Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry is changing the NBA in the best way possible

Anyone who questioned Stephen Curry’s MVP credentials may now step down.

Need more? Not a problem, there’s plenty. He averaged 23.8 points per game in the regular season. He’s averaging 29.9 ppg in the Playoffs. Yes, I’m aware that the MVP is based on the regular season. But when we look at an MVP-caliber player, that guy needs to be able to back up that recognition when the games matter. That’s why Hakeem Olajuwon is thought of as the true MVP in 1994-95 despite losing out to David Robinson and finishing fifth in the voting, because he scored 35.3 ppg against Robinson in a Playoff series that the Rockets won in five.

Yesterday I wrote about Curry’s crazy numbers on the road. After his 40-point, 7-for-9 from three, 7-assist, Houston-your-season-is-ending-now performance last night, he’s scoring 34.5 per game and shooting 50.7% on three-pointers away from Oracle. For a guy who’s so nice, he sure delights in obliterating the hopes of opposing fans (especially courtside idiots who dare to heckle). Also …

He’s hitting threes off the dribble. He’s swishing threes off the catch, and not just on passes from teammates:

His handle is top-five in the league, he’s an outstanding passer, and his hands are quite dangerous on the defensive end. But the shooting is what sells the tickets, and draws extra defensive attention from opponents, and sets Curry apart from the pack.

There will never be another Curry, but his existence is fantastic news for the NBA … and not because he’s a good dude with a cute little daughter. There are plenty of good dudes in the NBA who are average basketball players (relatively speaking), there are plenty of bad dudes who are famous and beloved because they are good or great at basketball, and plenty of dudes who are considered good or bad incorrectly, due to the fact that we don’t really know any of these people.

What’s so great about Curry, and for the future of the NBA, is that his ascendance will help make the game more about skill than ever.

Bemoan the way the three-point line has thrown things out of balance all you want, but it’s a good thing that kids watch Curry and realize that going outside and shooting 500 jumpers with correct form, or dribbling two balls at the same time, or perfecting a floater, is a much better use of one’s time than ordering some gimmicky shoes online that’ll supposedly increase your vert by 12 inches.

The NBA was bogged down by iso-heavy offenses in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it also suffered because the way teams looked at prospects was out of whack. Curry is more athletic than people realize, but there’s a reason why he played at Davidson instead of Duke. For years, teams at every level wanted tall guys with long limbs who could jump out of the gym. But if they can’t dribble, shoot or defend, what good are they in a game where everyone on the court is supremely athletic?

They say you can’t teach size, but Curry’s game is like a walking advertisement: “PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE,” with apologies to Allen Iverson. He didn’t have this kind of touch off the glass two years ago. His ball-handling was always good, but now he’s an Oakland Globetrotter. Even his shot is better, his release is quicker, and he can get open even against long, physical, quick and skilled defenders.

In short (no pun intended), Curry is a role model who’ll encourage kids to chase their basketball dreams who wouldn’t have even given themselves a chance five years ago. He has created more highlight plays this season than anyone via his incredible blend of hand-eye coordination and confidence, but these are the kinds of plays that appeal to a broader consumer than the ones from years past, when stars were supposed to clear out a side, go to work and dunk on the world.

The dunk isn’t going away, and it’s still wildly fun to watch — in context. The Dunk Contest itself has been dying a slow death for years, because it’s all been done. But to watch Curry perform feats all over the court, from underneath the rim to 62 feet away, will never get old.

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