There hasn’t even been a player that has looked like him before. Once given the nickname “Middle School” by teammates because of his diminutive size and baby-faced nature compared to the vast majority of the NBA, Steph Curry is unlike any player this league has ever seen. But his unique appearance is nothing compared to his game. Curry’s style of play is lauded by some and belittled by others. Yet he has won and continues to win. His style of play may be unconventional by the NBA’s standards, but this is exactly the reason why Stephen Curry is becoming legendary before our eyes.
The Warriors should not have won Saturday night in Oklahoma City, plain and simple. Yet they did. As a whole, Golden State demonstrated a brand of championship basketball even they had not shown up to this point this year. Preposterous? Perhaps. But look at the game in its entirety. To begin with, reports surfaced stating (and later, confirming) Draymond Green launched into a Draymond Green-esque emotional, profanity laced tirade at halftime. For most teams this would be debilitating in a game where they were trailing by double digits for much of the game. Then, in the third quarter, Curry’s ankle gets caught under Russell Westbrook’s foot. With the best player in the world (Yes, Steph Curry is right now the best player in the world. No, it is not close) limping back to the locker room, Golden State seemed well on their way to their sixth loss this season. The Warriors had other plans. Out came Curry from the locker room. The Warriors collectively clawed their way back into the game. The comeback in regulation culminated with one of the best full court traps you will ever see in the NBA. Andre Iguodala gets fouled with no time left on the clock. As a 62.3% free-throw shooter, Iguodala drained both shots to send the game into overtime. But, instead of snatching the momentum after their miraculous comeback, the Warriors fell behind again. They fought back again. After tying the game up, Golden State came up with a defensive rebound, got the ball to Steph Curry, and got out of his way allowing Curry to add to his already growing legend.
Golden State had a timeout. They had the ball. There were 5 seconds left. Most coaches call a timeout. Most coaches set up a play. The play is never: Nonchalantly dribble the ball passed half court and pull up from 38 feet. Yet that is exactly what Steph Curry did. When he did, Oklahoma City’s bench could simply watch, knowing the ball was going in. But this shot was not an anomaly. Shots like this are quickly propelling Steph Curry into the Pantheon of all-time greats. There are shots like this one, this one, this one, this one, or this one. But it is not simply dumb luck Curry makes these shots. He practices them. “Honestly, I don’t know exactly where I am, so it’s not like I’m calibrating in my head, all right, 38 feet, 37, 36,” Curry said. “Just literally, you’ve got a sense of — I’ve shot the shot plenty of times, you’re coming across half court and timing up your dribbles, and you want to shoot before the defense goes in.” No player in the history of the game has pulled up from 38 feet and every person in the gym assumes the ball is going in the basket. This is the threat Curry poses now. He is no longer simply a good shooter. He is an assassin with unlimited range. Consistently. Before the OKC game, on shots beyond 39 feet, Steph Curry was 4-11. That is 36%. Between 28 feet and 50 feet, Curry is 35-52. That is a mind boggling 67%. This percentage gives Steph Curry a higher efficiency rating than if he made every single two-point attempt he took. This percentage is higher than Iguodala’s free throw percentage. Steph Curry can simply not be stopped.
Oscar Robertson made an appearance on ESPN’s Mike & Mike and claimed Curry’s success was partly due to coaches not understanding the game of basketball. He stated that coaches are not pushing their defense up to protect against Curry’s lethal three ball. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Big O. He is most definitely in my All-Time Top 10 NBA players. But his comments are completely off base. This is why. Coaches cannot solve the Steph Curry conundrum by simply extending their defense because Steph Curry is no longer strictly a shooter. Curry could expose an overextended defense in a plethora of ways. He is a fantastic ball handler, a phenomenal passer, and a spectacular finisher at the rim. Too often, Curry gets pigeonholed into the belief he is simply a shooter because those are the highlights people are shown on a nightly basis. Yes, he broke his single-season three point record with more than 20 games left in the season. Yes, he tied the NBA record with 12 three pointers in the game against OKC. But, Curry is not all threes. Against OKC, he also had 6 assists and 2 steals, along with a handful of rebounds. In the game prior to OKC against the Magic, Curry had 51 points. Yes, Curry hit 10 threes in that game. But he put up 51 points all while shooting one lonely free throw (which he, of course, made). Further, he registered 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Simply put, Steph Curry can do it all.
The time has come to recognize Steph Curry’s legend. No more disparaging. No more comparing him to players like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (yes, you Phil Jackson). No, his game is not comparable to the likes of Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. But that is because the all-time greats each brought something new, exciting, and deadly to the game of basketball. Bill Russell was a dominate defender and one of the greatest front court facilitators ever. Wilt Chamberlain was simply massive and monstrous. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his unstoppable skyhook. Magic Johnson was a 6’9” point guard who could run, shoot, and guard every position on the floor (He started at center in Game 7 of the NBA Finals his rookie year when Abdul-Jabbar was hurt). Larry Bird was a big guy who could pass, shoot, run and dunk. Michael Jordan could simply do it all with frightening skill, especially with the game on the line. He could simply will his team to victory. They all brought something new to the NBA that made them special and unstoppable. Yes, Steph Curry shoots threes with frightening efficiency, but that does not mean he is simply a shooter. His shooting is the part of his game that separates him from the rest. It is his “something new.” But beyond this, the thing Steph Curry does best is win. He won at Davidson. He continues to win in Golden State. He continues to silence he critics. He continues to change the game of basketball. Appreciate now what we are all witnessing. There has never been a player who has been so lethal a shooter, so efficient, and demonstrates this and every other skill set with such joy. We likely never will again. So allow me to be the first to formally introduce the NBA and everyone else to the new living legend of the game of basketball. Steph Curry, the world is your stage.
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