It is simultaneously the highest possible praise and a vast underrating of his overall game to say that Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter the game of basketball has ever seen.
Start with the praise. Is there really a serious case to be made for anyone else? Best passer, best dunker, best ballhandler—for each of these essential skills, there are multiple candidates for whom strong arguments could be made. But while the game has seen dead-eye shooters in every era, only Curry has redefined the very potential of the act of shooting.
Starting in college at Davidson and continuing through his first 13 remarkable seasons with Golden State, he has altered our sense of what constitutes a “good” shot, uprooting the expertise of generations of coaches and basic basketball common sense. He essentially invented the idea of turning bad shots consistently into good ones. So much that we took for granted about bad habits—shooting from too deep, shooting off balance, shooting without being set—Curry has made acceptable. With him, any shot is a good one if he’s willing to take it.
Then there’s the “underrated” part. Anyone who’s really paying attention appreciates what he brings to the other aspects of the game. His exhaustive movement off the ball. His handle and ability to get to the hoop. His passing. And yes, even his defense. Even if he were just a pretty good shooter, he’d still be one of the most complete guards in the game.
But yes, it’s the shooting that has made him a legend. The shot that looks so effortless, that defies belief and statistical likelihood and sometimes seemingly physics itself; how do those pregame warmup shots from the bench and the tunnel always seem to fall? It’s the shot, and also, it’s the swagger. It’s always been an oversimplification to talk about how humble Curry is; it’s appropriate to the extent that he’s a down-to-earth, family-oriented guy, but it doesn’t acknowledge the shimmying, grinning swagger that is essential to Curry’s game. When he’s rolling—those times when it seems like no matter how he’s defended or how far out he pulls up, he literally cannot miss—Curry is absolutely feeling himself, as well he should be. He knows exactly how good he is, and he savors it.
And that, as much as anything, explains the impact: Who wouldn’t want to experience what it feels like to be Stephen Curry when he’s cooking in an NBA game? Hence the generation of shooters following his blueprint, stretching defenses from the pros all the way down to the middle-school ranks, expanding the possibilities of the game. It’s a testament to his still-growing legacy that he’s inspired so many others to try to match his accuracy and range. It’s a testament to his own talent that none of them yet are on his level. Maybe some day, someone will make it an argument. For now, Stephen Curry stands as the best shooter we’ve ever seen.
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