It’s been reported today that Steph Curry will win this season’s NBA MVP award. Which, of course, we all knew was coming. The only question was whether it would be a unanimous vote. Which, of course, it won’t be. After all, Sam Hinkie, who was replaced in the middle of the season by Jerry Colangelo and stepped down in April after his tanking “process” became too much to bear, got three votes for Executive of the Year.
There has never been a unanimous MVP in this league, so if Curry can somehow buck that trend he would make history. But he already has. For starters, his second MVP puts him in elite company.
- Six-time winner: Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
- Five-time winner: Bill Russell, Michael Jordan
- Four-time winner: Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James
- Three-time winner: Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson
- Two-time winner: Bob Pettit, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Steph Curry
That’s nine Hall-of-Famers, plus James, Duncan, Nash and Curry, who joins an even smaller list of repeat winners.
His list of 2015-16 accomplishments is ridiculous, as if you didn’t know.
— Curry is the fourth player to average 31.7 points per 36 minutes. The others are Chamberlain (twice), Jordan and George Gervin (twice).
— Curry is the fifth player to average at least 30 ppg, 6 apg, 5 rpg and 2 spg. The others are Jordan (3x), Rick Barry and Dwyane Wade.
— Curry is the third player to lead the league in points and steals per game. Jordan (3x) and Iverson (2x) are the others.
— Curry is the third player to shoot 50% from the floor, 45% on threes and 90% from the free throw line. The others are on the Warriors’ coaching staff: Steve Kerr and Steve Nash.
— Curry is the only player to make more than 3.5 threes per game for an entire season. He’s done it twice. Last season he averaged 3.6. This season he made 5.1!
— Curry led the league in 40-point games with 13.
— Curry led the league in 50-point games with 3.
— Curry went 47-of-92 on shots from between 28 and 43 feet. Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson, the next two players on the list, made 26 … combined.
— Curry led the league in Vines with a kajillion. (OK, not a real metric. But undeniable nonetheless.)
— Curry gave us the single best moment of the regular season, in the best game of the regular season.
— Curry had plenty of help, but he led the Warriors to a 73-9 record after most thought they might be a better team than they were in 2014-15, with a caveat: they wouldn’t match last season’s gaudy win total of 67.
Beyond the numbers, Curry transformed both the league and his perceived standing in it. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss has pointed out more often than anyone else, Curry finished fifth in MVP projections in a preseason poll of NBA General Managers, behind James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and James Harden, and tied with Russell Westbrook.
James proclaimed himself “the best player in the world” in the game before the Warriors beat his Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. How many of the same people who didn’t even flinch after hearing James’ proclamation would call Curry the best player in the world now? Hopefully most of them, otherwise they haven’t been paying attention. The players, who clearly weren’t paying attention, voted Harden as their MVP last season.
In response, Curry built up his body to be stronger and quicker than before, and spent the entire year testing the bounds of what we could reasonably expect from a basketball player on a near-nightly basis. He was the biggest draw in the league, pulling in fans from the parking lot 90 minutes before tipoff in every arena — well, the ones that allowed fans to witness the spectacle of a man dribbling two balls at the same time and shooting from everywhere that early, anyway.
Even the most jaded basketball watchers and reporters were charmed by Curry this season. He’s the only remedy for our borderline-ill “second screen culture,” in which simply watching what’s in front of you never seems to be enough. At least when Curry is playing, people usually wait until a timeout, or for Curry to be subbed out, or for the Warriors to be on defense at the absolutely minimum, to post their reactions on social media.
And while it’s been fascinating to watch the Warriors figure out how to win playoff games without him, there’s a slight sense of being robbed each time he misses a game. Since every Curry game, every Curry moment, has the potential to be held up, appreciated and compared with the greatest pieces of artistry in any genre, it’s hard not to feel pangs of longing when those games and moments go missing. But there’s no reason to be too despondent, not with Curry set to return any day now (today?) and the memories of his glorious 2015-16 season still fresh in our minds.