When it comes to basketball savants, few can compare to Jerry West. The “logo” won a championship as a player and executive, building two dynasties in Los Angeles.
The 77-year-old Hall-of-Famer is without peer in terms of player evaluations. It took him just 20 minutes in a pre-draft workout in L.A. to figure out that an 18-year-old kid from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia named Kobe Bryant was the best player in the 1996 NBA draft.
These days, West is no longer in charge of day-to-day operations but he still commands plenty of respect around the NBA.
“The way the game has evolved people in the front office, the way they are building teams, they need to look at trend in this league. The 3-point shooting is here forever,” West, now an executive board member with the Golden State Warriors, told radio host Colin Cowherd.
The 3-point shot has become such a weapon that teams are building their game plans around them. The Warriors built their foundation on a 3-point shooter, Stephen Curry. Golden State selected the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. Six years later, Curry is the MVP of the NBA. He also ended the 40-year title drought in the Bay Area.
“I think Stephen Curry, for sure, is going to change what we see in players coming into this league,” West said.
“All those little kids would want to look like him [and] play like him,” West continued. “He doesn’t have a big body, he’s not the most incredible athlete we have, and he plays the game with finesse. We see a lot of players in this league that are big, strong guys that play with force. To me, so far, finesse has won out over force. It’s a game I like to watch. I love to watch him play.”
West is not the only one who loves to watch Curry play. He was the top vote-getter in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game and his highlights are viral hits on YouTube. Not bad for a guy who was thought of as an undersized shooting guard from tiny Davidson College in North Carolina.
“In the locker room, he’s the most unassuming kid,” West said. “I’ve always said humility is the greatest word in the world, and he’s beyond humble. He’s just a normal, incredible kid to be around.
“His parents have done a great job with the whole family. And he’s just an extension of his family. He’s beloved by the people who watch him play. He’s so much fun to watch. He’s got a routine and he’s an unbelievably hard-worker. Behind that little baby face is a real killer there, too.”
In Golden State’s historic run to the championship in 2015, Curry knocked off three of the five first-team All-NBA studs and then brought down King James in the NBA Finals.
Curry beat the man many consider as the best player in the world. It was an unofficial passing of the torch from one basketball ruler to the next. It wasn’t quite like Joffrey Baratheon relinquishing the iron throne to his brother, Tommen, but it was symbolic.
Steph’s Warriors have not slowed down since winning the ‘chip. Golden State is off to one of the best starts in NBA history, and Curry has a league-leading 33 points per game. He’s also making 5.1 3-pointers a game, which is two more than Portland’s Damian Lillard (second best) and three more than the next 10 guys on the list.
Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson explains what sets Curry apart from his peers.
“We haven’t seen anybody else with his ability to be a great shooter across the board,” Jackson told ESPN.com. “Meaning, stop and pop. Meaning, off motion. Meaning, pick-and-roll. Meaning, split the pick-and-roll and shoot off one leg. Meaning, step back and shoot over two guys trapping. Meaning, any way you can name how to shoot a basketball, Steph Curry is a great shooter. We have never seen anybody on that level. Steve Nash played at a high level, a two-time MVP and an incredible shooter — this is a different level. Reggie Miller, incredible shooter. Chris Mullin, incredible shooter. Guys I played with, Dale Ellis, Dell Curry, incredible shooters. But they didn’t have the total package. They aren’t coming off a trap and lifting from 30. This guy just has no limits.”
Curry’s basketball journey is not your typical narrative. He wasn’t a big-time high school recruit. There were many questions about his ability to make the adjustment from college to the pros. And even after he had proven himself that he can hang in the NBA, he was thought of as an injury-plagued player who lacked the physical stature to compete at the highest level.
Curry not only proved the doubters wrong, but he is also reshaping what an NBA player should look like. Remember those old Michael Jordan Gatorade commercials with the cool “Be Like Mike” jingle? Well, we should update that slogan and tweak it to “Be Like Steph.”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.