The Golden State Warriors have gotten off to a flying start in the NBA 2015-16 season, going on a 36-6 record. The captain and undisputed leader is none other than the dynamic point guard, Stephen Curry.
Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry II is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Curry plays mostly at point guard. He is the son of former NBA player, Dell Curry.
Curry played college basketball for Davidson College. There, he was twice named Southern Conference Player of the Year and set the all-time scoring record for both Davidson and the Southern Conference. During his sophomore year, Curry also set the single-season NCAA record for three-pointers made.
Curry was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. During the 2012–13 season, he set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a regular season with 272. The next season, Curry and teammate Klay Thompson set an NBA record for combined threes in a season with 484and the pair was given the nickname the “Splash Brothers”.
Curry, 26, is the eldest son of Dell Curry, who himself shot 40.2 percent from three-point range during a 16-year NBA career, mostly in Charlotte, that ended in 2002. From a very young age, Steph learned how to shoot at the knee of a master, throwing tiny tantrums when he couldn’t accompany his father to Hornets practice — not because he wanted to see his dad’s famous friends but because he wanted to work on his shot. Much like that of Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds and Peyton Manning before him, Steph’s drive to perfect the complex mechanics of his sport was born from a powerful, subconscious urge to mimic, and then metamorphose, his father’s smooth and vertical three-pointer.
The following second-by-second description shows how much Curry has grown as a player and what he has brought to the table this season, to make sure that the Warriors are the most formidable team in the league.
It all beings with a missed field goal attempt by the Los Angeles Clippers,
The yellow digits of the Staples Center game clock blink down to 6:35 as Clippers guard Willie Green’s three-pointer from the right corner sails exactly where his feet are pointed. The shot ricochets, hard, off the front of the rim to the backboard and into the waiting hands of Golden State’s Draymond Green, who lands, turns and pushes the ball to guard Steph Curry. In the next seven seconds of the second quarter, Curry will reveal the art and science behind the best shot in NBA history.
Gliding toward halfcourt, Curry turns his left shoulder back to Green and catches the pass softly with his right hand, letting gravity bring the ball down to the first key: his dribble.
Curry’s first dribble up court is in front of his right foot. In between his first and second dribbles, he surveys the court. A perfect diamond has formed. Teammate Steve Blake is flying up the left wing, while Clippers guard Darren Collison trails Curry by two steps down the middle. Curry doesn’t care about either right now. He’s reading the huge bright-blue sneakers of the lone man back on defense, 6’9″ Danny Granger; he’s waiting, hoping, that the forward will instinctively sag down from the top of the key to protect the rim of his home court from an easy layup or, worse, a thunderous dunk.
This is where Curry’s preternatural poise, instincts and intelligence manifest themselves: in his shot selection. As Larry Bird once did, Curry seems to understand what a defender will do before the player himself knows. It’s an increasingly crucial skill, given that desperate defenses, like that of the Clippers at this moment, often will try to disrupt the slight Curry (6’3″, 185 pounds) before he finds his shooting rhythm. “Everyone else reacts, Curry anticipates and reads, brilliantly,” says David Thorpe, ESPN NBA analyst and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla. “That’s where Steph is best, maybe the best in the NBA: finding that opening where there doesn’t appear to be one. That’s the art in all this because it doesn’t matter how great your shot is or how pure your mechanics are if you can’t ever get open.”
Curry still isn’t sure about Granger. He needs to be. This is an important shot for the Warriors. They’ve missed 12 of their last 13 from the field and already trail the far more physical Clippers 37-33. Nursing a right quad strain, Curry is 1-for-4. It’s also a potentially historic shot for Curry. In 2012-13, he set an NBA record with 272 three-pointers in a season. At this moment, the fifth-year player leads the league again with 199 threes while also having the third-highest three-point percentage in NBA history (43.8). A make from beyond the arc will give Curry the franchise record for consecutive games with a three-pointer (54). It will also make him just the sixth player in history to hit 200 threes in back-to-back seasons.
Curry looks a millisecond longer. Granger glances to his right at Blake on the wing. That’s all Curry needs. His second dribble is across his body to the outside of his left foot. Still moving at full speed, Curry absorbs and banks all his lateral motion and forward momentum, planting his feet softly, at the very edge of the red three-point line, as if stepping into a pair of slippers — toes and feet perfectly aligned to the target. Then, borrowing a move from Hall of Famer Jerry West, Curry compresses his right knee, hip, torso, elbow and wrist into a perfectly stacked vertical coil before adding an almost imperceptible amount of extra force to his final dribble. Most shooters set their feet, focus on the rim, compress their lower body and then lift and launch. Curry eliminates any wasted time and energy by riding that final, slightly higher bounce up off the floor, instantaneously triggering his shooting motion.
Curry doesn’t see it — there’s no way he could — but the Clippers’ Glen Davis, a 289-pound power forward, is closing fast from behind. The guard needs to hurry. A huge key to Curry’s accuracy is his ability to maintain biomechanical form under duress, and that all hinges on the integrity of his right elbow. The farther it flails to the outside (shooting coaches call it chicken-winging), the less likely he is to score. As a kid, Curry mastered tight-elbow discipline by lying in bed and throwing a balled-up sock as close to the ceiling as he could, without touching it, hundreds of times a night.
Keeping that elbow in as his body rises, Curry seamlessly transfers the kinetic energy from his coiled lower body, first to the vertical portion of his shot and then to the levers (arm, wrist and fingers) that control the force and trajectory of the ball. The more economical his movement, the more efficient and accurate his shot. But perfect mechanics aren’t enough. They must be so ingrained in his muscle memory that his motion can be flawlessly repeated in nearly all circumstances.
The game clock now reads 6:30. Davis is close enough that Curry feels the rumble of his giant footsteps. As Curry extends his legs and begins to lift off the court, one of the more remarkable traits of the game’s best jump shot comes into view: It’s not a jump shot at all. Not even close. Classic jump-shooters, like Ray Allen, use a more athletic, two-part process, elevating high above defenders and then launching the ball at their apex with a flatter shot arc — around 45 degrees. Curry’s toes, however, barely leave the earth. Instead, he releases the ball as he is still rising, accomplishing in one movement what most shooters must do in multiple, deliberate steps.
A little boy seated two rows behind the Warriors’ bench, with a wavy shock of black hair and a T-shirt that reads if i ruled the world, raises both arms in unison with the ref. He knows too.
The yellow digits of the game clock blink to 6:28.
It ends with a swish.
Stephen Curry has gathered much praise from numerous pundits, who believe that this season is his reckoning. The spring in his step and the pin-point accuracy in virtually everything he does have set the NBA on fire. While some of the other early frontrunners have faded in recent weeks, Curry has stepped up his overall pace. His work since the calendar flip — 24.2 points, 9.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 54 percent shooting from the floor 45 percent from deep and 92 percent from the free throw line in January – bolsters the case Curry has been making all season. He is indeed worthy of MVP consideration at this stage of his career, and probably will be for the foreseeable future.