(In homage to Star Wars Day)
I’m here. I’m back.
–Steph Curry, May 9, 2016
Steph Curry’s return to the court, in a crucial playoff game against the Portland Trailblazers, was a jaw-dropping showcase of otherworldly precision. Okay, I may be going a bit overboard with the superlatives; but Curry’s just that incredible. He’s the baby-faced assassin of the NBA, and arguably the best shooter in the history of professional basketball. And on Tuesday night, he gave the basketball world a performance for the ages.
In a game that swung back and forth like an adrenaline & sweat-fueled pendulum, Curry’s clutch play in the fourth quarter and overtime stood apart. Curry was only supposed to play 25 minutes, in a game where he came off the bench for the first time in over four years, but Shaun Livingston’s first half ejection forced Curry into action. Curry ended up playing 37 minutes, and he wasn’t his usual self for most of them. The rust he had accrued, after taking time off due to an MCL injury, showed in the first three quarters of play. But in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the truly great players need to shine to cement their legacy, the Curry we’re used to seeing–the one who has now won back-to-back MVP awards–showed up, took off, and never looked back. Curry ended up with 40 points, shooting 50% from the field and 31% from three-point land. He also had 9 rebounds and 8 assists, giving him a plus-minus rating of +21, which is noteworthy in of itself, especially after such a long layoff. Curry left the Rip City crowd stunned, as he outscored the Blazers in overtime with an NBA record 17 points. It was the most points anyone’s ever scored in an NBA overtime, regular season or playoffs.
I started writing this piece at about 2:30 AM, Eastern Standard Time, a short while after the game. I don’t care that I lost sleep. I don’t just feel happy to have witnessed Steph’s performance–I actually feel blessed.
Even if you loathe the Golden State Warriors, their record-setting 73-9 season, and all of the attention Curry and the Warriors received during their historic season, you would be flat-out lying if you said you really hated Steph Curry. Because to hate Curry is to hate the epitome of clutch. To hate Curry is to turn your back on a man who embodies the essence of excellence…and alongside his on-court swagger, manages to be humble and likable.
For now, Steph Curry is the NBA’s Chosen One–basketball’s resident Jedi Knight. Basketball lovers can only hope the rest of the postseason, and the rest of Curry’s career, are full of moments as magical as his triumphant return.