NEW YORK • Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry raised the tension levels for his Christmas showdown with Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, saying he considers himself as the world's best basketball player.
In an interview published yesterday, the reigning National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player told Time magazine that, in the next year, "you should expect me to keep getting better".
That is a bold statement from a player on pace to shatter his own one-season NBA record for three-pointers.
He also helped the Warriors attain a record 24-0 start and they could go on to smash the 72-10 mark set by Chicago in 1995-96.
Curry leads the NBA with 31.8 points a game and his Warriors will face four-time NBA MVP James and Cleveland today for the first time since beating them in the NBA Finals last June.
James, 30, has long been considered the world's best player.
However, Curry said he sees himself in that role now.
"In my mind, yes. That's how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night," said the 27-year-old.
"I feel like anybody who's at the level I'm trying to be at; if you don't think that when you're on the floor, then you're doing yourself a disservice," he added.
Curry, whose father Dell was also an NBA long-range sharpshooter, said he embraces his growing role as what team-mate Draymond Green calls "the face of the NBA".
"You've got to be a winner and have all the right trajectory as a player and as a team to back that up," said Curry. "The way I try to represent my family and coaches I think all are characteristics the league aspires to portray."
The athlete he most admires is Jordan Spieth, this year's Masters and US Open golf champion.
"His maturity, the way he handles himself, his vision as a 22-year-old, is unbelievable," Curry said.
He played golf last summer with United States President Barack Obama, his father and NBA legend Ray Allen. He said he was more nervous than when he was playing for the NBA crown.
"I feel comfortable on the court," Curry said. "There on the first tee, it was the president, my dad, Ray Allen, and 40 people in the clubhouse yelling Obama's name...
"I'm just trying to make sure I get it in the air.
"I sprayed it a good 40-50 yards right. But we played the breakfast ball rule. I got to re-tee it.
"I hit a decent one the next time.
"I birdied the first two holes."
Back in the NBA, Curry picked out Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul for special praise.
"I used to work out with him before my rookie year," said Curry.
"As you go through the league, you start to try to get to where somebody else is, try to stay there, and the whole competitive environment. But, yeah, there are certain guys that drive you because of their success," he added.
Today's NBA schedule opens with New Orleans at Miami and continues with Chicago at Oklahoma City. After the Warriors play hosts to the Cavaliers, San Antonio will visit Houston before the finale matching Los Angeles opponents Clippers and Lakers.
MIAMI V NEW ORLEANS
StarHub Ch216, tomorrow, 1am
GOLDEN STATE V CLEVELAND
StarHub Ch202, tomorrow, 6am