A Fresh Look At Steph Curry’s Place Among The Stars

The media gravy train is over for Steph Curry. After a couple years of mostly adoring press coverage the two-time MVP is now coming under serious heat. It’s said he’s no longer the best player in the world, and that he disappears in big moments. How much of this, if any, is fair? And where does Steph Curry fit in the ultimate pantheon of NBA greatness? Let’s take the topics in order…

*He’s No Longer “The Best Player In The World”: My problem with this critique is that Curry never was the best player in the world to begin with. I think a big distinction has to be made between this and the MVP. Winning an MVP award is an acknowledgement of greatness over a specific 82-game period. It is not a prediction of future greatness nor a reflection on past excellence. It simply is what it is, and Curry was undeniably the MVP in each of the past two seasons.

The “best player in the world” is more intangible. To me, it suggests that this is the first player you’d pick in a game or series that we’re starting from scratch. And to me, the elevation of Curry over LeBron was always insane. I wrote as much in early May in saying why I thought Cleveland would win the NBA title.

I further thought it was crazy when people in LeBron’s camp were reported to be annoyed that Curry was not held to the same standard as James when it came to bad games in the playoffs. The difference between the two players is obvious.

LBJ is a unique physical specimen, anointed as the future king of the NBA from the moment he came out of high school. Curry, even after leading Davidson to a regional final in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, was an NBA project. Could the little 6-footer even make it in the league? You can’t hold him and LeBron to the same standard.

But in fairness to LeBron’s entourage, the media was pushing the Curry as “the best player in the world” storyline and if that’s going to be the case, then the standards have to be the same. This is an area where I think the mainstream media needs to look at themselves and realize they gave Curry a burden that he’s not built to bear and perhaps engage in more self-criticism than criticism of the player.

He Disappears In Big Moments: Curry has not played well in either of the last two NBA Finals and this time his team couldn’t bail him out. I think this is directly related to the points made above. He can’t physically overwhelm people to get his shot the way LeBron can. He can’t shoot over any defender, regardless of height, the way Kevin Durant can. Curry is going to have off-nights and because of his size is a little one-dimensional. So the criticism is true, but I wonder if it shouldn’t have been expected to begin with.

Where Does Curry Fit: It’s time to simply remove Curry from comparisons to players like LeBron or Durant and in a historical picture from any discussion with the best players of all-time (though in fairness, I don’t think any media member went that far). Curry belongs in a category with Steve Nash and Isiah Thomas. Like Nash, Curry is a two-time MVP. Like Isiah, he’s the leader of an outstanding team that has at least one ring. Right now, I’d have Curry above Nash, but behind Isiah.

Ultimately, the biggest point is that Steph Curry is a wonderful player, the best shooter of all-time. But his physical limitations mean that putting him in a category with the greatest all-around players in the game sets him up for failure. That’s what happened in the NBA Finals.