Why Stephen Curry is the greatest NBA player of all time

After outscoring greats like Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry is only in competition with himself.

Meryl D'Souza March 14, 2016

Stephen Curry turns 28 today. You wouldn’t realise it if you saw him. He looks like a teenager knocking on puberty’s door. But they don’t call him the baby-faced assassin for nothing.

What is it with these baby faces? It’s downright annoying to see them dominate sports like this. The case with Stephen Curry is far more befuddling. This guy wasn’t even a star three years ago. He hadn’t even finished in the top five in the MVP voting before he won it in 2015.

His rise has been so bewildering that despite being the MVP for the 2014-2015 season, going into this season, the NBA’s general managers voted him fifth most likely to win the MVP award. You can sneer at their grave miscalculations now, but you can’t blame them for being cautious. This kid came out of nowhere.

Back in 2009, when Curry was nothing more than a lanky teenager from Davidson College, Golden State Warriors took him on with the seventh overall pick. Many didn’t think of this guy as a sure bet but he was still presented with a $12.7 million contract over four years. At the time, he even signed a sneaker contract with Nike.

After four seasons of rather tepid performances and constant time on the sidelines due to injury, Nike decided not to extend Curry’s contract in 2013. That’s when Under Armour came swooping in with a $4 million-a-year contract. Overlooking all his injuries, the Golden State Warriors offered Curry a four-year $44 million contract extension. The gamble paid off for both Under Armour and the Warriors. 

Those figures are important. Curry may be the best player on the court right now, but that doesn’t reflect on his bank account. The 28-year-old takes home about $11.4 million a year. Now that’s no small paycheque, but compared to rivals Kobe Bryant ($25 million) and LeBron James ($23 million) that’s a steal.

This is no ordinary player. The point guard is already scoring better than Michael Jordan ever did. His team is on course to beat the Chicago Bulls’ 1995-96 regular-season record of 72 wins (Golden State have 53 wins with 24 games left). He’s obliterated the record for consecutive three-pointers: he’s now scored from beyond the arc in 129 consecutive games. He’s even surpassed his own record of total three-pointers in a single season and yet is considered one of the most unselfish players in the world.

Who the hell knew who Steph Curry was until a few seasons ago? He was never sold to us as the heir to Michael Jordan. We were given LeBron James for that. Steph was never on the horizon. We all missed him. Perhaps because the shots were coming in from beyond that horizon.

Going unnoticed and being overlooked is exactly what made Stephen Curry. Virginia Tech - where his parents were star athletes – passed on him despite his desire to play college ball for them. Being written off by sections of the media after a rash of injuries, Nike choosing to let him go; all of this turned him into the star he is today. 

The perseverance isn’t the only thing that made him. The ball-handling, the ability to pass and finish with both hands around the rim and his reading of the game, you couldn’t see any of that when he first started. The reigning MVP worked hard at all those things.

“I was playing about four minutes a night, and he was probably playing 38, 40 minutes a night, and I would stay after every day because I had a non-guaranteed contract," said Atlanta Hawks wing Kent Bazemore, talking about his rookie season with the Warriors.

"I would stay after every day, maybe 30, 45 minutes after practice. I’d be at one basket; he’d be at the other basket. It [grew] to a competition to see who’d leave first. That’s just how hard he went."

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that Curry has a lot in common with a baby-faced assassin from football: Lionel Messi. Yes Messi has five Ballon d’Ors to Curry’s two (by the end of this season) MVPs, but like the Argentine, Curry doesn’t look like much of a threat.

It’s only once he takes to the field that he turns into a relentless, merciless monster. But unlike Messi, Curry came in without warning and took the world by storm.