Another Year, Another Non-Curry Finals MVP
Courtesy of AP
After the Golden State Warriors secured a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals this year - notably, without the help of Kevin Durant - Stephen Curry was seemingly due a Finals MVP trophy. But a Raptors squad that played superb team basketball, and put forth arguably the best defense the Warriors have seen over the past five seasons, crushed the two-time regular season MVP’s dreams. The Warriors didn’t have enough depth to compete with Toronto, and having key players who were unable to compete consistently throughout the series made it very hard for Golden State to remain competitive. Somewhat surprisingly, they managed to put up quite a fight, but a mix of experience and a newly-provided clutch genealogy gave the Raptors the edge.
As a Miami Heat fan and writer, I was deemed a maniac for cheering on Golden State in the NBA Finals for the past three to four seasons. Why would any non-Warriors fan root for them? After all, they ruined the league! There is something about basketball greatness that catches my eye, and I was always rooting for Stephen Curry more than I rooted for the Warriors as a team. I was, and still am, tired of listening to people claiming that Curry chokes in the playoffs; claiming that he never performs when he’s needed and when it matters most, and – the worst take of them all – that he is not an all-time player because he has never won Finals MVP.
A three-time champion, two-time league MVP (including the only unanimous selection in NBA history), six-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA, and 2016 scoring champion, Curry can retire today and confidently expect to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer three years from now. Besides all of these accolades, he also already the consensus best-shooter-ever. I would take it even one step further: Curry is already a top-3 point guard of all-time.
As much as an NBA writer tries to remain unbiased, our emotions still stir every single time we write about basketball; at the end of the day, it is that passion and emotion that fuels our desire to put our thoughts into words. Given how great NBA basketball has always been and all of the emotions it creates, we all feel like the era we grew up watching basketball in is undoubtedly the best ever. You can ask some (much) older adults, and they will tell you why there has never been a more dominant force than Wilt Chamberlain. You can chat all day long with 30-to-40-year olds, and you will never manage to convince them that anyone other than His Airness is the G.O.A.T; they grew up watching Michael Jordan electrify generations with his innovative and jaw-dropping style of play.
You can ask the younger adults, our chronological peers, and they will talk about Kobe Bryant and LeBron James with reverence typically reserved for superheroes. They will most always defend the defining players of the era they grew up watching, and that time frame as a whole; I am, of course, not invulnerable to these contemporary biases either.
Watching LeBron James come over to South Beach in 2010 was awesome, without question. But, for whatever reason, I never identified with him as much as I do with Curry. I assume that is because when James signed with Miami, he was already a superstar. He was also likely the best player in the world at that point, depending on who you ask. But watching Curry get drafted seventh overall in 2009, struggle mightily with his first few Warriors teams early in his career, rise to All-Star status, and then become this ridiculous 30-foot marksman and unanimous MVP fits my timeline as an NBA fan perfectly.
This is why, whenever someone decides to downplay Curry’s impact and achievements, I feel attacked. The emotional side of the fan inside me takes offense to someone not appreciating the greatness I grew up watching. And even though I know Curry might not need a Finals MVP trophy to solidify his place in history, I still root for him to get one year after year. That way, one more lazy argument will die an early death, and we can all move on.
I will not argue as to why Andre Iguodala or Kevin Durant didn't deserve one of those Finals MVP awards over Curry during the Warriors’ three championship runs, because that argument simply won't hold, and it’s all in the past anyway. It's worth noting, however, that in 28 career NBA Finals games Curry holds averages of 26.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.7 turnovers on 42.1% shooting from the field, 38.5% from three, and 98.7% from the free throw line. The shooting splits look subpar when compared to Curry’s regular season numbers, but that stat line certainly could not have come from an NBA Finals “choker”.
As much as you hate the Golden State Warriors for crushing your team’s chances of winning a ring over the past half-decade (unless you're a Cavs or Raptors fan), you cannot hate on Curry for doing his thing at a all-time-high level. So let's abandon the narrative that Curry has not been an above-average performer in the NBA Finals – or that he isn’t an all-time player – because he has never won a Finals MVP trophy.
This year’s free agency, as well as the recovery timelines for current teammates Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, will play a big part in Curry and company returning to the Finals in 2020. But if you ask me, I don’t think Curry will finish his career without a Finals MVP trophy. I know that some people will continue to trash him for not having one. But until he does, I will silently continue to root for him and his legacy.