OAKLAND, Calif. – From the jaw-dropping half-court heaves that somehow sink through the net to the dazzling drives and zippy passes from every which way, Stephen Curry’s desire to keep getting better while always trying to entertain at every stop has the Golden State superstar being mentioned right along with the best ever, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
And he just turned 28. There might still be so much more for the 6-foot-3, baby-faced point guard whose ability to make it on the big NBA stage was initially questioned by some.
On Tuesday, Curry accomplished something those former greats never did: He became the first unanimous NBA MVP, earning the award for the second straight season after leading the defending champion Warriors to a record-setting season.
“I never really set out to change the game. I never thought that would happen in my career,” Curry said. “What I wanted to do was just be myself. … I know it inspires a lot of the next generation, a lot of people who love the game of basketball to value the skill of it, value the fact that you can work every single day to get better. You’ve got to be able to put the time and the work. That’s how I got here, that’s how I continue to get better every single day.
Curry is the 11th player in league history to be voted MVP in consecutive seasons and the first guard since Steve Nash in 2004-05 and 2005-06. Curry received 1,310 points from the 130 media voters from the U.S. and Canada.
“I couldn’t imagine anybody not voting him first, and yet there always seems to be somebody who has to stand out,” Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said.
Curry was followed in the vote by Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio, LeBron James of Cleveland and Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Curry’s teammate Draymond Green was seventh.
Nash, Golden State’s player development consultant, was on hand to congratulate Curry.
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“It’s been weird, I haven’t had to say a word to him. It’s been the easiest job,” Nash said.
Curry is the first two-time MVP in franchise history, and Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60) is the only other Warriors winner. After guiding Golden State to its first championship in 40 years, Curry & Co. took that success even further to finish with 73 regular-season wins to top the mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10.
In a stunning overtime performance Monday night, Curry showed exactly how he can take over a game in a matter of seconds. He returned from a sprained right knee to score 40 points — and 17 in overtime — in a 132-125 win at Portland to put his team up 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Curry was sore and fatigued but ready to go again.
“He wants it,” Kerr said. “There’s no ulterior motive. He just wants to be better. That’s who he is.”
Curry, now one of the most recognizable and popular athletes worldwide, was presented with his MVP trophy at Oracle Arena before trying to close out the series against the Trail Blazers at home Wednesday night. His teammates were on stage to cheer the latest accomplishment in a long list of them.
“He’s become one of the most popular athletes on the planet,” Kerr said. “People relate to him. They genuinely enjoy watching him play and admire his humility and just the way he carries himself. The impact he’s had on the game is really dramatic.”
Curry averaged an NBA-best 30.1 points per game to go with 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He also led the NBA with 2.1 steals a game while shooting 50.4 per cent from the field, 45.4 per cent from 3-point range and 90.8 per cent from the foul line.
From the start of the season, Curry vowed to take his game to another level — and did he ever. Now, all that matters to him is staying healthy and leading the Warriors to another title.
Curry understands, and even embraces, the constant scrutiny that comes with being an MVP and playing on a championship team.
His pregame ballhandling routine alone draws huge crowds in every city, but it has been his long-range touch that has forced defences to extend — and has kids and adults alike throwing the ball up from anywhere. He made a record 402 3-pointers after no player had previously even hit 300 in a season.
“I want to be remembered as somebody that worked hard, that got the most out of my potential and talent and pushed the envelope,” Curry said. “I never really expected to change the game or spark a new way to play the game, because that’s the way I know how to play, and that’s what was in me when I started the game back when I was 5.”