by Paul West
If his career were to end after winning a second consecutive title this year, Stephen Curry‘s name would be noted alongside those of Pete Maravich, Grant Hill, and others with all-time great peaks whose longevity was sadly abridged. But at this point, it’s hard to argue that Curry has, indeed, already edged his way into the pantheon of all-time NBA point guards. The measure, nature, and extent of his greatness is widely debated; but what makes Stephen Curry truly great is the fact that he combines the attributes of multiple other legends.
Like many other great players of this generational period, Stephen Curry is something of a hybrid of the greats who came before him. His unbelievable shooting touch is reminiscent of Ray Allen, only with–if you can believe it–a quicker release and deeper range. His ball handling is reminiscent of Maravich, sometimes almost bordering on Curly Neal territory. His fearless, downhill drives into thickets of big men is reminiscent of Allen Iverson. Also like Iverson, Curry isn’t a lockdown specialist on defense but instead a dangerously quick scrambler who jumps passing lanes and is a pick-two waiting to happen.
Curry plays so fast and loose that he sometimes appears out of control–until he drains an all-net three from 35 feet, often over an outstretched defender’s hand. He’s clutch, too, like many of the all-time greats: Curry has developed a knack for firing late-game or buzzer-beating daggers when game pressure is at its peak.
One thing Stephen Curry shares with elite point guards of previous eras, especially the undersized ones, is toughness; despite perceptions to the contrary, Curry is indeed both physically and mentally tough. Yes, his ankles are often injured, but his ability to play through discomfort should no longer be in question. He’s also proven that he can stand up to defenders’ physicality, even if it necessitates becoming more of a facilitator than a scorer. Of course, speaking of facilitation, it bears noting that Curry benefits greatly from having an elite player as his shooting guard; Klay Thompson is such a matchup nightmare that it makes double-teaming either of the Splash Brothers an exercise in futility.
Another way in which Curry is already elite is in his basketball intelligence. Curry’s postgame interviews are veritable fountains of analysis; he understands how defenses are trying to stop him, and he understands how to strategize accordingly.
It’s come to the point where Stephen Curry’s greatness is no longer a matter of debate. The biggest question surrounding Curry, and his oft-injured wheels, is whether he can sustain his greatness long enough to cement himself among the best ever. If he and the Golden State Warriors win three more games this postseason, it will be an enormous step in that direction.