Shaq calls Curry greatest of all time; internet subsequently explodes

“I’m wondering is it time to start putting him as the best player of all time, in the conversation.”

-Shaquille O’Neal on Steph Curry

Shaq had some interesting things to say the other night about Steph Curry.

I was busy at work and missed the live broadcast, but rest assured I caught the replay on Twitter later that morning.  Shaq’s comments about Curry assuredly ruffled some feathers, especially those of a man living in Charlotte, who probably took it personally.

After the Draymond Green-less Golden State Warriors dispatched the 20-5 Boston Celtics in overtime after being down by 17 late in the 3rd, the cast of TNT did what they do, analyze the evening’s games, and put things in their proper perspective.

Shaquille O’Neal, the new guy of four on the set (he’s been there since 2011), has never said things just to say them.  In fact, the Emmy-award winning, fantastic four of Shaq, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith are among the few who don’t say things intentionally for ratings, or to get a rise like so many (every other) sports networks.

When Shaq says something, he means it.

So, when Shaq earnestly asked his counterparts when it’s time to start considering Steph Curry one of the greatest players (if not the greatest) ever, he means it.  He’s not saying it for clickbait nor is he being overly reactionary.  He’s genuinely impressed with what Curry has done, and continues to do, on a nightly basis, as we all should be.

After their last title, the one where they finally gave him Finals MVP, I cemented Curry into my top ten.  You can rank him wherever you see fit, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that you’ve seen play basketball, have more impact on the game.

NBA icons are measured by very few factors.  Did they change the game?  Check.  Did they lead their team to multiple titles?  Check.  Were they inherently and generationally un-guardable?  Check.  That’s pretty much it.  You can score a lot and not be considered a top ten player.  Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant are all top ten career scorers, but you wouldn’t rank them among your top ten players of all time.

That’s saved for a special breed.

Depending on your age, who you’ve seen play, and where you stand on the MJ/LeBron/others debate, your top ten will vary but mine are, in no particular order, Jordan, Wilt, Magic, Russell, Kareem, Magic, Bird, Shaq, LeBron and Curry.

Steph Curry, undoubtedly, makes my top ten list of all-time NBA players and when Shaq asks the question about whether it’s time to consider him near the top of the list, I am far from offended.  I’ve been saying this for a while.

Curry has led the league in three-pointers made seven times and is a career 42.7% three-point shooter.  That’s insane accuracy for someone who launches that many shots from distance.  Curry has also been the driving force and best player on a team that has won four NBA titles.  He has all but revolutionized the game, while also shooting 91% career from the free throw line.  He’s led the league in scoring twice, while competing for that title against all-time scorers like James Harden, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.  Curry has averaged over 23 points per game in the last twelve seasons, all the while shooting over 47% from the floor from the point guard position.

He’s one of the few players in the league you would pay top dollar to see (I have) and he can single-handedly change a game’s, if not a league’s, momentum.  As of this writing, Steph Curry has 550 more three-point field goals made than any other player in NBA history with an aging James Harden 700 behind him, the only active player even remotely (no, I won’t say it) close.

When Curry is done, his total three-point shots made record will not only never be broken, but it will never be approached.  And while they play in a game that’s more offensive, and by that, I mean features more points scored, one can very easily make the argument that Steph Curry is the reason for that.

The league saw a jump in three-point shots attempted per game to double digits in 1993-94.  In 2012-13, teams were shooting on average 20 three pointers a game.  This season, the league is on another record pace, having teams attempt 35 shots per game from behind the arc.

The NBA adopted the three-point line in 1979-80.  Steph Curry entered the league in 2009-10, three seasons before we saw the jump.  You do the math.  The coincidence, is no coincidence. 

The NBA changed the game because of Wilt Chamberlain, widening the lanes to eliminate his dominance.  It did little good.  Wilt still produced numbers and records that stand to this day.  Before him, Bill Russell reinvented defense at a time when blocked shots were not even measured.  Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was not allowed to dunk on his opponents in college.  His was deemed an unfair advantage.  Shaquille O’Neal’s dunks were so dominant, the league reinforced the baskets for he kept tearing them down.  No one had ever seen a 6’9” guard before handle the ball the way Magic Johnson had.  Michael Jordan was so hand-strong defensively, the league had to change its hand-checking rules on the perimeter.  LeBron James is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and, after twenty years in the league, is doing things few ever thought possible.  And Larry Bird?  Well, he was just filthy.

In my mind, Steph Curry fits nicely into that “they changed the game because of me” category, which is what NBA elite is all about.  He has single-handedly revolutionized the game.  I could go on about his accolades, and you’d most likely agree.  If not, I’m not sure what to tell you.  You’re more than welcome to create your own list but shooters like that, well, they don’t really exist other than him and they never have.  They might never again.

Shaq’s “never seen a guy like him” comments about Steph represent an NBA rite of passage.  Russell, Wilt and Walton all did so for Shaq when he was young and carried the highest of expectations, which he fulfilled. 

In case you missed it, there was a passing of the torch on the set of NBA on TNT.  For a man who has called himself the most dominant big man ever to unequivocally proclaim Steph Curry better than him is no hyperbole.  He is. 

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