Stephen Curry’s Debate on Being in the NBA’s All-Time Top 5 Isn’t a Debate


Steph Curry is an all-time Top 5 player.

Don’t worry if you don’t agree yet. It happens too, as surely as all the glory and the 3 and the rings that followed the NBA’s most underrated great of all time. Even now, after earning a fourth championship and an NBA Finals MVP trophy finally heading for his trophy, the credit he is due awaits.

That’s always how it went with Curry: greatness, no doubt, then recognition and acceptance later, often reluctantly, almost always further than it made sense.

There were the college years, when Curry’s dynamic greatness was clearly visible in Davidson. Yet we – certainly me included – had a hard time seeing what he was. He dropped to seventh overall in the 2009 draft, the lowest draft slot ever outside of a high schooler named Kobe Bryant. He was selected after players like Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio and — my God — Jonny Flynn.

So, for those keeping track at home, the Timberwolves took two point guards while Curry was still on the board, and it’s now been four rings won by Curry. Zero by the rest of the lottery selections in his draft class.

But even the team that drafted him didn’t see him right away. The Warriors didn’t know what they had, and within the organization there were arguments over Curry’s true worth, his ability to succeed and – wait for it – if he could even play the point guard. In an alternate universe, Curry weaves his magic elsewhere as Golden State chose to build around Monta Ellis.

The list of those who doubted Curry and the belated respect he earned time and time again is long. It’s a real-life version of Larry David’s Super Bowl commercial about not seeing good ideas when they’re in front of you, moment after moment, baffling error after baffling error.

There was the idea that you couldn’t win championships by shooting from three points (translation: with Steph), until he did, and then the Association tipped on its axis. There was the unanimous MVP he deserved, a mark of history and his rare greatness. How did his fellow league players react? Launching their own version – the “Players Choice Awards” – and quickly handing that “honor” to James Harden. They should have called it “The Everyone But Steph Awards”.

There were people around the league, attached to other jealous stars, trying to spin stories about how Steph was. good But no great. There was Durant coming in and getting attached to Curry and what Curry had built, and so many people missed the obvious fact that Durant needed Curry — and not, as we now know, the other way around.

You’d think the architect of a championship team, and then a 73-win team, would be clearly seen when Durant followed to be part of that story. No.

And now we have the latest version of Curry’s brilliant but not-so-brilliant foolishness and the inevitable delayed understanding of this basketball player’s exceptionality. He’s not suddenly one of the greatest players of all time. He is one of the the absolute best. Period.

To me, that was exactly what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr meant when he went out of his way shortly after the Game 6 win to point out that it’s Curry, not everyone else from Golden State, who really brought out all that glory.

“Without him, none of this happens,” Kerr said. “You know? And that doesn’t take away from the ownership of Joe and Peter, because they’re amazing owners, they’ve built an amazing organization. Bob Myers, helluva GM. Our players, we’ve had so many great players.

“But Steph is ultimately the reason this race happened,” he said. “A bit like Timmy [Duncan] in San Antonio. I’m happy for everyone but I’m happy for Steph. For me, this is his crowning achievement in what has already been an incredible career.”

Not Kerr. Nor Kerr’s boss. Nor his boss’s bosses. Nor the other players he has coached in several championships.

Just Steph.

Andre Iguodala said it more directly.

“I think he’s solidified himself today – not even today, just his career – as the greatest playmaker of all time.”

Iguodala is right. And that puts Curry ahead of Magic, ahead of the Big O, ahead of Nash and Stockton and Isiah and CP3.

That puts him in a very, very rarefied air.

Curry, like Jordan and LeBron and Kareem, both forged greatness and redefined the sport. Curry’s place in the history of the game isn’t just what he did. This is what he created.

A team that thrives when it’s on the ground and crumbles when it’s not. A three-point era he conjured up from his own unlikely and game-changing talent. The Hall of Fame careers he catalyzed, from Draymond Green to Klay Thompson to Kerr. The culture he cultivates that makes victory so certain that the Warriors are next year’s favorites as well. Career resurrections (Andrew Wiggins) and surprises (Jordan Poole) made possible by Curry’s presence.

The debate is not whether he is in the Top 10 players of all time. It’s about whether he is in the Top 5 players of all time.

And the answer – as, inevitably, so many people will eventually come to accept this – is an unequivocal answer, Of course he is.


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