The Year of the GOAT?
One of the unwritten rules of NBA basketball since the 90's is that you can't say anyone is a better player than Michael Jordan. Jordan played a huge role in making the NBA what it is today and absolutely dominated the league in winning six titles. It goes without saying today that Jordan is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), but Stephen Curry's performance this year is starting to make people think about how the conversation might go five to ten years from now if Curry sustains the jaw-dropping level of play we're witnessing this year.
Episode 34 of The Bill Simmons Podcast from Friday is aural bliss for Warriors fans. In addition to featuring the always hilarious Joe House, the podcast covers the absurdity of Kobe Bryant continuing to play over 30 minutes a game this year as well as the brilliance of Stephen Curry and the then 20-0 (now 23-0) Warriors. Simmons lists 20 statistics as evidence that Steph just rattled off the best 20 game stretch in the history of the NBA. As of this morning, Curry is averaging 32 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Who was the last person to average those numbers for a full season? Michael Jeffrey Jordan during the 1989-1990 season.
Simmons also brings up the 50/40/90 club (a player shooting at least 50% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, and 90% from the free throw line in one season), noting that Curry could potentially create a 52/45/95 club this year, of which he would be the only member in NBA history. Continuing, he says that it's feasible that Curry could end up in the 50/40/90 club for his CAREER, let alone an individual season. These staggering numbers lead to the suggestion that Curry would have to be a part of the GOAT discussion someday if he keeps this up and the Warriors go on to win additional championships.
ESPN's Sam Alipour asked Curry in this interview whether he wants to go down as the GOAT. While acknowledging the loftiness of such a goal, Curry confirmed that it's a goal of his. But he said that he wanted to do so in his own way, which is interesting because Curry's leadership style is a direct contrast to Jordan's. Reggie Miller describes the difference bluntly in this piece in the New Yorker. While Jordan was known to antagonize teammates in hopes of channeling their anger so that they would compete harder, Curry uses the opposite approach to build up his teammates and reinforce their confidence. Jordan's Machiavelian approach to leadership elicited fear among his teammates, but Curry has adopted the four key values of joy, compassion, mindfulness, and competition that Coach Steve Kerr instilled in the team. That's what Curry is referring to when he tells Alipour that the team's focus is more on enjoying what they are doing together as a team than anything else. And one look at the Warriors' bench during a game confirms pretty quickly that they've been successful in that pursuit.
All that to say, wherever Curry ends up on the list of the game's greatest, he'll get there in a unique way that is built upon his ability to get the best out of not only himself but also of his teammates. And it's beautiful to watch, so mind Simmons' words of caution to be sure to enjoy Stephen Curry while we have him. There's talk lately about how Curry will inspire a new generation of incredible shooters with great handles capable of draining three pointers from 30 feet. But there will never be another Steph Curry, Simmons warns. Treasure his artistry today because it will not be repeated by another player. GOAT or not, he is in the midst of what could be the greatest season we've ever seen.
Klay's Ankle: Klay Thompson is listed as questionable for Friday's game against the Boston Celtics. It seems as though everyone, including Thompson, is optimistic that he won't miss much time as a result of the injury. Thompson also has a great sarcastic response toward the end of this clip to the question of whether Curry has improved this year. Um, yeah, I think he's a little better this year than last...
All-Stars Needed to Stop Small Ball Death Squad: ESPN analyst Tim Legler went through an absurd exercise of finding the five NBA players best suited to handle the Warriors lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodola, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. Good luck making that happen, NBA teams. My money is still on the Small Ball Death Squad.
Say Yes: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an environmental impact report for the Warriors' new arena on a 10-0 vote and rejected an appeal from an opposition group. The opposition group is still expected to file a lawsuit to hold up construction.
Streaking Is Fun: Regardless of how you measure the Warriors' win streak, Tim Kawakami encourages fretful fans to stop worrying about it so much! The Warriors don't need to win more than 33 straight games to win a title or prove its place among the best teams in history. We should enjoy the ride here because there's not a lot at stake other than a fun record. The team is sticking to its player rotations, so nobody is playing too many minutes and risking fatigue. This should be a fun thing to watch. And when a loss eventually comes the Warriors' way, a new streak will begin.