A matchup of which any basketball fan looks forward to, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry are two of the best guards the NBA has seen in years. Although the matchup between the two has never truly lived up to the hype, usually due to the fact that one is shut down while the other shoots the lights out, this game Thursday should be one for the ages.

Both guards have greatly outlived the expectations that were brought upon them coming into this season. Both guards were still assumed to take that extra step in their respective careers. Irving came off another All-Star appearance and an All-Star MVP along with a FIBA Championship MVP. Curry came off another stellar showing from the three point arc, but was kicked out of the first round of the playoffs compared to a longer playoff run in 2013. Many did not expect the flight of the season for either of these guards, although the potential was there.

Irving has the handles of a God and bruises opponent’s ankles and egos on a regular basis. 2014 was easily the most successful year for Irving in his very early and young NBA career. As stated already, Irving took home the All-Star MVP, was one of the leading components for LeBron’s return back to Cleveland, and played the biggest role in the Men’s USA team for the FIBA championship. Irving has also turned into a major driver to the hoop these past two seasons. 2014 was a statement year for Irving, despite all of the injuries that plagued the Cavaliers, Irving was once again able to improve the Cavaliers win total over the previous year (although small).

At this point in the season, many people have Curry in their top three for MVP. Many have him winning it if the season ended today. Curry has carried the Warriors, along with teammate Klay Thompson, to the best record in the NBA at 44-10. Not highly recruited out of Davidson, Curry was known for his small stature which was highly criticized. Curry was told multiple times that he wouldn’t do well in college, much less make it to the NBA. Even in the earlier parts of his career, Curry was labeled a bust by many “experts.” Since the 2013 playoffs, Curry has improved in amazing ways. Curry has the insane range and shooting performances that many haven’t seen in years, often drawing comparisons to his father Wardell Curry. Wardell was known as marksmen just like his son Wardell Stephen Jr.

So how will they matchup? Many, including myself, have seen that the guards play almost identically, barring Curry’s proficiency. Curry is a human torch when it comes to offensive power and % from the beyond the arc. Many believe that Curry was able to get this talent during his time watching his father shoot. Curry’s father shot 40 % from deep in his 16 year career. One could compare Steph’s 44 % from three ,and could actually argue he is already better than his father. Curry is also able to drive to the hole, something he has improved greatly over this past year.

Irving has the edge in handles, you don’t usually see Curry on the highlight reel for some slick moves. It’s almost a nightly edition of anklebreakers for Irving on ESPN and online. Irving, as a child, was told by his dad to dribble a ball in a plastic bag on grass and concrete. Dribbling a ball even on concrete gives the feeling of uncertainty of where the ball will go, so now you can imagine why Irving is able to control the ball even in situations where the ball is going in so many different directions. In 4th grade, Irving had dribbling capabilities of a freshman in high school according to his father Drederick.

Many people have also noticed that Irving possesses something that Curry doesn’t have. Irving is able to split the D and get to the hole and kiss the ball off the backboard. His driving talents also have a background story, Irving grew up with his father who also played basketball professionally in Australia. The basketball hoop Irving had at his home had a hole in the backboard, causing Irving to learn how to bank the ball in abnormal situations while performing layups. Some of his layups this year have raised eyebrows and led to people saying that he is one of the better finishers in the NBA.

In these days of comparing so many players to each other, it’s very hard to say who is better. The skills that separate Irving and Curry are obvious: Curry has the shooting and the playoff experience, while Irving has the handles and driving/finishing abilities. Either way, Thursday’s matchup should give an insight into how well the guards do against each other. In better words, get your popcorn ready.

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