Yes, Golden State Warriors superstar and MVP frontrunner Stephen Curry is the best all-around shooter to play the game.
Yes, his team is on track to break the Chicago Bulls’ formerly “unbreakable” single-season record of 72-10.
And yes, Curry is currently on pace to beat Wilt Chamberlain’s player efficiency rating record of 31.82 — a record that has been held for over 50 years.
But despite these impressive attributes, Curry is still a long way from solidifying himself as an all-time great. When assessing a player’s place next to legends like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, we must take into consideration generational factors.
For instance, the no hand-checking rule, implemented in the mid-2000s, made the game far easier for guards that play Curry’s style of basketball. Formerly, defenders could pressure the opposing player much closer with more leniency from referees, thus making it difficult to penetrate the paint and gain separation from the defender on the perimeter.
NBA legend Oscar Robertson was criticized over the weekend for undermining Curry’s massive success.
“I look at games today, and they'll start a defense at the foul line. When I played, they were picking you up when you got the ball inbounds. So it's a different strategy about playing defense,” Robertson said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show.
It’s almost expected for retired players to view their era as the tougher one, but despite opposition from the general public, Robertson has a point. Modern day NBA defenses tend to be a bit lazy, particularly early in the shot clock. A full court or even a legitimate half court press are rarities today, as defenders sag off until the ball handler reaches the three-point line. This methodology may have been successful when three-point shooting was not as prevalent, but with shooters like Curry releasing the ball so quickly, it can only lead to failure.
Curry routinely pulls up multiple feet behind the arc and makes them with efficiency. Curry is one of two players in the past 20 years to make three or more shots from beyond 40 feet in a single season, according to Marc Stein.
There’s a reason why NBA teams are breeding its young players into three-point shooters and a reason why the traditional center is becoming obsolete. The three-ball is the new dunk because the current rules favor it.
In fact, scoring has increased by an average of five points per game since the hand-checking rule change, with teams shooting the highest number of three-point attempts per game ever.
Sure, Curry is an incredible player with a unique skillset, but we must take his individual success with a grain of salt. He’s not an all-timer just yet, and to mention him in the same sentence as players like Jordan, Robertson and Bryant is an insult to all they accomplished in their decorated careers.
He would be nothing more than a specialist had he played when iconic teams like the 1986 Boston Celtics, Bad Boy Detroit Pistons, Jordan Chicago Bulls and Shaq and Kobe Los Angeles Lakers were at their pinnacle.