That Little Steph Guy

As I was walking around Berkeley the other day, I overheard these words:

“Know about Steph Curry? The guy leading the team?

I guess he’s like 6’3.” I thought he was like 5’9.”

Clearly, the young guy was not a hardcore Warriors fan. The fact that he thought Curry was six inches shorter than he is speaks to the superhero mythology that has been building around Steph for the last few years, as it did around Nash ten years ago. It is undeniable. He is not physically imposing, even compared to other point guards:

  • not as strong as Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry
  • not as fast as John Wall, Tony Parker or Jeff Teague
  • not as fast and strong as Russell Westbrook (few are)

Some see Steph is an amalgamation of Steve Nash (dribbling, vision, pick-and-roll maestro), Allen Iverson (desire), and Bob Cousy (pure magician). Steph was finishing high school when Nash won his back-to-back MVPs in 2005 and 2006. Curry can lay claim to being the greatest shooting point guard in NBA history as a 27 year-old, but his game has morphed into something resembling the creativity and brilliance of Nash. Steve Kerr agrees. An excerpt from Lee Jenkins’ Sports Illustrated profile of Curry, notes Steph’s relentless shooting drills:

On the last Tuesday of the regular season, at the Warriors’ training facility, Curry sets up in the right corner and splashes nine of 10. “Good,” says special assistant Nick U’Ren, rebounding for him. Curry moves to the right wing and cans 10 of 10. “Better,” U’Ren nods. Curry skips to the top of the circle and drains 10 of 10 again. U’Ren turns to a couple of spectators under the basket. “Wow,” he mouths. Here it is, the Curry Zone. He starts 48 of 50. Four times he yells, “Short!” on shots that swish. He sweeps back across the perimeter, hitting 10 of 10 from the left corner, 10 of 10 from the left wing. Teammates are watching. Cameras are filming. “Don’t get giddy,” Curry tells himself. He’s made 77 in a row, and when he finally misfires from the top of the circle, he grabs Green’s jersey and screams. He finishes 94 of 100.

It’s the off-the-dribble shooting from 28-feet, with just a smidgen of a window to release…it’s the dribbling through rush-hour traffic…and the Nash-like behind-the-back whip-around passes…it’s the high-arcing floaters in the lane…it’s the flammable element. Combine all of the above with an insatiable desire to win and you get the 2015 MVP.

Steph Curry's game-tying corner three-pointer in Game 3 vs. New Orleans

Steph Curry’s game-tying corner three-pointer in Game 3 vs. New Orleans

In a simple way, it’s the image of the ball dropping so purely through the net that the rim appears unimportant, only the nylon moving. There is poetry to the arc of some long-distance shots. The best shooters usually release the ball on perfect balance. Think catch-and-shoot magicians like Ray Allen and Kyle Korver. What makes Steph so unique is his ability to shift direction and stay on-balance, and the fact that he can release the ball from more than one angle. As you can see in the picture here, sometimes he doesn’t even need to see the rim.

Will he continue to make his imprint on the game under the biggest of spotlights? Something tells me he will. Riley has more to say.

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