Until the Warriors pulled into Madison Square Garden eight years ago this week, Steph Curry was little more than an NBA rumor, a scrawny kid trying to grow facial hair and survive in a grown-man league after being, like so many others, a big star at a small college.
Some had heard about this Steph Curry kid. A few had seen highlights. Even fewer seemed to fully grasp what they were seeing.
Was he real?
The proof came on Feb. 27, 2013, when Curry emerged from rumor, bypassed myth and became certified reality.
Playing all 48 minutes of a national-TV game inside the NBA’s most fabled arena, before the league’s most discerning fans, Curry scored a career-high 54 points, 27 in each half. He outscored his teammates 54-51.
He made 18-of-28 shots. It was his first game with 11 3-pointers, and he required only 13 attempts.
He had 23 points in the second quarter and 38 through three before adding 16 in the fourth, including 12 that came on 4-of-4 shooting from distance. Curry concedes this as a night he always remembers when coming to the Garden, where the Warriors and Knicks will play Tuesday night.
“My teammates were treating me like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter,” Curry told reporters on that night.
He performed with such charm and grace that even the sight of him shimmying on their floor was greeted with cheers from Knicks fans.
“There was a lot of energy in the arena,” Curry said. “When I made a couple shots you could hear the crowd a little bit. It was electric, and I was kind of running off adrenaline down the stretch.”
Jarrett Jack at that time was Golden State’s trusted veteran. This was his eighth season in the NBA, his first with the Warriors. He had played against Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, and been teammates with several elite shooters, including Peja Stojakovic.
This, though, was a whole new level.
“We were just getting out of his way and letting him do his thing,” Jack said that night. “I just thanked him, because I have never been part of anything like that in my life.”
By delivering such a spectacular show in the Garden, especially then, when the Knicks were a quality team, Curry ensured his name would be placed on the international marquee.
One season later, Curry made his first All-Star team. Two seasons later, he won his first MVP award. Three seasons later, in 2015-16, he became the league’s first unanimous MVP and began a run of three consecutive years when his jersey sold more than any other.
By which time Curry was an NBA revolutionary of such status that only a shortened first name was needed to confirm his identity.
That night in New York, Curry was four months into a four-year contract worth $44 million, a deal that essentially meant the Warriors were his team. Midway through the contract, he was the most underpaid player in the league.
Though he had done some remarkable things earlier, Curry issued a warning under the bright lights of the New York stage that he was not your typical star or superstar. His impact compelled players and coaches at all levels to study the basketball arithmetic and take advantage of the space beyond the arc.
The Garden is where stars to go shine. It’s where Michael Jordan always wanted to make a statement, and usually did. It’s where Kobe often earned applause from fans who detested the Lakers.
It’s where Curry became a household name. The Warriors over the next few days were deluged with interview requests from all over the planet, folks wanting a piece of this 24-year-old who had outscored his teammates 54-51.
Curry is back in the Big Apple, this time without a full house at the Garden. For the first time this season, however, the Knicks are approved to allow up to 10 percent of capacity, roughly 2,000 fans. That doesn’t make the building any less sacred to ballers.
“Being back on the Warriors, Steph’s crazy night here back in 2012 ... just some of the memories,” Kent Bazemore, who was on the 2012-13 Warriors, recalled Monday. “I had a game-winner here a couple years ago with Atlanta.
“It’s still MSG. It’s still the mecca, still the place where every kid on the East Coast, the whole country, wants to play. It’s still one of the most historic arenas in all of sports.”
That the Knicks won the game, 109-105, surely is remembered by many at MSG that night. What they cherish most, though, is having a seat on the night the world saw Curry punch his ticket to the limited-capacity suite of the NBA penthouse.