Stephen Curry has gone from "talented young player" to "talented young player who sadly can't get healthy" to "explosive scorer" to "dominant scorer" to "best shooter of all time" to "transcendent player who is making a run at the best stretch of basketball ever played when factoring efficiency and team dominance." He's made that leap in about three years. 

He's most known for his shooting, but he's also averaging 6.6 assists per game and leads the league in "hockey assists" which are passes that lead to another pass that leads to a scorer, at 2.4 per game according to He has moments where he is a disruptive and impressive defender, like his performance against Tony Parker a few weeks ago. He's a quiet leader, but the focal point of the best team in basketball over the past 16 months. 

Charles Barkley, however, is not impressed. In an interview with Dime Magazine, the Hall of Famer and former Phoenix Sun put it bluntly when he described Curry as "just a shooter," and when challenged on it, doubled down on his simplistic assessment of Curry's game.

DIME: We saw in the early 2000s with Shaquille O’Neal that it was obvious that he was going to score – just with his sheer power, size, and skill. It was kind of the same with you in the early 1990s, too. Does Steph compare to that at all? That feeling of inevitability you guys provided at your peak?
Charles Barkley: He’s just a great shooter. It’s a totally different animal.
But he’s more than a shooter, right? Because he’s –
Barkley: No. He’s not more than a shooter. He’s just a great shooter.
So, he’s not an incredible playmaker? Doesn’t make the game easier on his teammates? Stuff like that?
Barkley: I wouldn’t say that. But he’s not a great playmaker. He’s just a great shooter.

Source: Steph Curry Is ‘Just A Shooter’? Charles Barkley Gives Us His Harsh Criticism Of The MVP – UPROXX

First off, this is just Chuck being Chuck. Barkley says brash things.

Here, though, he's being overly reductive. For starters, Curry leads the league in field goal percentage at the rim. That's crazy given his size and the amount of attention he attracts. Second, he is a gifted passer, capable of some really dazzling plays, even if his assist totals and percentages are low. Those are just facts, they're what they are. 

If you don't immediately leap to Curry's defense because he's inarguably the most "fun" player since Jordan, there is some merit to what Barkley's saying. Curry's assist numbers aren't crazy and while he has 30 games in his career with 12 more assists, only one of those has come within the last year. His playoff high for assists is 15 vs. the Clippers two years ago and he has just five double-digit assist performances in his playoff career. He's not a great rebounder, and while his defense is disruptive and he has good stretches vs. good matchups, he is in no way a dominant defender; there are matchups that are tough for him to overcome, but Golden State is so versatile, he's almost never forced to match up with them. 

If you remove Curry's other-worldy range and knock his 3-point percentage down to even nearly-human levels off the dribble, he's not a dominant player, and that's a bit of what Barkley's getting at, that his shooting is the thing he does that makes him unstoppable, point blank, end-dot. 


The original question had to do with inevitability, and that speaks to impact. How does a player impact the game, how does the defense have to react to him. And that's where Barkley's argument crawls in a hole and dies whimpering. Because no player has ever forced the defense to react like this. Not even Shaq, not even Jordan. Defenses are scrambling in full-on panic mode every game because of Curry's ability to pull up and launch from anywhere, literally anywhere in the legal space of play, and hit with consistent efficiency. He draws three defenders to above the three-point line, sometimes to 30 feet, which gives the Warriors all sorts of room to work with. 

That's why there's been so much study of Curry's "gravity" and how the threat of his shooting opens the floor for everyone else. He's a playmaker just by standing at 35 feet. You want inevitable impact? That's the best proof of it. 

It's hard to think of the game that way because of how we've always thought about it, how Barkley's always thought of it. But it doesn't make it any less correct. Curry's dominance isn't just emphatic, it's revolutionary, and has changed the way the game is played. To boil him down to "just a shooter" based on the pure mechanics of how he accomplishes it is to boil Barkley down to "just a scoring big" or Shaq to "just a big guy." There's more to the game than that, and Barkley knows it. His comments come off, regrettably, as more petty than they need to be. Barkley's not entirely wrong. 

The key to Steph Curry's impact is his shooting. However, his being better at it than any other player in NBA history changes the meaning of it, and that's where the Round Mound of Rebound gets lost in the woods. You can bet that the millions of Curry fans are going to let him know about it, too. 

Stephen Curry is more than just a great shooter. (USATSI)