Stephen Curry Sports Illustrated CoverStephen Curry set the record for threes in an NBA season with 272, and has also set a record for threes in his first seven playoff games with 29. Numbers aside, he has thrilled audiences here and across the country with his shooting prowess and graceful floor game so often throughout the second half of the season and the playoffs that his exclusion from the 2013 All-Star Game is now a running joke among basketball fans, players, coaches and announcers.

On the heels of his 58-minute, 44-point, 11-assist performance last night, Curry has received recognition of a different kind: the cover of Sports Illustrated.

(Also getting a little love with a headline and a pretty cool comparison: Yoenis Cespedes. SI got kind of Oaklandish this week, which is beyond rare. Although that may be because Sports Illustrated went with regional covers this week.)

And now we know how the Golden State Warriors somehow lost last night’s game despite having a 16-point lead late in the fourth quarter! Just kidding, because we all know that the Sports Illustrated cover jinx is silly … right? (Crickets) No, it’s true — nobody could’ve rightfully expected the Warriors to play this well at full strength against two teams that combined for 115 regular seasons wins, let alone produce the most exciting basketball of the postseason without David Lee. Without a doubt Curry is the main reason why the Warriors have become relevant on a national level, and even if you don’t subscribe to SI, getting the cover is still a bigger milestone than leading off SportsCenter or being featured on a commercial for the NBA or Nike. (The former has already happened for Curry; the latter is probably less than a month away from occurring if the big swoosh knows what they’re doing … and they usually do, at least in a marketing sense.) 

No one thought the Warriors would win their first round matchup against the Denver Nuggets and come THIS CLOSE to ending their 29-game losing streak in San Antonio, and the Curry cover just another reminder how far he has surpassed all expectations on an individual basis as well. Remember, this is a player who missed 40 games last season and tweaked his ankle right before the 2012-13 season started. Now he’s probably the most fun, engaging story about these playoffs — the scrawny, baby-faced sniper at the height of his powers, with swagger that somehow increases with every third quarter scoring outburst that turns everyone watching into a giggly mess.

From the Warriors’ press release:

This marks the first time the Warriors have been featured on a Sports Illustrated cover since December 1997, when the magazine documented the Latrell Sprewell incident.  Curry becomes the first Warriors player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his on-court performance since Lloyd “World B.” Free graced the cover on December 15, 1980.

Now that the magic of Curry’s game is nationally known, the only thing left is for David Aldridge to stop calling him Stephen (with a “v”) and Chris Webber to remember that it’s not “Stephon.” Maybe they’ll have that figured out by Game 2.