There is no doubt that Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry is one of the greatest players of this generation and arguably the best shooter the sport has ever seen. But if the Warriors can defeat the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals, and earn him his fourth NBA championship, does he squeak into the true upper echelon of players in NBA history?
At 34-years-old, Curry’s legacy in the NBA is set. He could retire right now and hold many prestigious honors in the sport. He is easily the best player in Golden State Warriors history and helped turn a mostly mediocre franchise into a dynasty that will be compared in debates to the “Showtime Lakers,” 1990s Bulls, and the great Celtics squads for the next 20 years.
Curry will also go down as the king of three-pointers, and be looked at as one of the toughest covers in the league’s 75-year history. But more than all of that, he is a winner.
Golden State has had just four losing seasons in the 13 since Curry donned a Warriors jersey. Now, he is on the cusp of getting a fourth title. And in the end, winning — along with stats — is what separates the greats from the true immortals of the NBA.
So, with all his success and another title, is Stephen Curry among the top five greatest of all time? Let’s dissect the idea.
The NBA’s Mount Olympus
Every list of the greatest players in the league’s history is completely subjective, especially near the top. However, there are several names that should be in most top-five NBA rankings. And to know if Curry can break into this illustrious group you have to know what he’s up against.
Michael Jordan and Lebron James are two of the five best to ever play the game. Point blank, and period. After that, it gets a little more interesting. The other three names for many could very well feature a mix of the aforementioned duo, along with Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. However you mix or match it, these seven are likely in the majority of enthusiast’s top five.
No disrespect to legends like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, but the game in their time was not nearly as jam-packed with the absurd level of athleticism the above names competed against.
The case for Stephen Curry being in the top-5
Much of why Curry is a top-10 caliber player has already been mentioned. However, there are certain other intangibles about his run in the sport that elevates him beyond the All-Star mortals of his time.
Hate it or love it, Stephen Curry has had a massive effect on how the game is played in the league, in college, and in the streets. Without a shadow of a doubt, he is the greatest bad shot shooter in basketball history, and a couple of generations of players have since emulated it, with more on the way.
Curry has built a ridiculously successful career off of taking shots that would even get All-Stars benched. He is one of the few human beings ever that can go full video game mode on some of the best athletes on the planet. That can not be understated when making the case for top-five status.
Then there is the fact that Curry helped lead his team to four straight final appearances at the height of the Lebron James era. Facing the “King” on four occasions, and walking away with the trophy three times. There is no better proof of being an immortal than being successful against other NBA gods.
The case against the Golden State Warriors legend
As talented as Curry is, he didn’t do it on his own. Now, few great players win championships without other elite talents of their time. Jordan had Pippen. James had Dwayne Wade and Kyrie Irving. Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson had each other. Yet on the Warriors’ 2017 and 2018 championship teams, he probably was not their best player. Kevin Durant played at an even higher level than Curry during those seasons.
Then there is the fact that in 2016, Curry led a Warriors team that shockingly blew a 3-1 NBA Finals lead and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers — a team they were far better than. The Cavs were the only team in NBA history to achieve such a feat. That is a collapse of epic proportions.
There is also the fact that Curry was very much a one-way player, and could not dominate on both sides of the floor like some of the players in the top five. Plus, he played in an era heavily geared towards scoring and much of the physicality defenses could use back in the day to slow down great players was removed for much of his career.
If Curry can win a fourth title and be the MVP of the 2022 NBA Finals, his once-in-a-lifetime gifts as a scorer likely make him one of the five greatest to ever play the game. Making the list of the final five look something like so:
- Michael Jordan
- Lebron James
- Kobe Bryant
- Tim Duncan
- Stephen Curry