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Steph Curry by the numbers

There are two numbers that matter right now in the context of Steph Curry and his legacy in the NBA. The first is 2,974. That was the total number of three-point shots the Golden State guard hit when he broke the record for three-pointers previously held by Ray Allen. That ethereal number will continue to balloon as Curry helps lead the Warriors towards perhaps another NBA title this year after a couple of disappointing, injury plagued seasons. The second, perhaps more relevant number is 33. That’s Steph Curry’s age. Which means that while he’s in his 12th NBA season, he still has plenty of wear on the tires, especially as an outside threat who should still be deadly even after his most athletic days are behind him. Remember, Ray Allen hit the most iconic three-pointer of his career at age 37, the shot that saved Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals for Miami and did as much for LeBron James’ legacy as it did for his own. So whatever people are saying about Steph Curry right now, I’m guessing it will be even more pronounced when he eventually walks away from the game.

Right now, people are already saying he’s the greatest shooter in the history of the sport, something well borne out by the numbers. While basketball is one of those games where intergenerational comparisons lead to far more arguments than consensus, it’s hard to argue with Steph’s sheer statistical greatness. And he did it in fewer shot attempts in a much shorter period of time. So even any of the obvious counter arguments – like how the game is less physical today than it was when Allen or former record holder Reggie Miller played, or that Curry has played on dominant teams with multiple weapons that spread the defense – they still don’t change the obvious reality that he’s the best.

Perhaps the other, more deeply impactful statement is that Steph Curry hasn’t just dominated NBA basketball, but that he actually changed it. It’s argued that Curry’s unending range and ability to create and make shots has altered the calculus and strategy of NBA coaches and executives, where the game is played beyond the arc and two-point baskets are a second option – and largely saved for dunks and layups. It’s changed the emphasis from size to shooting accuracy, where compiling seven footers is only valuable if they can also step back and hit the long ball – aka Kevin Durant. There’s obvious truth to this narrative, as today’s game is a long way from the brooding slugfest of the 80’s and 90’s, when teams like the Pistons and Knicks tried to win by simply making sure the other team didn’t. Of course, that change didn’t happen in a vacuum nor solely by Curry’s acumen, as the League has taken a fairly significant tilt towards less contact and more points. Regardless, thanks in no small part to Steph Curry, aspiring young ballers now spend as much time stepping away from the hoop as they do running towards it.

That, more than anything, is the lesson of Steph Curry, who shares as much with former Center Wilt Chamberlain as he does other sharp shooters. Like Curry, Chamberlain forced the sport to evolve, in his case leading to rule changes that forever changed the game. Such is also the case with Steph, who’s jarring precision has made us consider things like the distance to the three-point line and defensive fouls called on pump fakes. And, like Wilt, Curry will find a way to score no matter what we do. Consider Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong for other examples.

Steph Curry’s record setting night doesn’t just remind us that we live in world of evolution, where the next generation will always bring greater athletic skills than the last. It’s that sports like basketball aren’t a fixed artifact, but rather an evolving construct that changes as the world around it does as well. Whether it be diet, training, technique, or the social mores of the time, the sport of tomorrow will always be different than that of today, as will the stars who currency in its promise. Which is why comparing athletes of different eras is about as logical as comparing a dinosaur to a lion – both dangerous, by the way.

That said, when it comes to shooting the three, to Steph Curry there is no comparison.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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