The NBA Finals will showcase two of basketball’s best players going head to head, as LeBron James and Stephen Curry will each try to lead his team to a title. James is a muscular freight train who can fill up the stat sheet in every way imaginable, whereas Curry is a slightly built sharpshooter with crazy handles. Although their skill sets are different, they’re equally capable of dominating a game and embarrassing an opponent.
How did these guys get so good? Although genetics certainly played a role, both have spent thousands of hours training to become better players. And that raises a simple question—who trains harder? STACK did some digging to learn the workouts behind the NBA’s two biggest superstars.
When you watch Curry play, you might think he’s a guy who spends all his training time chucking up 3-balls, ensuring that his wet-as-water shot never runs dry. Although Curry does shoot quite a bit during his routine, he certainly isn’t afraid to hit the weight room or add unique, challenging twists to traditional drills.
Weighted Inverted TRX Row
Here we see Curry knocking out some intense Weighted Inverted TRX Rows to build his upper-body strength and power. Just watching the five-second hold Curry performs at the end of the set made my arms hurt. If you think Curry is the type of shooter who worries that intense strength training will “mess with his form,” think again! I mean, you’ve got to be pretty strong to launch shots like this.
Band-Resisted Shot Set-Ups
A big ingredient in Curry’s success is his ability to combine a quick first step with a deadly accurate outside shot. Here we see him using his quickness to set up a pull-up jumper, as he dribbles to his right and gets into shooting position while being held back by a resistance band. It seems Curry is also using a weighted ball, which makes the drill even tougher. The bad news for NBA defenses is that the drill seems to be working wonders, as Curry is scoring nearly nine points per game off pull-up shots this post-season.
Tennis Ball Dribbling Drills
Curry has some of the nastiest handles in the NBA, skills he often uses to disorientate hapless defenders. Who can forget the time when Curry’s awesome dribbling made Chris Paul slip on an invisible banana peel? Skills like that don’t come easy, and Curry often integrates a tennis ball into his dribbling drills to challenge his hand-eye coordination and improve his court vision with the ball in his hands. I think the logical next step for him is to practice crossovers while he is literally asleep.
Weighted Band-Resisted Vertical Jumps
I’d be lucky to make it off the ground during this drill. To work on his vertical jump and ability to power through contact, Curry performs a challenging Vertical Jump exercise while seeming to have everything in the gym holding him down. Besides holding a heavy med ball, he is strapped into a Vertimax machine, has weights tied to his waist and wrists and is getting hit by two large men with paddles. Is this some kind of torture? Nah, just Steph training so he can pull off insane plays like this.
There’s no doubt some of James’s talent is a natural gift, but the reason he’s gone from stud prospect to sure-fire Hall of Famer is his relentless work ethic. You don’t go from a lanky teen to a jacked grown man without training your butt off. James’s workouts are a mixture of powerful, athletic movements that help him develop his diverse skill set.
Dyna Disc Planks
James’s incredible core strength is a big reason why he always seems to be able to bulldoze his way to the hoop to get a bucket no matter how many defenders are hanging off him. To build a strong core, he uses this insanely difficult Plank variation, which forces him to balance on two Dyna Discs. A beach bod like this doesn’t happen by accident!
Tire Farmer’s Walk
Goodness gracious. Driving the lane against NBA defenders doesn’t seem quite so daunting when your training includes strolling around the neighborhood carrying a gigantic tractor tire. This is essentially a variation of a Farmer’s Walk, an exercise that strengthens nearly every part of the body and builds endurance.
Resistance bands are great for building strength and preventing injuries. Here we see James performing a couple of different band drills in the middle of his workout. Band Windmills are great for building back strength and increasing shoulder stability, but they also probably help him throw down dunks like this.
James has been involved in a few on-court donnybrooks over the years, but we’re guessing his boxing workouts are more about building endurance, strength and hand-eye coordination than prepping for his next in-game scuffle. Boxing is a really great way to mix up your training, and it probably helped James develop the hand-eye coordination necessary to execute his signature chase down blocks.
Spending a day in the gym with either of these guys would be a monumental challenge. Both of them train as hard as they play. Criticizing the work ethic of either one is simply impossible, because their commitment to training and dedication to constantly improving their game consistently shows up as tangible results on the court. Let’s call this one a tie.