© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
With NBA All Star Weekend looming on the not-so-distant horizon, players, fans, and media often use this time to reflect on the season so far. While in the Bay Area it may seem arduous to think about basketball between the months of October and April, there has been an inarguable influx of tantalizing early-season storylines this year that have been serving as nice appetizers in preparation of the NBA Playoffs.
The “Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets, then Bulls, then… well… no one’s really sure yet” saga has been something to delight at thus far; a mostly benign series of events.
Watching LeBron James navigate the waters of tampering in his bid to lure Anthony Davis to the city of angels has been an interesting case study of how far one man can push the league office. A little more sinister perhaps, given the fine handed to Davis recently, but at this point it has become routine seeing a LeBron-led team stumble into the trade deadline, only to ignite the front office into moving assets for a “run” at a title. Rinse, repeat.
Witnessing James Harden this past month has been nothing short of fascinating (even if it is, at times, a chore to watch). Much like Sisyphus, seeing Harden push his unrelenting boulder of a team up the mountain that is the Western Conference has been objectively impressive, regardless of how you feel about the ongoing cataract epidemic that is plaguing referees across the sports world. Harden has most likely locked up the MVP this season, and whether you like his game or not, he is earning it night-in and night-out.
And yet with all that said, Stephen Curry is playing some of the best basketball of his career.
For reasons that are truly unexplainable, there is an air of assumed excellence in the two-time MVP that renders his continued dominance on the court somewhat taken for granted by not only the national media, but basketball fans in general. Talking basketball, whether it be on national sports television or by the water-cooler with Bill from accounting, usually follows either the soap-opera like drama of potential roster moves, or the black-hole stat compiling of certain players that result in 60-point nights, rarely venturing into the elite efficiency Curry has displayed his entire career.
Seldom is it brought up that this season, Curry is first in 3-pointers made per game (5.2). He is second in scoring with 29.3 points per game on a 49/45/93 percent clip . Of those players in the top 10 in scoring, he is the only one with less than six free-throws per game (4.8). Only once has Curry scored more than he is currently, the year he won unanimous MVP, and he’s never played as efficient as he is right now. But none of that is important.
Instead of marveling at the astronomically high volume and percentage of three-pointers he is hitting, writers and social media instead blush over Harden step(s)-backs and Giannis breakaway dunks. Stephen Curry is an offensive force unlike anything we’ve ever seen, or possibly ever will see again, and instead of praising the Jordan/O’Neil/LeBron-like dominance that Curry displays regularly, it falls by the wayside and is often taken for granted.
Now that’s not to say that the athletic feats by Harden and Antetokounmpo aren’t impressive in their own right; credit where credit is due, but to forget to mention the player that changed the math of how basketball is played is a sin as a consumer of the game.
It’s not sexy to mention how much of an analytical monster he is, but the trend of front offices and teams valuing advanced stats over “counting stats” is something that cannot be ignored, and Curry is the poster-boy of this movement.
In individual offensive rating this season: first. Individual net rating: first. True shooting percentage, which properly weighs the value of three-pointers over two’s: first. Effective field goal percentage: first among guards, and the only point guard in the top 20 (6th). All of this while playing with four, let me repeat, FOUR other All-Stars on the court at times.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, a man who spent a good bit of his playing career with Michael Jordan, had this to say about his superstar in an interview last season.
“(Curry) brings something different than anybody ever has. There have been plenty of players who dominate the game in different ways… but no one has ever tilted the floor like Steph does at such a deep range, and with such incredible ball-handling skills.
“It’s crazy what he does to the defense… As a coach, you try to try to come up with a game plan, and Steph just blows that right out of the water. I don’t remember any player impacting the game the way Steph does.”
The fruits of Stephen Curry’s skill have already been realized in the short term, with his two MVP’s, and his helping lead the Warriors to three NBA titles in the last four years. The impact, however, of Curry’s legacy will come to fruition when future NBA players are more worried about making the right pass and maximizing their range than highlight dunks and baseline fade-aways. The individual greatness of the entirety of the NBA is truly astounding with players being better and more entertaining to watch than ever before, but Curry’s style and method of dominance is something that will live on for generations to come; envied by all, replicated by few.
The national media will cover who they want and glorify what they will, but to quote a Bay Area native playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday, “We’re still here.”