Stephen Curry Is Great, But Still Has A Long Way To Go In The League
Stephen Curry had just returned to his Orinda, California home after rolling past the Memphis Grizzlies 101-86 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Coming off their 21st straight win in front of a raucous, electrifying home crowd at Oracle Arena, the Warriors' fast-paced, run-and-gun style of play looked invincible.
The Curry household was packed with family, cousins and a few friends from college, who were acting strange, asking Steph questions, pulling him to different parts of the house.
Stephen couldn't figure out what they were up to.
Seth Curry, his younger brother, asked Steph if he could have a peek at some sneakers in his closet.
Steph entered a room and was surprised by his entire family with camera-ready smiles, sporting black, white and metallic gold Under Armour T-shirts.
Curry's sister, Sydel, drew Stephen's attention to the personalized texts speckled to the bottom of each shirt. "My husband is SC30 MVP," one shirt read. "My son is SC30 MVP," read another.
Still puzzled and confused, Curry came to realize he had been voted the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player.
He was awarded 100 of 130 first-place ballots from a voting panel of sports writers and broadcasters across North America, together with an online fan vote.
After embracing his family, an overwhelmed Stephen sat alone with his thoughts, reflecting on what became an historic 67-win season. An improbable journey filled with ups-and-downs, faith, hard work and commitment.
Forty-five days later, a champagne-soaked Curry bellowed with joy inside the visitors' locker room in Quicken Loans Arena.
Donning a glossy "NBA Champions" snapback cap and t-shirt, he clasped onto the Larry O'Brien Trophy, celebrating the franchise's first title in 40 years.
Like a puzzle, Curry clowns opponents with crafty, no look ball-handling and behind-the-back whip passes.
Not only does he create his own shot acrobatically, through on-court navigation ending in floaters and finger-rolls, he sets up his teammates as well.
Shooting threes like they're lay-ups, with a step-back jumper range that extends 10 feet beyond the three-point line, and finishing at the rim with unbelievable precision in transition, Stephen can single-handedly change the complexation of a game.
The Warriors' TV ratings have risen almost 50 percent over last season, on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
Last season's Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and Warriors, averaged 19.94 million viewers on ABC, exceeding TV ratings of 18.7 million for Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls 1997-98 championship series against the Utah Jazz.
Once considered one of the NBA's most underrated players, Curry has become the face of a young, galvanizing franchise and is now rivaling the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the title of best player of this generation.
Yet it's still far too early for him to be crowned the greatest player ever to step on the hardwood.
An overlooked college recruit out of Charlotte Christian School in North Carolina, Steph Curry became just the sixth player in NBA history to win a championship and their first MVP award in the same season.
Stephen has come a long way from the 2-year-old, who shot imaginary game-winning baskets into his miniature hoop, while his grandma, Candy Adams, played scorekeeper and play-by-play commentator.
A family upbringing, which taught him to balance his early humble beginnings and today's achieving confidence, has allowed for an undersized, baby-faced youngster from Charlotte to create his own story on the court.
Despite being exposed to a fast-paced lifestyle of sports early on, there was never any pressure on Curry to follow in his father's footsteps.
Dell Curry spent 10 of 16 seasons in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets, and was one of NBA's all-time great three-point shooters.
School always came first, and not finishing homework made shooting hoops or watching his father play live on weeknights a far-fetched privilege.
Routinely spending hours on the backyard court, Stephen and Seth would practice shots and run one-on-one pickup games that would trail on late into the night.
A family backyard hoop became an exhausting proving ground for a five-foot-six, 125-pound Curry to master an effective jump shot and reinvent his shooting motion.
Missing 66 games in his first three seasons in the NBA, including 48 games after undergoing multiple surgeries to repair torn ligaments in his right ankle, made Curry a stranger to the league's mainstream audience.
He has missed just 10 games since.
In his rookie season, Curry averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 36.2 minutes per game in 80 games, finishing second in Rookie-of-the-Year voting to Sacramento Kings shooting guard Tyreke Evans.
Evans has played 70 or more games in only three of his six NBA seasons and has never won a playoff game.
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden and Timberwolves point guard Rickey Rubio were also among those selected before Curry was taken with the seventh overall pick in 2009.
Although Griffin and Harden have turned into superstars, they have a single Finals appearance between them. Evans and Rubio have played a total of four playoff games.
Scoring 54 points against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden last February, where he made 11 of his last 12 three-pointers, and a 47-point showing against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center aren't hallmark moments like Jordan's "Flu Game," "The Shot" and Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance.
But, Curry is gradually solidifying himself as a player who holds comparable promise.
He owns the NBA's single-season three-point record with 286, after eclipsing his own mark of 272 during the 2012-13 season.
In truth, Stephen's greatness should be compared with that of the best to ever play at the point guard position, like Los Angeles Lakers legend and five-time champion, Magic Johnson.
Great players are versatile, can play multiple positions and be dominant on both ends of the court. Curry is a lethal offensive threat as soon as he crosses half court, but doesn't cause matchup problems on the defensive end.
Magic entered the league at 20-years-old (one year younger than Curry), and he was impactful playing all five positions offensively and defensively during his 13-year career with the Lakers.
Similar to Steph, Johnson had the ability to find teammates on-the-run, but his sharp playmaking ability was showcased through his versatility in the post.
His offensive efficiency came from inside the three-point line, where he was a career 52 percent shooter, unlike Curry's unlimited shot selection from the perimeter.
Magic, at 6-foot-9, wasn't a lockdown defender, but he used his length and quickness to create a mismatch with opponents. He led the league in steals in consecutive seasons, with 127 in 1980-81 and 208 in 1981-82.
Winning the first of his two MVP awards during the 1986-87 season, Johnson appeared in 80 games, averaging a league-leading 12.2 assists per game. He balanced that with 23.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 36.3 minutes, while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 20.5 percent from three-point range.
Curry finished his MVP season averaging 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2 steals in 32.7 minutes, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from beyond the arc over 80 games.
Both players won their first MVPs at the age of 27, however, between the ages of 21-26, Curry had taken 1,451 more shots than Magic.
Yet, Johnson's efficiency overshadowed Stephen's higher volume of shots, shooting 54.4 percent to Curry's 47 percent. During their MVP seasons, Magic also shot four percent higher than Curry.
However, in the following six seasons, the 11-time All-Star's shooting percentage dropped to 49.5 percent.
With just two All-Star nods and one Finals appearance in six seasons, Stephen has a long way to go to surpass Magic's status as a multifaceted, perennial champion at the point guard position.
If he keeps coming like this, though, he could well be in the conversation for GOAT, sooner rather than later.