NEW YORK – Stephen Curry is king of the 3-point shot, ascending to the top in record time Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. He needed only 789 games to make the 2,974th of his career.
The man Curry passed, Ray Allen, required 1,300 games to reach 2,973.
The man Allen passed in 2011, Reggie Miller, extended his career to 1,389 games before retiring with 2.560.
Curry, 33, remains very much in his prime. Which may be, in part, why he finally is ready to embrace the title of “best shooter ever,” a title previously came with some unease.
“I got that baby,” Curry said, arms aloft.
His longtime teammate, Draymond Green, seconded that opinion.
“I always say that not often do you have the opportunity to interact with somebody great at something – let alone go to work with someone that is the absolute best at something,” Green said. “That’s a very rare thing because there are very few people that are the best.
“Steph is the best to ever shoot a basketball and we get the opportunity to go to work with him every day.”
To note the speed with which Curry zoomed past Hall of Famers Miller and Allen leads to a conclusion that seems obvious: Steph benefitted from playing in a different era, at a time when the 3-point shot was much more integral to the game than it was during the NBA lengthy careers of Miller (1987-2005) or Allen (1996-2014).
This is true – but it’s because of Curry.
“It’s a different game, obviously, but Steph made it a different game,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose playing career intersected with both Miller and Allen.
Curry is at once basketball’s most effective revolutionary and the greatest shooter of all time.
There is no rational argument against it. At age 33, still in his prime, he is the revolutionary superstar, the individual most responsible for the styles and schemes proliferating at every level, regardless of gender, of today’s game.
The rules regarding shooting have not changed. The distance of the 3-point shot did not get shorter; to the contrary, it is longer now that it was for three years in the mid-1990s. Miller played three seasons with the shorter distance, and Allen played one.
So, no, the game of basketball did not wake up one morning feeling inventive and decide to make the 3-pointer a central component of the game.
“I’ve been able to experience a lot in this game,” Curry said. “But the bar that was set by Ray and the fact that I could get there in the amount of games that I did, and shoot the percentage that I did, that’s something I’m really proud of.
“The record is special, and we’ll see how far I can push it, but the combination of both of those things and how quickly it happened, to me, is owning that journey.”
Curry bent the game to his will in ways no one ever has. Displaying a brassy new way to play, expanding range and increasing frequency, Curry opened minds previously shuttered, perhaps beholden to tradition. It didn’t take long for others see the benefits and follow.
He did not spur a change in basic league rules, as Wilt Chamberlain did, but Curry’s relentless and proficient use of his skills ushered in a strategic approach.
Kerr pointed out that Miller and Allen were “pioneers” at making greater use of the 3-ball, that such coaches as Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni trended in that direction.
“There have been figures along the way who have pushed the ball forward,” Kerr said. “But Steph is the guy who just grabbed it and ran with it. He’s changed the way the game is played and the way young players think about the game, the way the entire league feels about the shot.”
Of course. If the purpose of the game is to score more points than the opponent, it seems so logical to exploit the basic principle of addition. Three will always be better than two.
Curry was not the first to understand the math. He was the first with the combination of skill and desire to make it work in his favor to such a degree that others were compelled to follow.
That’s a sign of a true GOAT.