Stephen Curry? Top 25 already? Why, he has played in only two All-Star Games.
It was blasphemous enough when Curry finished fourth in our all-time point guard rankings. Now he's creeping into the territory reserved for legends.
You have to be sympathetic to the contrary perspective here, those aghast to seeing Curry's name this high. It all happened so fast. Curry wasn't even considered a star until 2013, as he gained momentum over his fourth season in the league. He hadn't ever finished top five in MVP voting until the very season he won it, in 2015. The NBA's GMs still couldn't fathom what they'd just witnessed, and voted him fifth-most likely to win the award going into this season. It seems they might have miscalculated, perhaps mistaking a new, enduring reality for a momentary fluke.
This is why it's basketball sacrilege to admit what's happening. It's going too quickly, too unexpectedly. Curry was never sold to us as "next," in the manner that athletic freaks such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant were. We couldn't see him on the horizon, perhaps because the shots were coming from far beyond it.
"People look at him and he looks like he's 13 years old. But he's a killer. Trust me." Steve Kerr
Now, he's dominating from the arc in a way that evokes Shaq's dominance of the paint. His skill is trumping whatever the world's best athletes have to offer.
Even after two of his lesser games, Curry is on pace to deliver the best statistical guard season in basketball history. No, that's not a typo. He's narrowly topping any Michael Jordan season in player efficiency rating, win share rate, offensive rating, pretty much anything you want out of the advance stat alphabet soup. His coach Steve Kerr would caution you on the PER part, though. "I'd be a little careful with PER, though, honestly," Kerr said when presented with the statistical comparison between Steph and Mike. "You can really easily go through the history books and find a lot of guys whose PER are really inflated, so, you can take that for what it's worth."
Though wary of PER, Kerr is more accepting of true shooting percentage, where Curry's current 67.6 percent leads the best Jordan season in that regard (61.4 percent). Through the power of the 3-pointer, Curry is scoring at a Jordan-esque rate, but more efficiently than Mike ever did -- crazy as that sounds.
"Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing. It's beautiful for basketball." Kevin Garnett on Steph Curry
It's a potency that goes further than the "greatest shooter ever," appraisal that has become consensus. It's a potency reflected in how Golden State is absolutely crushing teams, going 44-4 while somehow still getting outscored in the minutes Curry rests.
Though publicly agnostic on the question of whether Curry's season is best, Kerr sees parallels to Jordan's impact on the public. "It's similar in people's reaction to when they see Michael or Steph," Kerr begins. "Michael would just draw crowds everywhere. We'd get to a hotel in the middle of the night, there'd always be 50 to 100 people out there, 2 a.m. hoping for an autograph. People come before games to see these guys warm up. That happened with Michael. That happens now with Steph. There's sort of a fascination that happens now with Steph that reminds me a lot of people's infatuation with Michael."
Perhaps, beyond the numbers, this is why Curry has risen so fast in these rankings. It's a rise that reflects the resonance. Kevin Garnett, who has played against both, might have put it best: "Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing. It's beautiful for basketball."
Curry is his own thing, in part, because we didn't expect the thing. The surprise of his rise fuels his fame while offending those not yet used to his game-changing sway. We never saw this coming, but it's beautiful to behold.
And, lest you think Curry will drop this mantle as quickly as he has seized it, Kerr has another MJ comparison for you. When asked if Curry had a similar killer instinct to Mike, Kerr replied, "Steph's a killer. He's a killer. People look at him and he looks like he's 13 years old. Got that great smile and he obviously plays with great joy, but he's a killer. Trust me."
If Curry keeps killing the game, this ranking will soon seem low, and quickly so.