LeBron vs. Curry is our Magic vs. Bird. Enjoy rivalry while you can.

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We are witnessing the twilight of this generation’s Bird-Magic.

For more than a decade, two generational superstars have defined NBA regular-season and playoff success.

LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Of the past 11 championships, James and Curry have won eight − four each − and either Curry’s Golden State Warriors or one of James’ Miami, Cleveland or Los Angeles Lakers teams have played in 11 of the past 12 Finals.

They have shaped what the NBA is and what it will become.

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And as they meet for the fifth − and perhaps final − time in the playoffs starting Tuesday night, I’m reminded of a universal truth: nothing lasts forever.

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Golden State’s Draymond Green riffed on this point after the Warriors eliminated Sacramento on Sunday, setting up this Western Conference semifinals series.

“We get so caught up in, ‘What’s the next thing?’ that we don’t appreciate the current,” Green said. “And then you get to the next thing and looking back like, ‘I wish we still had that. I wish we could still see this.’ ”

It sounds a little schmaltzy, but Green has a point. We’re going to miss James, 38, and Curry, 35, when they’re done. They have accomplished feats that few, if any, players have.

Do we appreciate them enough? In this 24/7 news and social media environment, the cynics, critics and haters have too loud a voice.

But basketball seldom gets that kind of transcendent talent.

James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season, just one of the many records he holds. He has four MVPs and four Finals MVPs. His 7,764 playoff points are nearly 2,000 more than Michael Jordan’s 5,987, and if James plays in another Finals, he likely will pass Jerry West as the league’s all-time leading scorer in the Finals.

He helped alter the game at this size with his unique blend of scoring and playmaking, and his dedication to conditioning has allowed not only for longevity but for unprecedented production at his age.

Curry − two MVPs, one Finals MVP − also changed the game, with his 3-point shooting. The frequency (nine 3s per game in his career). The efficiency (42.8% shooting). The range (there isn’t a spot inside half court that is a bad shot for him). He holds the record for most career 3-pointers and has made 417 more than Ray Allen, No. 2 on the list.

Maybe some records aren’t meant to be broken, because it’s going to take two of the game’s all-time greatest players to eclipse what James and Curry have accomplished.

And they’re reaching heights no one has reached. Curry’s 50 points against Sacramento on Sunday was the most points for a player in a Game 7, and James’ 22-point, 20-rebound performance against Memphis in Game 4 made him the oldest player by two years to record a 20-20 game in the playoffs.

Their legacies are cemented in record books and both are first-ballot Hall of Famers. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to add to their legacies with another championship. A fifth title gives James more juice in the GOAT conversation, and a fifth title for Curry puts him in the top-10 discussion.

James and Curry have a mutual respect that maybe wasn’t there a decade ago. But remember Larry Bird and Magic Johnson weren’t always close. Johnson resented Bird winning rookie of the year over him in 1979-80, and Bird steamed at watching Johnson win a title in 1980. As I like to say, time smooths the edges.

So one more time, it’s James vs. Curry (and all the other players who will impact the series).

Watch with joy and appreciation.

Because one day they will be gone.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

This post appeared first on USA TODAY