“In the case of the Warriors, it’s not only that they’re winning, it’s the way they are winning,” Silver said. “It’s with the fact that we have a transcendent player like Stephen Curry – a player that, by NBA standards, is not extraordinarily big, but one who is incredibly aesthetically pleasing to watch, a highly skilled player.
“I have no doubt that 15 years from now, there will be a generation of players in this league as kids, boys and girls, who fell in love with the game of basketball because they watched the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry, so I think it’s wonderful for the game.”
Let’s just stop and think about that statement for a second. At this time two years ago, Stephen Curry hadn’t made a single All-Star team yet. At this time last year, he’d won just one playoff series through his first five years in the NBA.
Now he’s the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, the best player on the defending NBA champions – who just so happen to have raced out to a 29-1 record after Curry racked up a triple-double in beating the Sacramento Kings Monday night – and is the runaway choice as the league’s most popular player.
With one lightning fast flick of his wrist after another, Curry shot himself into the history books, carried the Warriors to their first title in 40 years and himself to the top of the sport, supplanting LeBron James as the straw that stirs the drink in the NBA.
It’s been an incredible transformation – one that has happened so fast, the sport is still trying to come to grips with the sudden revolution Curry and the rest of the Warriors have wrought. Curry has grabbed the mold of what an NBA player is supposed to be, picked it up and smashed it into a million pieces.
As Silver said, what makes Curry so unique is that, in a sport full of giants, he’s become the dominant force with a figure that wouldn’t look out of place on any playground or a pickup game in a random gym anywhere in the country. Unlike James, who at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds can move in a way that the rest of us can only dream about, Curry’s success comes from firing up three-pointers 30 feet away from the hoop and unleashing ball-handling skills that came from years and years of practice.
Any kid watching at home can watch Curry and see himself succeeding in the NBA someday. That is the secret to his popularity, the reason Curry has exploded in such a sudden and unique way over the last year or so. When you watch him, you can project yourself into his situation in a way you can’t with James or Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin, physical marvels that do things normal humans can’t do.
And while Curry has his own set of athletic gifts – his unbelievably fast release, his lightning quick reflexes that allow him to make the many ridiculous ball-handling moves he pulls off without thinking – they are more subtle, easier to push to the back of your mind and instead dream about how it could be you dribbling upcourt and chucking up an off-the-dribble 35-footer that hits nothing but net, then turning and exhorting the rabid fans inside Oakland’s Oracle Arena to cheer you on.
It doesn’t hurt that Curry is surrounded by what looks like the NBA’s next dynasty. Draymond Green has become arguably the league’s best power forward – one that spends large chunks of games running the team’s offense at one end, then guarding whoever the Warriors need him to at the other. Klay Thompson is arguably the second-best shooter in the NBA, trailing only Curry, and is in the discussion for the best player at his position. They’re surrounded by plenty of capable role players, from Andre Iguodala to Harrison Barnes to Andrew Bogut to Festus Ezeli to Shaun Livingston and more, and are run by an excellent front office led by general manager Bob Myers and have a terrific head coach in Steve Kerr.
But everything starts and ends with Curry. He’s the hub of the wheel in Golden State, which is the hub of the wheel for the NBA. Wherever Curry and the Warriors go these days, they’re treated like rock stars. Maybe someday there will be a backlash to the enormous popularity this team has received, but that day hasn’t come yet.
In the meantime, Curry will keep firing up three-pointers, and will lead the Warriors into 2016 with a legitimate chance to do something that would have seemed unthinkable even a year ago: set the regular season record for wins, surpassing the 72-10 mark Kerr achieved playing alongside Michael Jordan on the 1996 Bulls. If they do that, and follow it up by repeating as NBA champions, they will be able to legitimately call themselves the greatest team in the history of the sport.
It all sounds too impossible to be true, right? That may be so. But the truth of the matter is that after the way 2015 has played out for Curry, it would be foolish to place any limits on either him or the Warriors anymore.
Stephen Curry has become the face of the NBA, and by the looks of things he won’t be giving up that title anytime soon.
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