Only a few days ago the Lakers stunned the Warriors by blowing them out 117-97 while Stephen Curry shot 0-for-10 on three pointers and 5-for-17 overall. Most people saw this as an anomaly. However due to their slow start to the season there was a small corner of social media which saw this as an opportunity to criticise the Warriors and their leader who is supposed to be the greatest shooter of all time.
Last night against New Orleans the reigning MVP bounced back in dramatic fashion setting a new record for the most three point shots made in a single game. Shooting 76% from deep Stephen Curry made 13 three pointers on the night. How's that for a response?
As a fan when you see Curry shimmying down the court or performing a celebratory dance after a great play you could be fooled into thinking he's just "playful" or "messing around", perhaps even arrogant. And you would be right. However, some people mistake Curry having fun for Curry being soft. They mistakenly assume that he's not a cold blooded killer on the hardwood.
In a lot of ways Curry won the genetic lottery. Perhaps he’s not freakishly tall like some NBA players and he might not be an athletic monster like LeBron James. But his mother was a volleyball and basketball star at Virginia Tech while his father is a former NBA player. As many people have noted being the son of a well connected millionaire and former professional basketball player isn't the normal starting point for an underdog story.
The son of a multimillionaire professional athlete is the real underdog in my honest opinion https://t.co/m4l9erFQTa— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) 1 November 2016
And yet, despite all of this, Curry has been doubted for most of his basketball career.
We've all heard his story, this isn't new and yet somehow it seems like people have forgotten: nobody expected any of this from Curry and you can see his joy in proving people wrong.
Coming out of high school top colleges didn’t recruit him, he famously ended up playing for Davidson College and nearly led them to the final four of the NCAA championship. That was an early sign of how Curry would respond to criticism and doubt.
Then he declared for the NBA draft, and NBA scouts were no less doubtful about Curry's potential, as described by NBADraft.net
Too small to be a shooting guard but not a skilled enough leader to play the point guard. Not capable of defending at the next level. Shoots too much. Not a great finisher due to his size. These were all things that a lot of scouts and analysts echoed leading up to the draft.
And all the skeptics were wrong.
Note how they didn't think he was capable of running a team, was a volume shooter and a poor finisher at the rim among many other things.
For someone who was predicted to be a poor finisher at the rim in the professional level, it's amazing that he turned out to be the best finisher around the rim at his position last season.
For someone who was expected to struggle while adjusting to not being a volume shooter it's surprising that Curry just had the most efficient season of any player to have ever lead the league in scoring. Below is a table of a select few league leaders in scoring throughout NBA history comparing their true shooting percentage (TS%).
Now granted, nobody really saw Curry transforming into the player that he is today. However it shows yet again that when people doubt him, he excels.
Most Warriors fans will remember the 2011-2012 season as the year of Curry's injury woes. He suffered from a severe ankle injury after multiple sprains in the prior season this lead up to the tearing of a ligament that required surgical repair during the offseason. During the season the ankle failed him again, multiple times. He sprained the same ankle during preseason as well as later in the year against San Antonio. A month later he strained the tendon in that same foot and in April he went under the knife again for his second surgery on the same ankle in less than a year.
Curry was labeled as "injury prone".
Before the start of the 2012-13 season Curry signed a four year contract worth $44 million dollars. Many NBA writers considered this to be incredibly risky.
Grant Hughes on Fansided stated "The Golden State Warriors shouldn’t give Stephen Curry a big contract extension yet. If he wants to agree to a deal well below market rate (somewhere in the range of four years and $30 million), great! Sign him up. But if he’s looking for anything approaching max money (something like five years for $45 million), forget it."
While Scott Howard-Cooper wrote "An average of $11 million a year is definitely reasonable for Curry. This was no low ball. This was the Warriors taking on financial risk with a player who is clearly talented, but who has also been knocked from the lineup five times the last two regular seasons, not counting similar problems in past exhibition play. He would get hurt running downcourt without being touched. He had surgery on the right ankle in April. He hurt it again this preseason, though in a collision, and was held out of games."
A few months later Curry went on to score a career high 54 points against the New York Knicks. He set a franchise record with the most three pointers made in a single game and broke the NBA record for most three pointers scored in a single season. The Warriors made the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years; they upset the 3rd seed Denver Nuggets and pushed San Antonio to six games in the conference semi final before being eliminated.
Curry responded to the concerns and doubts over his health in a monumental way; missing just 13 games in the last four seasons after missing 40 games in 2012.
After an amazing 2015 season where he won his first ever MVP award as well as breaking his own record in most three pointers made in a season and successfully running the gauntlet to win his first NBA Championship - they said he had "gotten lucky".
He was lucky to still be healthy. Lucky to have won MVP over James Harden. Lucky to win the NBA Championship against an undermanned Cleveland squad. He was an anomaly. An exception to the rule.
Curry heard this. He mockingly responded to the criticism with an "apology" stating; "I apologize for us being healthy, I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I'm very, truly sorry, and we'll rectify that situation this year."
More doubt. More fuel.
2016 was a special season for Curry that will go down as one of the greatest of all time. The list of Curry's accomplishments during this last season is almost never-ending regardless I've collated some of my favourites;
- Curry scored 40 points in the season opener, the most points scored by a reigning MVP in a season opener since 1972 (Kareem Abdul Jabbar).
- He became the first player since Michael Jordan to total 118 points in the first three games of the season.
- The Warriors, led by Curry, set the record for the best start to a season in NBA history with 24 consecutive wins.
- Curry tied the record for the most three pointers made in a single game in a intense victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the shot that tied the record also happened to be a spectacular game winner.
- He became the first player in league history to average 30 points per game while joining the 50-40-90 club. For those who don't know the 50-40-90 club consists of players who average 50% from the field, 40% on three pointers and 90% on free throws for an entire season. The chart below shows the other members of the 50-40-90 club and how many points they averaged per game.
- Curry was also the first player to ever average 30 points per game while playing less than 35 minutes per game.
- He smashed his own three point record, nearly doubling the record from the previous year scoring 40% more three pointers.
- He was the first ever unanimous MVP.
- Oh, and last but by no means least, the Warriors won 73 games, the most in NBA history.
With such a magnificent regular season winding down the Warriors were optimistic about their odds of repeating as NBA champions. The playoffs rolled around and fans grimaced as Curry slipped in the first round, spraining his MCL. He was done. It was over. Even if the Warriors made it out of the first two rounds without him he probably wouldn't be able to return in time. However, with the Warriors advanced to the second round and while they were up 2-1 Curry did make his return. Finishing the game with 40 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while also setting the playoff record for the most points scored by a single player in overtime.
Then the Warriors choked.
Or maybe the Cavs "got lucky". Either way the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead and Cleveland won their first ever NBA Championship. LeBron "the King" James returned to his land victorious.
Social media, fans, analysts and former players have since reveled in the Warriors misery. Taunting and teasing at every opportunity. Perhaps deservedly so.
But it strikes me as foolish. After all of this, they insist on pissing off Stephen Curry. They insist on doubting him like people have always done. For some reason they still haven't learned that he responds to such criticism in a way few players could. So I say keep the criticism coming. Keep calling Curry a choker. Keep calling him "just a shooter". Keep doubting his ability.
Based on his history and the way he's responded to people doubting him throughout his career, how do you think he's going to respond to this latest label?
73 wins but no championship ring? Like he says in his latest Under Armour commercial; "Now I'll make that old"