Stephen Curry has turned himself into an NBA legend by taking, and making, some of the boldest shots anyone has ever seen. Off the catch. Off the dribble. The handle to create space. The quick release. The only thing that runs deeper than Curry's range is his confidence. The Golden State Warriors' superstar will let it fly from anywhere, at any time, without the slightest hesitation.
We all remember the 40-foot game-winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That is probably the signature shot of Curry's career to this point. But that shot was in the middle of his 2015-16 unanimous MVP season. It was a regular-season shot, and by that point he was already an NBA champion and MVP who had hung 54 points on the New York Knicks at the Garden and was en route to cashing 402 3-pointers for the single-season NBA record -- which is to say that shot in OKC, as wild as it was, didn't actually surprise us. By that point, we were relatively used to Curry's theatrics.
But a lot of video-game shots came before that, before we had come to expect them, back when they were signs of things to come rather than further validation of circus-like status quo. One of those shots, in particular, was the one that Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers recently recalled as the moment he knew Curry was special.
It happened during the 2013 playoffs. Second round. The Warriors, a No. 6 seed, had just upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round and were now giving the San Antonio Spurs everything they could handle. Less than three minutes into Game 2, Curry did this:
Fast forward seven years, and on Thursday Myers joined 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area for Steph Curry Appreciation Day, during which he recounted seeing this shot as something of a watershed moment.
"He came off a screen at the top and he took a one-footed 3-point shot -- in the halfcourt," Myers recalled. "I looked at Travis [Schlenk], our assistant GM at the time, and said, 'Did he just shoot that off one foot?' It looked so natural. I said, 'This guy is different, man.'
"Like, that is so unusual, and the way he did it," Myers continued. "And I started thinking, not that I didn't think he'd be great before [that shot], but there's a difference between being great and transcendent. There are a lot of great players I think in the NBA, but then there's the ones like Steph that go beyond that category."
What was particularly telling about Myers' full comments was that he didn't even fully recall whether Curry actually made the shot. "It went in, I think," he said. In other words, the thing that stood out to Myers the most was the fact that Curry would even dare to attempt a shot like that.
Myers is right. That this shot went in speaks to Curry's mesmerizing skill level, but it's the audacity to simply attempt that shot, in that situation, that illuminates the mindset and genuine looseness that continues to set Curry apart to this day. Having this kind of skill is rare enough, but the willingness to so casually deploy these showman gifts on the biggest stage without fear of criticism or consequence is something else entirely.
Consider the context. Again, this game was at San Antonio, where the Warriors, at that point, had lost 30 consecutive games as an organization. It was also less than 48 hours after the Warriors had lost Game 1 by blowing a 16-point lead with four minutes to play in regulation, marking the biggest time-and-score meltdown in NBA playoff history.
That loss would've crushed most teams, let alone a team as young and inexperienced as the Warriors, who were starting a pair of rookies in Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green along with Klay Thompson, who was in his second season. This was also Curry's first postseason. Though you could've been fooled by the way he torched Denver in the first round and the 44 points he put on the Spurs in Game 1, this wasn't a guy who was some kind of seasoned playoff vet.
All told, Curry had less than two weeks of playoff experience under his belt, and still, with his team trailing 1-0 in the series and in a virtual must-win game, on the road, against the very definition of a championship team, he just flicks up a one-legged 3-pointer about as nonchalantly as one might shoot a wadded-up piece of paper into the trash can.
And it's not like time was running down.
There were 15 seconds on the shot clock.
I've talked to a number of Warriors players, coaches and executives about that 2013 playoff run, and nearly every one of them pointed to their youth and inexperience as an advantage, because they didn't know any better. They were just playing ball. And there is no better example of that mindset than this shot.
To me, it is one of the most brazen shots in history when you consider the circumstances. It wasn't in the Finals or even in a series that the Warriors ultimately won. From a sheer difficulty standpoint, it's not the craziest shot we've seen Curry make. Again, it's the attempt, in that situation, and the cavalier manner in which he did it that truly makes you shake your head.
I realize there have been a lot of iconic shots over the course of NBA playoff history, and this is not one of them, not by a stretch. That said, I defy anyone to go back through the annals and find another one-legged 3-point attempt with 15 seconds on the shot clock in a second-round playoff game. If you can find one, I'll be shocked.
This is the rarest of rare stuff. I mean, James Harden attemted a one-legged 3 in a preseason game last September and people got excited, and he didn't even make it. Curry didn't just have the stomach to launch one in a playoff game; he actually drilled it.
And indeed, it is that combination of skill, confidence and complete disregard for traditional shot selection that has turned Curry into the player he's become. It was all on display in that moment, and Myers knew it when he saw it.