It’s always MJ vs. someone. Most of the time, it’s LeBron, and you’ll find a lot of Kobe, Bill Russell, and Wilt being compared with Black Jesus. But from an impact of the game perspective, Steph Curry is often overlooked when talking about the greatest players ever. Part of it is because, for some reason, Steph is consistently underrated by his peers. But it’s also because he dominated in a way we’ve never seen before – from long range.
The reason Barkley never expected he’ll have to wear that t-shirt is because it has never been done before. A jump shooting team was always perceived as limited when it came to Playoffs basketball. Defense gets more physical, refs swallow the whistle, and the only way to be sure you can get a bucket is attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line. Russel, Wilt, Magic, Bird, MJ, LeBron – they all dominated from the paint or the mid-range. We can’t neglect the machismo part of it – Steph is 6-3, 185lb; you can bully him, right? Well, you have to catch him first.
Mostly known for his hot takes, Stephen A. Smith is a lot more knowledgeable about basketball than people give him credit for. It comes with the territory of being the leading hot take artist in the world. But when the format is different, Stephen A. can calmly dissect someone’s game and make a point that sounds like a hot take but actually isn’t. For instance, that Steph Curry is the one we should think of when comparing someone to the GOAT.
“Lowe: You were comparing Steph, as a purely offensive player, to Jordan. And it reminded me when Barkley said James Harden might be the greatest 1-on-1 player in NBA history, and they all laughed at him on Inside the NBA, and I didn’t think that was a laughable statement. I don’t think what you said, and you said purely offense – all-around defense is Michael is still the best. You said, purely offense, this guy is in the conversation with Jordan.The Lowe Post
Stephen A: Steph Curry is the greatest shooter god ever created. You’ve never seen a guy that can move without the basketball, catch, also create his own shot from the dribble – it’s an entire arsenal. He’s spot up, catch and shoot, dribble, drive and penetration, pull up, long-range, short-range – IT DOESN’T MATTER!”
One of the most famous burns ever was Wilt telling Jordan the difference between them is the fact the NBA changed rules to make the game more difficult for Wilt and easier for MJ. (To be a fly on that wall…). It’s an important way of thinking about basketball we often neglect. Most players who impacted the game so much everyone started playing differently were big guys (and most of the rule changes the NBA implemented were about big guys – Wilt, Russell, Shaq). Steph is the first guy to enter that list, that didn’t do it through his physical presence.
“You have to look for Steph Curry the second the ball gets past half court. He can pull up from 40 feet and shoot with regularity. That kind of range combined with his movement without the basketball and the effect it has on an oposing defense – they gotta keep their head on a swivel, they’ve got to extend, they’ve got to spy on him at all times. They have to double him 25 feet from the basket. With Jordan, yeah you did all of that, but that was closer to the basket. The kind of things that Steph Curry requires has just as much of a profound impact on an opposing defense, as Jordan did.”Stephen A. Smith, The Lowe Post
Stephen A. is 100% right. Steph Curry brought the phrase “basketball gravity” into our consciences. Until him, only Michael Jordan would create havoc and defensive challenges just by being on the court. The only difference is, with Steph, that chaos starts at half court. As much as people knock Steph because he had Klay Thompson on his team, and Draymond Green in his prime was a perfect fit as a playmaker on offense (and would cover up a lot as the defensive mastermind that he is), it all started with Steph.
His impact on the game of basketball is as significant and transformative as Jordan’s, and he doesn’t get enough props for it. Others changed the game on the foundation of physical dominance – Steph is the first guy to do it on the ultimate level based on pure skill. LeBron dominated his era, but Curry started a new one – a whole new paradigm of basketball. That’s why the 2010s will be the Curry/Golden State era and not the LeBron/Heat era.
You could even make the case that’s why so many players and media members don’t give Steph the credit he deserves. It’s tough when everyone tells you you are the face of basketball, and then a 6-3 dude shows up and steals the show.