The Golden State Warriors just lost the NBA Finals. They just pulled off one of the best two-season stretches in NBA history. They are 171-37 since the start of the 2014-2015 season, including the playoffs. Somehow the narrative along the way has been that Stephen Curry, their most iconic player, is an underdog and underachieved in the Finals.Stephen Curry’s underdog story ended when he was a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Yes, he only had one Division 1 NCAA offer, but he comes from an NBA background (if you haven’t heard of his dad, Dell Curry, you haven’t been paying that close attention to the NBA lately) and he is a 6’3 point guard with the best shot the league has ever seen.
What makes him an underdog? He is not undersized and while nobody expected him to be a 2x MVP or lead two of the greatest regular seasons this generation has ever seen, he was a top-10 pick. Kobe Bryant was drafted 13th overall, I never heard anybody say Kobe was an underdog.
He also has not underachieved. While his regular season numbers are better than his NBA Finals averages, shouldn’t they be? The level of play in the NBA Finals is significantly higher than that of the regular season and it is not as if Steph completely disappeared. He just was not as dazzling as the premium player we are accustomed to.
In last year’s NBA Finals Steph averaged 26 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards. Despite those exceptional numbers and being the regular season MVP, the Bill Russell Award went to Andre Iguodala, even though he led the team in zero major statistical categories.
We did this because Iguodala became a starter in game four and the Warriors won every game from that point on. We ignore the fact that Steph outscored Igoudala in those 3 games, 84 to 47, and also had a greater plus/minus +56 to +46. Steph did plenty in that series.
In the 2015 Finals, Steph averaged 22 points , 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Meaning he was top-3 in all of those categories for his team while there were legitimate questions as to whether or not he was even healthy. No, his numbers are not overwhelming and more should be expected of him, but give him a break. He has been the best offensive player in the league for two straight years (LeBron is still the best overall player IMO) and the leader of an exceptional team.
Yes, Stephen Curry has had some forgettable playoff games, but he is still the best shooter in NBA history and his shooting is what makes the Warriors’ offense dynamic. He makes you commit your best perimeter-defender to extending their defense to the half-court symbol. He gives Klay the ability to be one of the league’s most prolific second options. He also let’s Shaun Livingston, one of the leagues 20-best point guards, come off the bench or play off-ball.
Steph’s ball handling and shooting are what make this team go. He can run the offense, come off screens or just be a great complementary piece. Steph can do it all offensively (except play in the post) and let’s not ignore that.
It is silly for us to even discuss whether or not Steph is performing at a high-enough level. Draymond Green is an elite defender, Klay Thompson is a great two-way player, and the Warriors role players are better than most starting lineups in the NBA, but none of them could operate with such freedom if Steph was not regularly lighting up the scoreboard from 35ft. out unlike anything we have ever seen.
Even when Steph is struggling, teams are extending their defense and changing the game plan because of him. They do that because you just do not know when a player like that will turn it on and you have to do everything you can to stop it.
You might feel like Stephen Curry is the leagues humble superstar, but you would be wrong. Steph is cocky and talented and he knows it. You might think he is an underdog, but he expects to be here. He just wont say it. Steph has all the confidence in the world. You can see it every time he runs down the court while his shot is still in the air or when he pumps up the crowd after making a big 3. You might think Steph is cute and nice, but he is as big and bad as point guards come and it is fun to watch.