Stephen Curry is a global phenomenon, at this stage. He's become the face of the league thanks to his unbelievable range, ability to make clutch shots and penchant for breaking records; the Golden State Warriors guard has turned the NBA landscape upside down.
D'Angelo Russell is a burgeoning talent. Picked second in the 2015 draft, the Ohio State stand-out endured a difficult first half of his rookie campaign as coach Byron Scott repeatedly dropped him from the starting lineup and left him confined to the pine in the dying embers of close games.
On Sunday, two point guards who stand world's apart in NBA folklore collided to defy the norm. Russell was the one to come out on top against the reigning MVP and standard bearer in the league, and he offered a glimpse into the promising future the Lakers brass banked on so heavily last summer.
The 20-year-old continued his rich vein of form since the All-Star break by besting the Warriors guard in points (21-18), shooting clip (6 of 14, 6 of 20), 3-pointers (3 of 7, 1 of 10) and assists (5-4), in addition to a career-high of four steals.
Russell has matured into a starring role in recent weeks and has displayed the pedigree, alongside Jordan Clarkson, to indicate he may well be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Curry on a regular basis for years to come.
Russell spoke to Mark Medina of the LA Daily News following the Lakers incredible 112-95 win over the Warriors and suggested his recent performances have seen him transition from an admirer to a peer.
“When you first come into the league, you’re fans of people. As the season goes on, they become just another player,” Russell said. “He’s [Curry] just another player out there for me.”
That's not an arrogant jibe from the Kentucky-born starlet. Russell posted solid, game-changing numbers on a night where Curry's biggest obstacle was himself.
It's a rare victory for the Lakers, and indeed Russell, over opposition the calibre of the Warriors and Curry. Still, the future of the yellow and purple can take great heart from such a momentous victory - which statistically, is the biggest upset in NBA history - as they continue their rocky road towards a new, Kobe-less Lakers.
It's been a hard season. The 16-time NBA Champions sit rock-bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 13-51. Only the Philadelphia 76ers have a worse record in the entire league and providing this victory over the Warriors isn't a catalyst for a crazy run of form, the Lakers are odds on to receive a high-end draft pick once again.
The NBA learned a few things last night. First of all, Russell is the real deal and his 39 points against a lowly Brooklyn Nets was no fluke; it was a prelude. Secondly, Curry is somewhat human after all.