Stephen Curry is a superstar, and probably on his way to be the best three-point shooter in the history of the NBA. But mentioning him alongside names like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James doesn’t do them justice. This meme, riffing on a classic Jordan and Scottie Pippen photo, suggests he’s just not there yet.
Curry won the regular season MVP in 2015, but had an inconsistent Finals appearance. The Warriors won the championship, Andre Iguodala won the finals MVP. Curry has always said he doesn’t mind; what’s important is winning the title.
Curry won the MVP of the regular season again in 2016, having his first actual superstar kind of season, with superstar numbers as well. So far, in the NBA Finals, he’s averaging just 16 points per game while shooting 43.6% from the field. Maybe the injury from the first round still affects him. Maybe the pressure of Finals gets to him, although his performance in the playoffs and in clutch situations previously suggest pressure rarely has any effect on him.
Something I thought about Curry, in comparison to other players who are usually mentioned among the best of all time. The NBA has different eras. Different basketball styles. Different rules. The best players would have been great at any time. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron, Duncan, and I’m forgetting a few. But I’m not certain Curry would have been as good when hand checking and physical, borderline violent defense was the norm. You can only play in your own era and time; the rest is hypothetical discussion. Numbers can’t back these things up, only theory and imagination.
The original image, for those too young to remember, is Scottie Pippen carrying Michael Jordan to the bench during the famous Flu Game in the 1997 NBA Finals, with Jordan scoring 38 points to help the Bulls take a 3-2 lead over the Utah Jazz. He played 44 minutes in that game.