Steph Curry is at the Center of Basketball's Universe


Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Stephen Curry is so remarkable. How remarkable? So remarkable that the NBA will never, ever be the same - all thanks to a player so unassuming he might not stand out in a grocery store.


Go back to his days at Davidson College. He was a scrawny, slight, and, well, frankly, small player. But, as soon as the games started, Curry would detonate with the force of an atomic bomb. No net was safe, not from any distance. He was an absolute menace. Thanks to him, this teeny, tiny college with about 2,000 undergraduate students reached the Elite Eight, knocking off college basketball bluebloods like Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin in the process.


When Curry reached the NBA, there were questions about how his game would translate, what his true position in the NBA was, and whether or not he could hang with some of the best athletes in the entire world. Spoiler alert: those concerns were unfounded.


Success didn’t happen overnight, though. Not for a few years actually. But all the while, signs started to appear - this kid was unique.


The three-point line had always been treated as a bit of a novelty. A curiosity. It was part of the game, but also, it wasn’t. It stood out, like two giant pimples on a basketball court. It was inessential, but thanks to Steph Curry, it would become more essential than anyone could have dared to imagine - and Curry had quite the imagination.


The Golden State Warriors would be the team to take a chance on Curry. He wasn’t considered a sure thing, as the Minnesota Timberwolves can attest (they did take two point guards in the top six before Curry, after all). But over time, his spectacular ability to shoot from anywhere, from any angle, and with any number of hands, arms or bodies in his way couldn’t be denied.


Slowly, steadily, Steph began to draw more attention. Not just off the court, but on the court as well. Defenders couldn’t give him any space - even when he didn’t have the ball in his hands. Teams started guarding him the moment he crossed halfcourt. The fundamental gravity of basketball began to shift, and Steph was the star at the center of basketball’s universe.


Opportunities began to open up all over the court for Steph’s teammates, and none benefited quite like Klay Thompson, Curry’s Splash Brother. Thompson, like Curry, was not overwhelmingly strong, not overwhelmingly fast, and not overwhelmingly tall. He was, however, an overwhelmingly good shooter, and the perfect partner-in-crime to Curry, the man with the world’s most lethal jump shot.


Together, along with Draymond Green and head coach Steve Kerr, Curry and Thompson would help form the core of the most dominant basketball team ever seen (Jordan's Bulls and Russell's Celtics notwithstanding). Green, standing only 6’6’’ but with an absurd 7’1’’ wingspan, would become the straw that stirred the Warriors’ drink, regularly gulping down rebounds, racing down the court, pressuring the defense, only to find the open Curry or Thompson as soon as the moment arose. Kerr, who won five titles as a player, became the team’s philosophical center, guiding his players to the open spaces on the floor, inspiring ball movement and the extra pass, but also allowing everyone to play with grace and joy. It was basketball nirvana - just ask Kevin Durant.


Today, the NBA game is no longer played inside-out. Curry flipped the game on its head. The big man is no longer the focal point. The three-point line is no longer viewed as a gimmick. It is now a core, integral, essential element of any NBA offense.


For decades, especially for kids born in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the basketball player to emulate while hooping around in backyards or at the YMCA was Michael Jordan. After Jordan did his best Julius Caesar impersonation, veni-vidi-vici-ing the entire NBA, a new challenger to the backyard-prototype appeared: Kobe Bryant. After Kobe came another in the form of LeBron James. Try as they might, kids practicing their fadeaways and reverse layups would never match the extraordinary physical talents of MJ, Kobe and LeBron. Those three are some of the most athletically gifted players to ever step foot on an NBA court. Today, there is a new prototype, and the kind of prototype that your regular, average, everyday kid can emulate - Steph Curry.


Curry didn’t just change the way the NBA played; he changed the way basketball was played. Go to any high school, college, AAU or intramural game and you will see the Curry-effect in action. Not only is shooting three-point shots in volume considered acceptable these days, but it's also considered to be the starting point of any modern offense. It used to be that any kid who dared to shoot the ball near midcourt was begging to be benched. Today, coaches encourage their players to shoot from farther and farther away from the basket.


No player in the last 30 years has changed the way basketball looks on the court more than Curry. LeBron, of course, has been an extremely impactful basketball player, arguably just as much as Curry, but much of his impact has been off the court instead of on it. Because of LeBron, the NBA has become a much more player-friendly league. Because of Curry, the NBA has become a much more three-point-happy league.


Now, after winning his fourth championship, Curry has cemented his position as one of the greatest basketball players in history, and almost certainly the greatest player under 6’5’’ - but boy, isn’t that an arbitrary distinction? Anyway…Curry is awesome. You probably already knew that, but it deserves repeating: Curry is awesome. No player has done more to open up the game, literally and figuratively. Space has become the most precious commodity. Basketball is still a sport that will always be dominated by the biggest, the fastest and the tallest. But thanks to Curry, there’s more room for the "little guys" than ever.


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