Let's start by saying this is an incredibly unfair story to write. But in the interest of fairness, it has to be written. I know, that sounds like it doesn't make sense. But nothing about these NBA Finals made sense. The Raptors NBA history. Kawhi Leonard went from largely forgotten in his one year off to unforgettable in his first year back. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon. Kevon Looney broke his rib. Klay Thompson . And in the end, somehow, the greatest shooter to ever live still had a shot to save a dynasty and secure his own immortality.in a series in which the road team won the final five games, also a first in
And he missed.
The shot came with less than 10 seconds to play in Game 6. The Raptors had just turned the ball over, and now the Warriors had it on a side out trailing by one. Everyone in the world knew they would try to get the ball to Stephen Curry, who had been swarmed by multiple defenders the entire night and series. But Steve Kerr drew up a terrific play, clearing the far side of the court for a pass over the top, and in the split second that defenders turned their attention to the sea of open space, Curry came burning off a back pick for as clean a look as he and the Warriors could've possibly hoped for in that situation.
Under these circumstances, with Durant and Thompson out, in the final game ever at Oracle Arena, had Curry hit that shot to lift the Warriors off their deathbed and send this series to a Game 7, we could've just started carving his bust on the NBA's Mount Rushmore. It was that type of shot. Career-defining. Ray Allen in the corner. Jordan hanging his follow through in Utah. Kyrie in Game 7 in this same building, a timeless step-back 3 buried right in the face of one Stephen Curry.
Now Curry had his shot, and had he made it, every question his still remaining skeptics have had about his ability to step up in the biggest moments, to make the shots that separate victory and defeat on the biggest stage, would've been answered for good. Now, there are still questions. This is the unfair part.
Curry has some of the best postseason numbers in history despite facing a higher level of defensive pressure than even the best players ever have faced. He had 47 points in Game 3 when the whole Raptors team was in his pocket, to the point that they ran an unheard of box-and-one defense on the guy. He averaged over 30 points, six assists, five rebounds and 1.5 steals a game in these Finals WITHOUT Kevin Durant to keep Toronto's defense from completely focusing on him. He is a spectacular, all-time great player. He is the best shooter to ever walk the Earth.
But he didn't make the shot.
In fact, he hasn't made a lot of these shots.
You can't ignore that stat. The final seconds of playoff games is where legends are made. That is when the NBA is TRULY a make-or-miss league. And Curry just hasn't made the shots. He's made a lot of big shots. But not the BIGGEST shots. That one 3-pointer that Kyrie Irving sunk in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals has earned him a lifetime supply of clutch equity. He's a winner, they say. Even though he's done little to prove he actually impacts winning in any way that doesn't include playing alongside LeBron James.
He made the shot.
Make or miss league.
There's not a single player or coach or executive in his or her right mind who would take Kyrie Irving over Steph Curry as an overall basketball player. But with the game on the line, a lot of them would. Shots like this are why. Curry has lifted a franchise in a way few other players have. He's a three-time champion. A two-time MVP. A competitor to his core. But he has his doubters. Still. And every time he fails to hit one of these iconic shots that reperesent the last blank spot on his nearly impeccable basketball resume, fuel is added to their fire.