Stephen Curry's record contract reminds us how irreplaceable he really is

If you want to gauge how crazy this NBA offseason has been, consider that shortly after midnight Eastern time Saturday morning, in the opening hour of free agency, Stephen Curry received the richest contract in NBA history with the Golden State Warriors, a five-year, $201 million supermax deal that makes him the highest annually compensated athlete in the world ... and lots of people barely noticed. 

Curry was upstaged a bit after Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder before free agency opened, and Blake Griffin somewhat surprisingly re-signed with the Clippers for five years, $173 million without taking a single meeting with another team. Those are huge deals few people saw coming (at least not so quickly in Griffin's case), but everyone knew Curry was going to re-sign with Golden State for a ton of money. Surprise always drowns out predictable, so it makes sense that Curry's deal went in one ear and out the other.

It also makes sense that Curry handled his free agency with zero fuss. He could have flirted with other teams just a little bit, had he even half-heartedly explored his options. But for all of Curry's flash on the court, he has proven to be as simple, and as humble, as a superstar gets. Steve Kerr called him the short version of Tim Duncan in that way. 

It's an apt comparison in that the Spurs of the Duncan era became synonymous with collective excellence, which inherently glossed over the importance of any player. But the inside secret is the Spurs became the Spurs, financially and as five-time champions, because they had Tim Duncan, Likewise, the Warriors have become the Warriors, on and off the court, because they have Steph Curry. 

For various reasons, that got lost by some this past season. Recently, ESPN's Dave McMenamin stirred up a little internet controversy when he didn't include Curry among his eight NBA franchise-changing talents.

This is crazy. Karl-Anthony Towns? Let's wait a bit on that. Russell Westbrook? The guy who had Durant next to him for nine years yet couldn't win a championship somehow single-handedly would change a franchise? Giannis Antetokounmpo has yet to win 50 games. Anthony Davis has been to the playoffs once, when he was swept by Curry's team. Harden, in a leading role, has made it to one conference finals, where he lost in five to Curry's team. Before Curry showed up, the Warriors were a laughingstock. Already a two-time MVP, Curry and the Warriors have been together for two titles and three championships.

For all the ink devoted last season to anointing Kevin Durant as the Warriors' best player, it was Curry who led the NBA in net rating. In fact, when Curry was off the court this year, Golden State was exactly one point per 100 possessions better than its opponents, which is a fancy way of saying it was barely a winning team. Over the past three seasons the Warriors have won more games than any team in NBA history. They've become a financial gold mine. A basketball dynasty. All while Curry was playing on a four-year, $44 million deal, which has to go down as one of the biggest sports bargains ever. 

Think about it: If Curry's accomplishments weren't enough, that contract gave the Warriors unprecedented flexibility for a team with arguably the best player in the league on its roster. It allowed them to bring in Andre Iguodala without compromise. It allowed them to sign Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to no-headache long-term deals. Without Curry's contract, or presence, there's a good chance Durant never signs with Golden State. He wanted to win and play in a selfless system. 

Basically, everything was created because of Curry, and the Warriors are thanking him with this record contract. 

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