OAKLAND – The one-man revolution has become basketball’s evolution. The game now has a clearly defined game within the game, which ensures it’ll never be looked at as it was for the better part of a century.
It’s all because of one man who happens to combine a voracious pursuit of greatness with a gentle façade that invites the world.
Stephen Curry is the new edition, The Revolutionary. He is rewriting basketball, as we knew it, at the rate McDonald’s throws patties on the grill. His latest revision ranks not merely as one of his most impressive but also conceivably the most extraordinary within the sport of basketball and maybe any other sport.
Curry on Tuesday was named the NBA’s MVP – unanimously. There are 131 voters, and Curry was the No. 1 choice every ballot. This is a first, and maybe a last. To understand the magnitude, scroll past the legends of the game and consider those who were denied.
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Pettit. LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal.
Now consider those who won once or never at all: Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.
Legends all, and Curry – less heralded than all of them – now perches on a higher individual peak.
They’re all great, yet Curry has gone where they have not. Leave to Steve Nash, a two-time MVP, to create a space that only Curry occupies.
“You could say the same thing about a lot of MVPs, that they will their team to victory,” Nash said as Curry was presented with his award Tuesday. “They're leaders. They come and they're professional every day and they excel.
“But one of the things I think of when I think of Steph, is that when we look at our league and our game, you can see over a 10- or maybe 20-year period how the game has evolved and changed. But I've never seen it evolve in six months like he's shown us this year with the dexterity and ability to shoot quickly from all over the court, in any direction, the speed and range has changed the game of basketball.”
Magic changed the game, for some. Dr. J and Michael changed the game, for few. Iverson allowed “little” players to dream. Curry is changing the game for players and coaches and scouts and fans.
Curry is that rare athlete who engages many who could not care less. He is creating fans among folks who didn’t know 3-point shot from a 3-point stance. Some still don’t. But they love Steph.
“He’s identifiable; he’s relatable,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “Maybe that’s his size and stature; he’s not dominating in appearance. He’s also got an easygoing way, which makes him approachable.”
That, and his many humanitarian causes, accounts for the broad appeal. Yet those within the game also are amazed by what Curry does on the court. He rarely ceases to electrify or astound.
That’s because of Curry’s mesmerizing ball-handling exploits. It’s also because of his ability to absorb punishment and bounce back up. It’s because he can score in so many fascinating ways, most notably with a 3-point shot that ignites the Warriors and their fans while demoralizing opponents and their followers.
[RELATED: Steph Curry's full MVP ceremony transcript]
That’s the revolution that has become evolution. Curry has brought a new math to basketball and suddenly everybody must recognize its advantages, beginning with the arithmetic that three is more than two.
One year after making a record 286 3-pointers, Curry this season made 402. He was the first to make more than 270, the first to surpass 280 and the only one to get acquainted with 400.
The 3-pointer has shot to the top of the list for coveted scoring ability. That’s Curry. And voters clearly acknowledged this and more on their ballots.
“I guess I’m surprised it was unanimous, but I would have been surprised if somebody voted against him,” Myers said.
“I thought it would be near unanimous,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I thought there’d be one or two clever people out there that would make some kind of a statement. I equated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame: ‘If Babe Ruth can’t be a unanimous Hall of Fame selection, then who is?’
“People reward winning. And the fact that we won 73 (games), combined with his ridiculous statistics and overall performance and consistency, everybody got it right.”
Yes, they did. Perhaps because they sense the shift, feel the hoops winds blowing in a different direction. The future is here, and it is Curry who delivered it.
“It's a testament to his joy and love of the game and how hard he's worked,” Nash said of Curry’s MVP. “It will be interesting to see how kids are inspired by his play.”