No more “arguably.” No more “debatably.” No more “in my opinion.” If you’re talking about the greatest shooter in NBA history, never attach a qualifier to his name again.
Before Tuesday, I would not have protested, or gotten pissy, if you’d said Steph Curry was “arguably” the greatest shooter of all time. Kind of like the way Reggie Miller, broadcasting the Warriors-Knicks showdown for TNT, did when he was talking to the Inside the NBA crew pregame.
Not that Miller—who owned the NBA record for career 3-pointers made for 14 years and once upon a time was “arguably” the game’s greatest shooter—was throwing any shade at Curry. It’s just something sports fans say when there’s room for debate. Or when they’re trying not to offend anybody else up for consideration. But the debate’s 1,000,000 percent dead after the man, the myth, the living legend that is Wardell Stephen Curry II became the NBA’s immortal bucket-getter from the beyond arc.
The 6-foot-2 point guard with the lighting-quick release, an endless motor, and a range that defies logic, Curry attained such vaunted status when he launched a majestic, arching bomb from 28 feet over the outstretched arms of Knicks guard Alec Burks that swished through the net with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter last night. But you know that because you were watching, or saw the highlights on social media, like every other basketball fan who’s been mesmerized by Curry for over a decade and counting and was ultra-hyped to see him break the record in Madison Square Garden.
In a career that’s been full of incredible moments, Curry delivered another one when his jumper ripped through the net, the 2,974th time a 3-pointer of his was pure. Curry surpassed Ray Allen for the No. 1 spot on the NBA’s all-time list and pulled off the feat on the game’s grandest, most prestigious stage, the World’s Most Famous Arena. With his typical flair, Curry broke the record off a catch-and-shoot, backing up into the attempt in a shot that wasn’t necessarily quintessential Curry. Only the result was.
“I shot it. I backtracked. I saw my pops over on the side,” Curry said after the game. “I saw my teammates going crazy. I felt the whole buzz of the whole arena. So it was special.”
The basketball stopped for a few minutes after history was made. Curry—who wrote “2,974” on his shoes before the game and admitted he had been thinking about the number for a long time—tried to process the magnitude of the moment as he hugged his teammates; his coach Steve Kerr; found his father, Dell, who was sitting on the baseline; and embraced Ray Allen, who wasn’t sitting too far away from where he launched his record-breaking shot as the Garden crowd—forever the most knowledgeable in the NBA—showed him the kind of love and respect normally reserved for a Knick.
“I can’t express how much of an honor that was for the reaction here on the road, the appreciation for that milestone,” Curry said.
When the action started back up, the Warriors, on the second leg of a back-to-back and having dealt with travel issues getting out of Indianapolis, eventually wore down New York. But nobody’s going to remember who won the game (105-96 in favor of Golden State), even if Kerr joked during halftime with TNT’s Allie LaForce about that being his ultimate hope Tuesday.
All you’ll remember about this game is Curry cementing himself as the best to ever do it from beyond the arc. He’s the only player in NBA history to make 400 threes in a season. He’s well on pace to obliterate his single-season record of 402 this season. Soon enough, Curry will have 3,000 made treys. Reaching 4,000 is easily attainable, and he just might have an outside shot at 5,000, an unfathomable number until Curry started averaging four made threes or more a contest in six of his last seven seasons. He’s connecting at a career-high clip of 5.4 per game this season at age 33. Crazily, he’ll say he thinks he can still get better.
“I never wanted to call myself the greatest shooter until I got this record. So I’m comfortable saying that now. No better scenario to have Ray in the building, have Reggie on the call, to have my family here.” — Steph Curry
He also just happens to be the greatest free-throw shooter in NBA history (career 90.7 percent shooter from the line entering Tuesday). The scrawny kid out of Davidson, who not so secretly wished the Knicks had taken him in the 2009 NBA Draft, was never supposed to be this great for this long. And he absolutely never was supposed to be such a transformative figure.
“He has revolutionized the way the game is played and continues to leave fans in awe with his amazing artistry and extraordinary shooting ability,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We congratulate him on this historic achievement.”
Silver talking about Curry revolutionizing basketball is, of course, spot on. Curry single-handedly made 3-pointers sexy, and so many have tried to mimic his stroke in driveways, parks, and YMCAs—launching ridiculous threes because they look so majestic—all the way up to the college ranks and even in the NBA. The number of attempts per game in the league has skyrocketed exponentially from when Miller played his first game in 1987 and even when Allen was doing his thing during the ’90s and 2000s for the Bucks, Sonics, Celtics, and Heat. During the 1987-88 season, teams averaged 5.0 3-point attempts per game. This season, it’s 35.5 per game. As impressive as the individual 3-point record is—Allen held it for 10 years—it’s even more impressive that Curry’s brilliance has unequivocally changed basketball.
“There were 82 3-pointers taken tonight,” Kerr said after the game. “So, on a night when he broke the record, the sum of both teams’ 3-point attempts was kind of a testament to Steph’s impact on the league. It’s a different game, obviously. But Steph made it a different game.”
Arguably, that means nobody’s fundamentally or strategically influenced the game like Curry has since Michael Jordan, Kerr’s old teammate on the Bulls. While we can debate Curry’s influence post-MJ all you’d like, the morning after we witnessed Curry surpass one of the NBA’s great career milestones, there’s no debating who is the greatest shooter of all time.
“I never wanted to call myself the greatest shooter until I got this record,” Curry said. “So I’m comfortable saying that now. No better scenario to have Ray in the building, have Reggie on the call, to have my family here.”