With Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors’ Finals win last week, the PG has found himself in elite company. But where exactly is he on the all-time NBA list?
Steph Curry Secures Fourth Title
Chef Curry and the rest of the Warriors have done it again, securing their fourth title in eight seasons and establishing themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. The quartet of Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala have been together for each title during their run and Kevon Looney gets some credit as well, having been a part of three. This core group of players has been an exciting group to watch, with their three-point style changing the way the game is played.
Now that Steph has his fourth ring, I think it is fair to question where he sits on the all-time player lists. Any player that has individual greatness can be considered, which is something Steph Curry has plenty of. Curry is the best three-point shooter the game has ever seen and there are records to prove it. With multiple All-Star games, All-NBA teams, shooting records, and a couple of MVP trophies – including the league’s first unanimous winner – Curry can hang with the big dogs. But when you add team success to that, you begin a whole new conversation.
Where Does That Put Him Amongst Other PGs?
I do not think there is any debate about Steph Curry being the best point guard in the league today. While Curry does not carry the assist numbers of most established point guards, his shooting prowess cannot be ignored. The job of the point guard is to run the offense and establish the tempo, which is something that Curry has done very well in his time with the Warriors.
When it comes to Curry’s biggest competition in the PG department, there are only a few that can stack up to him. You have Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, and Chris Paul. Curry has more team success than Big O, CP3, and Stockton, and has better scoring numbers than all four, but his lack of defensive prowess and assists hurts him here. I think his resume offers enough to put him ahead of Paul, Robertson, and Stockton, but Magic Johnson is the one that will take some convincing.
Magic Johnson played in a much different era than the game we see today. Steph Curry and the Warriors revolutionized the game with their dominant three-point shooting, meanwhile, Magic’s rookie year was the first year the NBA had even utilized the three-point line. Big men dominated the game in Magic’s day, while Steph plays in the era of “small ball” lineups. It is tough to compare players from two separate eras, but one thing they both have in common is their overall impact on the game.
When Curry and the Warriors began their dynasty, the league was taken by storm with their success from the arch. Curry and Klay Thompson formed the “Splash Brothers” and the rest was history. This change in playing style has trickled down to the youth level, inspiring kids to work on their shooting from three-point land more than ever. With this evolution, we now have big men, seven-footers, shooting threes in the league. Something unheard of in Magic’s days with the Showtime Lakers.
Magic Johnson inherited an NBA that was falling apart, his rivalry with Larry Bird rejuvenated the game and catapulted the league into one of its best eras. The ’80s were headlined with Bird-Johnson Finals and have even inspired documentaries and TV shows. His impact on the game, team success, and individual numbers are incredible. While Steph has Magic beat in most scoring stats, that is really the only category he has him in. I am giving the edge to Magic here, but only slightly. But that doesn’t mean Curry won’t be in the top ten.
The Top Ten All-Time Landscape
Of all of the players to step foot on an NBA court, it is incredibly hard to narrow it down to just ten when talking about best of all-time. With this top ten, I am evaluating team success, individual success, era, and overall impact on the game. These players were close, but did not make the cut: Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, and Kevin Durant. This should give you an idea of what it would take to make the list.
Let’s start at the top with the top three. This, in my opinion, is the easiest part of the list to decipher. The top three players of all-time are without question: Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James. In that order. When measuring up individual success, there is no player with more accolades than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Next up on that list is Michael Jordan, but his team success is unparalleled. Not to mention, his impact on the game as a whole cannot and will not be matched. As for LeBron, he brings a balance of all things: team success, individual success, and impact on the game.
Unlike the first two, LeBron has time to surpass them in the top three, making him the only other active top ten player with Steph Curry.
These next three players are right on the heels of the first three players. Going from number four to six is Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan’s excellent team success has helped him quite a bit while also being one of the most dominant and fundamentally sound players in the history of the NBA. Winning five championships in six Finals runs is impressive in its own right. Then there is Magic Johnson, who along with Kareem, dominated the league in the ’80s. From his first year, to his last full season run, Magic found himself in the Finals nine times while locking up five championships.
Then we have Kobe Bean Bryant, a legend of the game who was taken way too soon. His individual numbers were stunted by his slow start into stardom, but once his dominance was asserted, there was no looking back. Five championships, numerous All-NBA & All-Defense appearances, and an impact on the game of basketball second only to Michael Jordan. Kobe is a no-brainer on this list.
Finally, the last four players on the top ten list. This was very tough to do, leaving Bill Russell off of here seems crazy, but the 11 championships the Celtics won are just a bit skewed because of the state of the league at that time. At times, there were only eight teams in the league, which is kind of like winning an NFL or AFL championship pre-merger. With that being said, the top ten is rounded out by Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, and Steph Curry.
The stats and championships these guys have been a part of elevated them into the top ten. Aside from Wilt Chamberlain, who potentially has the greatest individual career in NBA history, these players have all belonged to a dynasty of some sort. Bird’s ’80s Celtics, Shaq’s Lakers Three-peat, and Curry with his Warriors who have now won their fourth title in eight years. Considering Steph Curry owns all of the major three-point shooting records, his overall impact on the evolution of the game, and dynasty success pushes him into the top ten, but just barely for me.
He Curry still has time to move up this list and continue his greatness. At 33 years old, he has already been added to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team and has a chance to secure more titles and many more individual awards. The game is forever changed because of Wardell Stephen Curry II and that will not be lost when the NBA does their 100th Anniversary team either.
Check out some of Dan’s other Stadium Rant content here. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_tf40 and check in with his podcast The Fastest 40 on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, & anywhere you listen to podcasts!