When Stephen Curry and LeBron James take the floor for the Warriors-Cavaliers game Thursday in Cleveland, the nationally televised battle of superstars will be a showcase event of such magnitude it could influence the MVP debate.
With seven weeks remaining in the regular season, most MVP discussion revolves around four players: Rockets guard James Harden, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, James and Curry.
The better performer between Curry and James on Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena, quite likely will take the lead -- at least temporarily.
This MVP race likely will be fluid until the final two weeks of the regular season. In the meantime, folks are sitting in offices and bars and elsewhere campaigning for their favorites. Curry is getting a lot of play. So, too, is James.
Based on comments collected during All-Star Weekend Feb. 13-15, Curry -- who received more fan votes than any other player -- was a popular choice.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade singled out Curry as the player he and his sons enjoy watching. Miami's Chris Bosh also raved about Curry, as did Atlanta's Kyle Korver.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr may be biased, but he supported his stance on the issue.
"Steph is definitely one of the leading candidates," he said. "He's great at both ends. His defense is underrated, he's been really good defensively. He's obviously an amazing shooter, but it's not just the shots. The penetration, the ball handling, the constant threat that he poses opens other things up for his teammates.
"He's a phenomenal player."
Then there was this: James hopping aboard the Curry bandwagon.
At an NBA Cares event during All-Star Weekend, he sold Curry as having an MVP-caliber season and, moreover, the player for whom he would vote.
"Steph and James Harden have been doing some great things," James said. "(But the Warriors') record, what they've been able to do all season ... when you look at their record and his success, I don't think you can dispute that."
Know this: James wants to spend the rest of the season, beginning Thursday, disputing his own argument. He has been pivotal for Cleveland. After being sidelined for eight games with knee and back woes, he returned Jan. 13 and needed one game to get up to speed. Since Jan. 15, the Cavs are 17-2 -- the best record in the league over the last six weeks.
Curry might have the lead in the MVP insofar as his team owns the league's best record and has become the subject of widespread admiration. That he plays with such distinctive pizazz also works in his favor.
The Warriors swept Houston, which could lift Curry over Harden. Oklahoma City is not championship-level unless reigning MVP Kevin Durant is at Westbrook's side. And James, well, he's like the horse that started slowly but is in the midst of a stunning stretch run.
It's not a stretch to suggest that Curry, entering his prime and on the prowl for his first MVP award, is trying to hold off James, who already has four Maurice Podoloff trophies and seems to be extending his prime by sheer force of will.
Curry, 26, has become the league's most captivating player, a willowy ball-handler of arresting grace, commanding attention from defenses and fans both in the arena and around the world. He's rapidly becoming the league's top ambassador -- the face of the NBA.
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James, 30, is the most impressive specimen in the NBA, perhaps all of American professional sports. He has been considered, for the past five or six years, the league's best player. He remains, for now, the axis around which the league revolves.
It's too soon to even imply that one game in February could represent a changing of the guard. That only happens in the postseason -- deep in the postseason. If Curry is to seize the torch, he'll have to wait until at least June.
But it's not too soon to conclude that Curry and James are penciled in on most ballots.
Several of Curry's teammates have made up their minds. David Lee last Sunday referred to Curry as "the MVP of our league."
When James and Curry represent their teams Thursday, the air will be thick with the anticipation of two of the league's top teams facing off.
Don't believe for a minute that the MVP subplot won't be in the minds of many.