Curry silences naysayers and seals a spot in the NBA’s all-time greats pantheon

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Stephen Curry is used to the feeling of winning. It was the one that defined his spectacular career. However, watching him sink onto the court in tears in the closing seconds of the Golden State Warriors’ Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics, it was clear that Curry was not used to being so defeated by the triumph.

The Warriors’ 103-90 victory at TD Garden, sealed by Curry’s 34-point blitz, won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons and, as Golden State reveled in its return to the top of the mountain, it was difficult to disagree with co-owner Joe Lacob. assessment that this was the most significant.

Curry’s outpouring of emotion on the final buzzer illustrated itself as such, with the Warriors lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy capping a remarkable journey for a team that many believed had reached the end of its time in the sun.

Two seasons ago, when Kevin Durant left for the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson entered the first of two seasons with injuries imposed on the sidelines after he tore his ACL in the Finals series of the 2019 NBA with the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors had the league’s worst record at 15-50, with a hand injury suffered in Game 4 of the campaign severely limiting Curry’s involvement.

There was agony in 2020-21 as an MVP-caliber season for Curry ended in a loss in the play-in tournament, with Thompson once again a spectator, this time with a torn Achilles that left him held off until January 2022.

Even with Thompson’s return on the horizon, few expected the core of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green to dazzle on the Finals stage in 2022, the Warriors’ decision to retain draft assets that they hoarded rather than bagged to acquire a fourth star met with skepticism in many corners.

These skeptics have now been silenced. While faith in the mix of youth and experience and the unqualified success of the trade for former No. 1 overall pick – and Golden State’s second-best player in these Finals – Andrew Wiggins, played a A major role in shutting down the critics, it was Curry who ultimately sealed the lips of Golden State doubters.

Doubters have been a baffling constant throughout Curry’s career, even as he became the greatest shooter in NBA history, whose seemingly limitless reach revolutionized the game of basketball.

Curry’s resume has been stellar for a long time, and he’s been sprucing it up all the time. Before the Finals, he already had three NBA titles, two MVPs (the second of which made him the league’s first unanimous winner) and the all-time record for three points.

Yet there has never been a shortage of observers who would respond to this list of accomplishments with “Yeah, but…”

“Yeah, but Kyrie Irving got injured in 2015”, “Yeah, but he won two rings after signing Durant”, “Yeah, but he doesn’t have a Finals MVP”.

Finally, skeptics can no longer rely on their wildly pedantic excuses to deny Curry’s position among the all-time greats, solidly secured after a finale in which he was the dominating force.

Curry averaged 31.2 points per game, nearly 10 full points more than closest challenger Jayson Tatum (21.5), and his 31 three-pointers were comfortably the most of any player in the league. series. He averaged five assists per game – only Tatum (7) and Green (6.2) had more, while he was also third in plus-minus average (5.8). The two players ahead of him on the roster, Kevon Looney (8) and Gary Payton II (7), averaged 21.7 and 18.6 minutes per game respectively in the series, Curry spent 37.5 minutes per game on field.

The devastating offense provided by Curry, who complements his devastating shot from deep by attacking the rim for layups with the same remarkable consistency, was undoubtedly the deciding factor in the series. Indeed, Curry’s production and the attention it forces defenses to give him robbed the Celtics of ideas on how to stop the Warriors by Game 6, Golden State at some point in the first half. -time on a 21-0 run that marked the longest in 50-year Finals history.

Curry’s “gravity” cannot be overstated, with the Warriors supporting cast continuing to reap the benefits of the extra space created by the threat posed by their star point guard.

With Curry on the court in the Finals, the Warriors averaged 111.9 points per 100 possessions. That dropped to 90.1 points when he was on the floor. Their field goal percentage with Curry in the lineup was 47.1, compared to 34.9 with him on the bench.

Illustrating his effectiveness both from beyond and inside the arc, the Warriors made 38.3% of their three-point field goal attempts and averaged 42.2 points in the paint per 100 possessions. with Curry on the team. Without him, they connected on 30.9% of three and had 21.5 points in the paint per 100.

The Warriors’ points differential in the Finals per 100 possessions with Curry on the court was plus-7.6. In his absence, he was minus 6.2, a 13.8-point swing in a series where Golden State’s average winning margin in their wins was … 13 points.

This plethora of evidence left Curry as the only, and even unanimous, selection for the Finals MVP, bringing him into elated company.

Curry is the sixth player to win four NBA titles, multiple league MVP awards and a Finals MVP. The other five are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan. Among players to have won at least two titles, he is second in points average in championship-deciding games (32.5). Only Jordan (33.7) ranks above him.

The territory Curry occupies is shared by undisputed basketball legends, and he knows his former skeptics no longer have the credentials with which to challenge his legacy.

“I hear all the stories,” Curry said. “You hear all about what we [as a team] are and what we are not, and what I am as a player and what I am not. I’m having a hard time understanding what they’re going to say now, so it’s pretty special.”

The reasons given by those who have sought to keep Curry out of the NBA’s pantheon of all-time greats have always been dubious at best. Now, after a career-defining Finals performance, they are non-existent and whatever else he accomplishes before retiring, his place is reserved for good.

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