Stephen Curry Leading Warriors to Another NBA Title Would Spark New Round of GOAT Debate

Stephen Curry Leading Warriors to Another NBA Title Would Spark New Round of GOAT Debate

SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors are closing in on a fourth NBA championship. Which means Stephen Curry is getting closer to something even more impressive: LeBron James’ legacy and the surprising loot that comes with such a pursuit.

Because even if he doesn’t catch LeBron — and he can — Curry is well positioned this month to push names like Kobe, Durant, Bird, Magic and Wilt onto the all-time big list.

During eight years of Warriors dominance, Curry was his team’s talisman and catalyst. Beneath his startling but relentless excellence, a rising tide of success and celebration emerged from him.

Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have become surefire Hall of Fame players. Steve Kerr has gone from general manager and failed television analyst to anointed as, literally, one of the game’s top 15 coaches in the history of the sport. Andrew Wiggins took back his promise. Jordan Poole went from G League prospect to third splash brother. Etc.

Curry spurred all of this. His greatness brought rings, legacies, wealth, a new stadium and even another all-time great, Kevin Durant, to an organization that, before Curry’s arrival and rise, was among the worst. in American sports history.

Heck, these days, Curry racks up more TV minutes than game minutes.

Now only the Celtics are stopping him from capturing as many rings as LeBron, a fact that requires a suddenly wake up call to how we thought we understood this era of basketball and those that preceded it.

We spent so much time focusing on LeBron vs. Jordan that we missed the fact that part of the King’s current crown might end up being sent to the coast – at least for a summer.

Already, the media’s and fans’ collective awakening to Steph’s growing legacy has sparked conversations about whether he can overtake LeBron’s position on the list of all-time greats, and for reasons understandable.

It is, after all, the barometer of how we measure greatness today. The fact that Steph beat LeBron in three sets doesn’t hurt either.

And while LeBron struggles with a Lakers organization he helped usher in probable irrelevance, Steph could very well enter next season as the betting favorite to win it all again. It’s not inconceivable that we’re on our way to a reality that will see Steph one day retire with more championships than LeBron.

So the Steph-could-be-better-than-LeBron conversation isn’t crazy. Steph is the greatest shooter in sports history – so great, in fact, that he changed the NBA and changed the course of its history as much as Wilt, or Bird-Magic, or Jordan. The game’s emphasis on 3-point shooting and non-positional play is rooted first and foremost in Curry.

He defined and changed an era.

All-time greatness is an interesting concoction of competing interests: individual accomplishments, sure, but also team success. And luck. And the stories that shape how we perceive – and remember – these rarest stars.

Steph has a claim in all of these categories.

His individual CV is breathtaking: Two MVPs (one unanimous). Most three-point shots ever made. Career shooting percentages of 47.3 from the field, 42.8 on 3 and 90.8 from the boards. One of 11 players to claim a 50-40-90 season. Etc.

The success of the team that Curry spawned is also indisputable. There’s the three rings and that counts, yes, but also a streak of six NBA Finals appearances in eight seasons. Kobe Bryant never did that. Nor Tim Duncan. LeBron got to eight in a row, but he couldn’t make it on the same team. Only Steph, in this century, has been able to stay and still flourish at this level.

He also, as noted, turned other players into Hall of Fame candidates. Jordan did, most likely, but it’s hard to say the same for LeBron. This also matters, even if it is more difficult to measure or prove.

And as the greatest shooter of all time, and the guy who didn’t bounce from team to team, his narrative game is on point. He’s the guy Durant was supposed to join, rather than the other way around. And yet, Curry, the reigning MVP at the time, welcomed Durant to the team by submitting his own brilliance — and the hits, accolades and credit that came with it. Everyone says the team and winning come first. Curry practiced this by shrinking himself to do it.

No all-time great ever did that in his prime. This too is easy to look past but worth considering in any GOAT debate.

That’s a big part of why Curry is the superior player, historically speaking, to Durant. Durant needed Curry to win titles. Curry is about to prove he definitely didn’t need Durant. That — plus the statistical reality of Steph’s import on Durant when he’s on Golden State soil, as NBA writer Tom Haberstroh often excellently describes — elevates Curry above Durant.

There is no Golden State Warriors as we know them without Steph. And without Steph, Durant might have as many rings as James Harden or Russell Westbrook.

The Steph vs. Durant argument is a warm-up for the Steph vs. LeBron argument. Steph, by NBA standards, is not a towering athlete. He’s not a freak of nature physically – not like MJ, or LeBron, or Kareem, or Wilt, or Shaq, or Magic, or pretty much any of the other all-time greats who look more like Avengers superheroes than athletes.

It’s part of how, even now, too many people have missed Steph’s greatness. They also often overlooked how his individual genius works seamlessly with his teammates, uplifting them, improving them, setting them up to find the best versions of their basketball personas.

The literal space alone Curry creates for his teammates – the gravitational pull he exerts on defenses, and all that does afterward for everyone lucky enough to play with him – is hard to measure but impossible to measure. to lack. He is a game-changer, quite literally, the moment he just touches the ball or goes into half-court.

Still, LeBron is, well, LeBron. He will almost certainly end his career as the all-time top scorer. LeBron is already seventh on the all-time assists list. He pursues and pursues Jordan for a reason. He is breathtaking, and this course of Steph does not change anything, even if it reduces the gap.

As we always do, then, the talk about Steph Curry celebrates it and misses the most important and current point. Curry looks back at LeBron’s legacy, as true and interesting as it is, likely ends with LeBron in front when the two retire.

But that’s not the real point, at least not today.

It’s: The fact that we’re having this conversation means that if Steph leads Golden State to a fourth title starting Thursday, he’ll close the gap between him and LeBron so much that they’re other all-time greats that he will have exceeded.

Names like Kobe. Duncan. During. Bird. Magic.

Another title, and Steph and the Warriors show that everything that came before was about Steph Curry. Not Durant and the two titles he relied on, despite his obvious contributions. Not Kyrie Irving leaving Cleveland. Just an all-time great who shaped the history of the game and the fate of his team, using his own rare and amazing gifts.

Another headline, and the all-time great debate goes like this:

  1. Jordan

  2. James

  3. Karim

  4. Shaq

  5. Stephen

Can Steph possibly overtake LeBron? Maybe, but unlikely.

But beat the Celtics and he’ll have thrown himself further than any of his patented deep shots.

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