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Stephen Curry consolidates his claim to a throne that has already been his for years

Long live the three-point king.

Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

History demands spectacle.

In the most storied arena in all of professional basketball — where his legend first inserted itself within the national consciousness nearly nine years ago — Stephen Curry finally drilled his 2,974th regular-season three-pointer of his career, surpassing Ray Allen as the most prolific three-point shooter of all time.

It didn’t come on a self-created three during an isolation possession. As is typical for a selfless superstar such as Curry, whose commitment to setting screens for his teammates and using his pull to generate open looks for them is arguably unprecedented, he sets a cross-screen for Andrew Wiggins underneath the rim, and subsequently runs on a “Zipper” action on his way to the perimeter.

The Kevon Looney “Zipper” screen is nonexistent, and Alec Burks manages to stick close to Curry. But as everyone knows by now, Curry doesn’t require a ton of space to get his shot off. Upon a flick of the wrist and a swish of the net, history is made:

In the official records, such a three was needed to confer the status of undisputed three-point king upon Curry. It was a coronation night of sorts, akin to the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte crowning himself Emperor of France by placing the crown upon his own head — symbolizing his hubris, arrogance, and confidence, but also serving as a statement of his own independence.

No one deserves to put the crown on my head but me, because I alone worked hard to get to where I am. I am a legend of my own making. This moment is mine, and mine alone.

Curry’s self-confidence and “arrogance” is nowhere near as grandiose, but his is also a legend largely of his own making. From a scrawny high-school kid that received few scholarship offers, to an undersized point guard that was projected to be nothing more than a “decent” NBA player, the deck was always stacked highly against him.

Curry not only climbed and surmounted the deck — he toppled it and created a new one that serves as the new standard of the modern NBA.

It is only appropriate that the pioneer of the NBA’s three-point revolution becomes the game’s three-point standard, a mark that should stand highly above everyone else — and one that everyone else should strive toward.

But will this record be ever truly broken?

Curry is in his age-34 season, and isn’t showing signs of marked decline. His style is predicated on deception, hand-eye coordination, and cardiovascular endurance, rather than pure athletic verticality, speed, and physicality.

His brand of superstar basketball is unique, a perfect blend of individual scoring excellence and a team-first approach that uses his hallowed “gravity” to create shots for his teammates. He is the engine that perpetually moves and fuels the overall machinery of the Golden State Warriors offense during the Steve Kerr era.

Such a skill-based playstyle has enabled Curry to somewhat prolong the tail end of his prime; by no means is he a spring chicken anymore, but he also isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

It is highly probable that Curry’s career can stretch all the way to his late thirties, maybe even early forties. He reached 2,974 threes in 789 regular-season games; Ray Allen’s 2,973 threes were accomplished over the course of 1300 regular-season games. Curry averages 229 threes per season; assuming he plays at least five more seasons and keeps the same pace or greater, he will have no problem with finishing his career with more than 4,000 threes.

At that point, it would take another generational talent with an even greater proficiency for hitting threes to break Curry’s record — which might not occur in this lifetime or the next.

James Harden (2,509) is closing in on Reggie Miller (2,560) for 3rd all time — but his pace and efficiency pale in comparison to Curry’s, and his recent track record in terms of health and longevity places doubt on the possibility of him catching up to a record that is yet to stop at its final configuration.

Klay Thompson (1,798, 21st) may have had the best chance of catching up to his Splash Brother — perhaps eventually surpassing him. But two years of lost time due to consecutive lower-leg injuries may have damaged his chances at the top spot. However, assuming Thompson returns to his old three-point-shooting form, an eventual top 5 placement is within the realm of possibility.

Trae Young is the fastest player to reach 400-career threes, accomplishing it in only 159 games. Longevity is a factor; Young is only 22 years old, with a long career ahead of him. But while Young already possesses the volume component of the equation — he averages 7.1 three-point attempts for his career — his career 34.9% shooting from beyond the arc, coupled with him having only 76 threes so far this season (Curry has 145), makes him clearly inferior in terms of efficiency.

Raw three-point makes serve as only one piece of a complex puzzle that paints the picture of Curry as the greatest shooter in all of basketball history.

Curry’s career 43.1% shooting from beyond the arc is currently 7th in the all-time rankings. His head coach, Kerr, is the king of that category, with his 45.4% three-point shooting standing head and shoulders above the rest. But out of all the players in the top 10 list of three-point shooting percentage, Curry blows the competition away in terms of attempts — his 8.7 three-point attempts per game is nearly twice that of Joe Harris’ 4.8 per game.

All-time 3P% leaders
Basketball Reference

As such, proper context must be applied to this situation. Curry may *only* be the 7th-most accurate three-point shooter in history, but being the epitome of the ideal marriage between volume and efficiency — something no other renowned shooter has managed to accomplish — makes him stratospherically better than the rest of the field.

It’s not just the amount of threes Curry has taken, nor is it only how efficient he’s been in making his threes — it’s also the different kinds of threes he has excelled at taking. He is unquestionably the most versatile three-point shooter the world has ever known. Whereas the likes of Allen and Reggie Miller excelled in catch-and-shoot and spot-up threes, Curry separates himself from his peers at the top of the list through his ability to create threes off the dribble and pull-up from virtually anywhere beyond the three-point line.

Such audacity typically breeds ridicule — but the level of equity and respect Curry has garnered throughout his career has earned him the greenest of green lights, a lifetime license to take whatever shot he wants, wherever he wants it to be, and whenever he deems it appropriate.

This season alone is a testament to Curry’s enduring three-point versatility and diverse three-point shot profile. Among 45 players who have attempted at least 60 pull-up threes, Curry is first in total attempts (198) and third in percentage (39.9%), per Second Spectrum tracking data.

Pull-up 3P%
Second Spectrum

While Curry’s catch-and-shoot percentage of 40.1% places him at a mere 50th out of 147 players who have attempted at least 60 catch-and-shoot threes, he continues to drill high-difficulty shots within tight confines and against defenders unwilling to give him the requisite space that most shooters need to get decent shots off.

Among 16 players who have attempted at least 40 three-point shots while being “tightly” guarded (i.e., closest defender is 2-4 feet away), Curry’s success rate blows the rest of the field away.

3P% when “Tightly” guarded

Curry has officially claimed his throne as the king of long-distance shooting. His 2,974th career three served as the crowning moment. Such a moment demanded the presence of pomp and circumstance, with three-point royalty present in the building, a proverbial red-carpet march toward the throne that is now rightfully his, and the NBA glitterati paying tribute to their new long-range overlord.

But Curry has already been sitting on such a throne. The versatility, the unlimited range, the fact that he has completely changed the game of basketball — all while winning three NBA championships and two MVP awards — have helped him consolidate and secure his kingdom, years before this historic moment solidified his claim and made it official.

There is no question left to answer, no asterisks necessary, and no doubt remaining: Stephen Curry was, is, and could very well forever be the one true king of the three-point shot.

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