So many words have already been devoted to praising Stephen Curry, and rightfully so. The dude is about to wrap up one of the most impressive and incredible regular seasons the world of professional sports has ever seen.
Curry has led the Golden State Warriors to that magical 72-win mark already and still has one game to play. He’s a sure bet to win his second straight MVP award and if the Warriors do, in fact, capture a second straight NBA title, his current two-year run will be in the conversation for greatest stretches in the sport’s history.
But at this point, there’s no reason to spend another 3,000 words praising Curry or attempting to explain his greatness. Instead, we’re better off using video evidence as means for paying tribute. And so what follows is an attempt — how does one decide between a half-court jumper and a floater over three defenders? — to rank Curry’s 20 best shots from the 2015-16 season.
20. RIP, Marcus Morris’ ankles
What’s crazy about Curry is that he might be the league’s best ball-handler, yet that’s not even his top skill. It’s like if Kawhi Leonard was a better shooter than defender. The mere thought of such a player being unleashed on the rest of the league is terrifying.
On this play, we get a glimpse of Curry’s killer crossover, which becomes even more deadly when he throws in a hesitation, like he does here, just to get the defender thinking about trying to contest the jumper. The finish ain’t too shabby, either.
19. Quick as lightning
Curry’s not even open here, that’s the crazy part. The ball barely touches his fingers before being launched into the air, and somehow Curry manages to pull that off while maintaining textbook form. That he doesn’t even watch the ball rip through the net is the icing on the cake.
18. Zach LaVine who?
Curry doesn’t dunk much — only seven times this season, per NBA.com’s player tracking data — but he’s more than capable of getting up there when he needs to, or when he feels the urge. This came just moments after having a fast break layup swatted away. Guess this time he wanted to make sure nothing went wrong.
17. 28 points in 12 minutes
We’re cheating a bit here, but for good reason. There are myriad shots from this outburst against the Hornets where he made a strong NBA defense look like a bunch of slow JV kids. This also paints a picture of why Curry is so dangerous: It’s not just that he’s an otherworldly scorer; he’s also an assassin, the type of player who can tilt a game in just a few minutes of action.
16. DPOY, what DPOY?
Kawhi Leonard is the league’s best perimeter defender. Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins wrote an entire profile around the notion that Leonard is repeatedly swaddling up opposing stars and making life incredibly difficult for them. Curry, though, is not your normal star. There’s no defense for what he does and what’s so impressive is just how much damage he’s able to do without the ball in his hands, whether that means setting a screen for a teammate or springing himself open, like he does here.
15. The price is wrong, Ronnie
How are you supposed to defend this? Seriously? There’s never been a player who opposing defenders has to guard 35 feet away from the basket (more on that below), and it’s not like swarming Curry is an optimal plan. His handle’s too good to contain in space and he seems to have a sixth sense about where everyone is on the floor.
Here’s a fun fact: This season, Curry has attempted 72 finger rolls, according to NBA.com. He’s hit 62 of them.
13. Around the world
wizardry from steph curry https://t.co/GqIwDvoFWt
— Harry Lyles Jr. (@harrylylesjr) April 11, 2016
Curry circled through the entire Spurs defense before making a circus scoop over LaMarcus Aldridge late in win #72. Of course, if this were anyone else, we’d say this was madness. With Curry, it’s genius.
12. The King is dead
Curry shot a ridiculous 71 percent on pull-up three-pointers this season, per NBA.com. Yes, you read that correctly. For 99 percent of the league’s players, this is a horrendous shot attempt. For Curry, it’s a shot he hits at a better rate than what DeAndre Jordan does at the rim.
11-7. Making shots from 30+ feet look easy
We’re lumping Curry’s buzzer beaters together, and, man, were there a lot. Curry launched 40 shots from beyond 30 feet this season and connected on 19 of them. That means he shot better from 30 feet and out (48 percent) than Klay Thompson did on all of his three-pointers (43 percent). Think about that for a moment.
6. One on five? Why not?
Okay, one more stat before we go: Curry is just as dynamic inside the paint as he is behind the three-point line. Want proof? How about the fact that he’s connected on 62 percent of shots inside of eight feet, per NBA.com, the best number in the NBA among players who attempted at least five shots from that spot per game.
5. Curry is a wizard, part I
He’s not even looking at the basket here.
4. What happened to The Curry Stopper?
Remember last year’s Finals, when Curry went through a mini-cold streak and everyone said it was because Matthew Dellavedova had figured out some secret code or something? Well, if that ever was the case, it certainly isn’t anymore. What’s so great about this play, though, is that it shows why exactly the Curry pick-and-roll is impossible to defend. You can’t go under the screen, but going over still yields too much space. All you can do is send a trap and pray to the basketball gods.
3. We playing basketball or HORSE?
This is a spot-up jumper from the freaking half-court logo. Example No. 321 of Curry changing the geometry of how teams defend.
2. Curry is a wizard, part infinity
That Curry was able to avoid a face-plant on this play is a miracle in itself. But to figure out a way to guide this into the hoop while falling down? C’mon.
1. The shot heard round the world
Never before has a 35-foot jumper at the buzzer seemed like such a sure thing. That right there tells you all you need to know.