Warriors

Curry's torrid stretch invokes Bonds memories 20 years later

Warriors
Steph Curry Barry Bonds

Steph Curry has allowed sportswriters to open their pocket and pull out their book of clichés time and time again. Now we find ourselves fumbling over our words, flipping through the pages while looking for what fits something the basketball world never has seen before. 

Two NBA MVPs, three championships and a highlight reel too long for a Martin Scorsese film. We've seen the Steph Curry Show before. We've only seen this one other time.

Curry is turning the unthinkable into the norm during his dominant stretch run over his first 10 games in the month of April. For Bay Area sports fans, this has been 20 years in the making. Not since Barry Bonds was chasing Mark McGwire's home run record in 2001 has an athlete captured fans quite like this. 

Bonds entered September of the 2001 season with 57 home runs through 126 games. He needed 14 homers in September/October to break McGwire's record of 70 homers. At the time, his Giants also were 74-61. The Arizona Diamondbacks were 78-57, sitting atop the NL West. 

And then Bonds went nuclear. 

He hit .403 with a 1.685 OPS and launched 16 home runs in 27 games in September/October to end the regular season with 73 homers. Bonds broke the single-season home run record in his first at-bat on Oct. 5, 2001, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, blasting a deep fly over the wall in Triples Alley. He followed that up with his second home run of the night in his second at-bat, homering again off Chan Ho Park in the third inning. 

 

Curry in April is breaking records on a nightly basis, passing greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Chris Mullin and many more. He's averaging 40.8 points per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 50.3 percent from 3-point range, while hoisting up over 14 attempts from deep every night. Curry also is shooting 90.9 percent on his free throws.

No. 30 quite literally has created the 50/50/90 club. 

Double-teams aren't enough, neither are triple-teams at times. Curry crosses halfcourt and it's game over. You almost have to expect him to cock his right elbow and let it fly the moment his toes tap the logo. 

“I’ve seen Kobe Bryant, early in his career, he had a stretch where he went nuts,” coach Steve Kerr said after Curry dropped 49 points Monday night. “Obviously, Michael Jordan has some stretches where he scored like crazy.

“But nobody’s ever shot the ball like this, in the history of the game. Even by Steph’s own lofty standards, this is above and beyond.”

Bonds was intentionally walked eight times in 27 games (25 starts) to close out the 2001 regular season, and totaled 38 walks in that span. Teams would much rather let Bonds unstrap his elbow guard and strut down to first base than face Jeff Kent, who was the reigning NL MVP that season and wound up with 33 homers himself in 2001. There would be games when Bonds would get no more than a handful of pitches even thrown in the strike zone. 

At least one of those landed in the bleachers or McCovey Cove on most occasions. 

On May 28, 1998, Buck Showalter was the manager of the D-backs at the time and opted to intentionally walk Bonds with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning with his team leading 8-6. It was the right call, too. The next batter, Brent Mayne, lined out to end the game in favor of an 8-7 Arizona win. 

"He wasn’t Barry Bonds so you had to pick your poison," Showalter said of Mayne when talking with NBC Sports Bay Area's Jessica Kleinschmidt in October of 2020.

That's how opponents feel about the Warriors right now. Anyone but Curry. The Warriors are just 6-4 in the 10 April games he has played in. They're destined for the play-in tournament, but Curry does have them rising in the standings, entering Wednesday as the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference. 

Golden State is just two games back of the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks, and 3.5 back of the No. 6 seed Portland Trail Blazers with 14 games remaining in the regular season. 

What gets lost in Bonds bashing home runs No. 71 and No. 72 that October night against the Dodgers is the Giants actually lost 11-10. He went 2-for-3 with two homers and two walks, and yet his Herculean efforts still came up short. 

 

The Giants finished the 2001 regular season 90-72, still two games behind Arizona, failing to make the playoffs. 

RELATED: Seven incredible stats that highlight Steph's unreal run

Similarities between Bonds and Curry's seasons 20 years apart are impossible to ignore. It's also impossible to ignore their differences. While Bonds, like so many other baseball players at that time, has been accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs, Curry has turned his body from a string-beaned, baby-faced assassin to a chiseled veteran at 33 years old. Bonds often times felt like a villain in the public eye. Curry is beloved by all. 

When it comes to capturing a crowd and changing the game, the Bay Area hasn't seen what Curry is doing since the days of Bonds. They had an aura, a light, a swag, an intimidation factor in the most opposite ways possible. And still, they terrified their opponents. 

The moment Bonds dug his left foot in the batter's box, he might as well have begun jogging down the first base line for a walk or another long ball soaring through the San Francisco fog. 

When Steph taps his chest and points to the sky moments before tip-off, it's a silent message to his scared opponents: Lock in, it's going to be a long night.

Both changed the game in respective ways. Bonds with his powerful swing, Curry with his 3-point stroke. They left us on the edge of our seats, falling over at times. They leave us speechless, looking for the right words to describe the unthinkable. 

Good luck finding them. Opposing teams didn't have answers, and neither do we. 

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