His club made it to the Sweet Sixteen, but were upset by the University of Arizona. Along the way his most prominent game was when he poured in 31 against then-No. 6 Michigan State, just the fourth time in school history a freshman had gone for more than thirty points in a contest.
He believes the Earth is flat
In an appearance on his teammates' podcast, this player said this is not even a conspiracy theory," regarding a surprising fact. "The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. ... It's right in front of our faces. I'm telling you, it's right in front of our faces. They lie to us." Given opportunity weeks later to walk back his comments, he instead offered "I’m sitting back and I’m like, OK, the fact that, you know, that this is opening up conversation, I’m happy with that."
He could dribble a basketball at 13 months.
As a precursor of things to come, this amazing ball handler could already dribble as a toddler, and by age 4 was regularly draining baskets on a regulation size hoop. "And I have the footage to prove it," his father says. By the time he reached 4th grade, his path was clear. He wrote "GOAL: PLAY IN THE NBA" on a slip of paper, and pulled it out throughout his childhood whenever he felt that others were doubting him or pulling him down.
His brother plays in the NBA too and had a career year this season
He scored average 12.8 points for the Dallas Mavericks this season, his fifth NBA franchise in just four seasons in the league. He started 42 games this year; before 2016-17 he had only started 9 games in his entire career. And he finished eighth in three point shooting percentage this season, actually better than any of the four great players in this quiz. Unfortunately, he missed the final seven games of the season with injury, and the Mavs went 2-5 without him, stumbling to a 33-49 final record.
He recently said he was the best player in the world
"In my mind, yes," he responded when asked if he was the best player in the NBA in 2015. "That’s how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night. I don’t get into debates, arguing with people about why I am versus somebody else." His teammate also called him "the face of the NBA" that season, to which he responded "I embrace that." You have to ask though, do the other three guys on this list agree with him?
He's seen as the player with the most to gain or lose in this NBA Finals
As Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd recently put it, "Think about this: Karl Malone is the second leading scorer in NBA history. Think about that. In the history of professional basketball in America, Karl Malone has scored the second-most points. And we never discuss Karl Malone. We never bring him up. When you talk about all-time NBA teams, he doesn’t make the first three teams as the second leading scorer.” This prolific scorer has a significant aspect of his career in line with Malone. Most would argue the most significant element of any player's career. Can you guess what it is?
He's the only one of the quartet without a Nike signature shoe
They are in the 14th model for one, 9th for a second, and 3rd for a third. Two of the Nikes are the best selling shoes on the market, though, in fairness, LeBron, Kyrie, Steph, and KD all make up the four best selling shoes overall in the NBA. According to sources, the Nike people mispronounced the first name of the player during their pitch meeting, and a power point slide featured the wrong name, the name of another player of this quiz. The sloppiness led to Under Armour swooping in to land their biggest deal with a star yet.
He wears #35 to remember the murder of his childhood coach.
He affectingly referred to Charles Craig as "Big Chucky", and tears welled up when he spoke of him after his murder in 2005 at the age of... 35. "I just want as many people as I can to know why I wear it and the significance of the number,” the NBA superstar said. "That’s my goal is to get him out there and keep his name alive.” They met when he was just 8 years old, and he even would sleep over at his coach's house some nights when his mom worked late. "I do it for him,” he says.
His 4-year-old daughter is a celebrity in her own right
After a postseason press conference in which she sat on daddy's lap when she was 2, John Buccigross of ESPN's SportsCenter proclaimed Riley one of his "three stars of the night." She told her dad to be quiet, complained it was too loud, sneezed, and waved to herself in the monitors. According to him, she watched herself on the TV that night and proclaimed "aaaaaah, Riley!" and then walked off like nothing happened. The internet begged to differ; Riley's performance became its own meme for months to come.
A commercial he starred in is getting film treatment
Temple Hill Entertainment has acquired the feature rights to the "Uncle Drew" commercials and screenwriter Jay Longino will write the script, with the NBA star set to reprise his lead role. The original Pepsi Max advertisements had him as a 70-year-old baller named Drew, and the popularity grew to the point where now there is an entire website dedicated to the character (uncledrew.com.) "Chapter One" of the series of ads is the most viewed basketball-related video in YouTube history, with over 79 million views.
Speaking of starring, he was in one of the highest grossing films of 2015
"Trainwreck" finished 28th in gross in 2015, just behind the Melissa McCarthy fronted "Spy" and barely edging the "Rocky" sequel, "Creed." It was a huge success for the relatively small film, made only with a $35 million budget, but taking in over $100 million at the domestic box office. The New Yorker called it "the greatest movie performance by an active professional basketball player" somewhat tongue in cheek, but also raved that he was the "funniest person" and "steals the show" in a movie full of comedians.
And while we are on the topic, his wife was a Hollywood actress
Amongst her most notable roles were a guest star on the popular Disney Channel tween series Hannah Montana as a cute girl that one of the main character's had a crush on in an episode titled "Come Fail Away." She also starred in a Young-Adult drama series called Whittaker Bay, which, according to TV Guide, was “a drama focusing on four privileged families living in an upscale community on the coast of North Carolina,” clearly taking advantage of her natural accent.
His off-court obsession is... the weather.
Nike even recently debuted "The Weatherman" shoe line for this NBA athlete, because he said if hadn't become a basketball star he would have probably been a meteorologist. The green color paid homage to green screens behind a weatherman and doppler radar forecasts wrapped around the shoe's heel. He's not alone in his obsession with what its like outside amongst star athletes; MLB's Mike Trout is known to give a pre-game weather report and Michael Jordan got his degree in Coastal Geography.
He kept a detailed journal for many years.
It started at Montclair Kimberley Academy with a black and white composition notebook but by the time he became a pro he switched to an iPhone. Before the first pre-season game of his career he titled a page "Goals... NBA Rookie Season," with three columns underneath: Team, Person and Player. The acronym "ROY" was underlined multiple times. Later in the year he would write "unleash everything you have and never look back... Let's go." By the end, he succeeded, the runaway winner for the Rookie of the Year award.
He has a minority ownership in a soccer team.
He owns a small percentage of the English Premier League's Liverpool FC and when the team participated in the International Champions' Cup in the United States in 2016, he even took to Facebook to offer his playing services. Even while his offer has been declined, it has been a great investment, as the club ranks amongst the top of its league in commercial revenue. That said, many soccer fans wonder what would happen if our best athletes took on the sport.
He is left-handed but shoots with his right
This postseason, as his team racked up easy victories, he let loose some left-handed floaters in garbage time just because he could, but this lefty has "no idea how I became a right-handed basketball player. I think maybe it was because of Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, guys that I looked up to growing up. Seeing those guys shoot righty, I guess I’ll shoot righty." But he writes and eats left-handed, and even realized as he got older that shooting lefty "looks a lot better."
He is one of three players to score more than 55 points twice in the same season since 1990-91
Even more incredibly, when Kobe Bryant did it he was 27. Michael Jordan was 30. This player was just 23. In the first game he sent a franchise record for three pointers made with 11 and in the second put the total down against the historically defensively strong San Antonio Spurs. The 57 he scored in the latter game was also a franchise record for most points by a player in team history after going a perfect 7-7 from three and 10-10 from the line.
He led the league in scoring four times.
We'll leave you with a, maybe, easy one. Among them, this quartet has won six scoring titles, so perhaps it should be simple to discern which of them is known most for his prolific scoring. In terms of all-time scoring, the group is climbing the ladder quickly as well. LeBron is the pacemaker, currently at 8th all time, Durant is 56th, and Curry is 200th. It would surprise nobody if all ended up in the top ten when all is said and done.