Curry Has Captured Imaginations of More Than Sports Fans

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First Unanimous NBA MVP Right Vote

By John Ventola

Voting has brought up many questions and public conversations so far this year. Politics, and differing opinions, do that. Professional sports, in its own way a microcosm of society, has always done the same. The talents and skill levels of players can be picked apart as readily as a self-righteous speech. Never, it seems, are things, and evaluations, in total agreement.

The announcement Tuesday of Stephen (Steph) Curry as the NBA’s first ever unanimous MVP Curryshows how dominant a player he has become. Everyone, all 131 voters, were in agreement. The all-around game of the Golden State superstar has reached the souls of those who enjoy the game of dribble-and shoot.

His long-range bombs and overall game have taken the scrutiny off of the 7-footers hanging on rims. He seems to lull opponents to sleep with this mouthpiece-chewing, childlike enjoyment of the game, but underneath that Warrior’s jersey beats the heart of the ultimate gym rat. A competitor that is currently playing the game he loves with unbelievable efficiency. Right now, Curry is mentioned with Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

I would go a step farther and say at this juncture Curry is playing three major phases of the game, shooting, assists, and rebounding, better than any NBA player in history. Surely, Johnson, Jordan, Larry Bird, and LeBron James all belong in the superstar category, and their individual basketball skills were/are outstanding, but to this lifelong hoops junkie Curry is at the pinnacle of his seven-year professional career.

No matter what sport, baseball, football, or basketball, post-season awards are rarely given unanimously. Even if an athlete monopolizes statistics, there is generally one egg-head sports columnist or talking head that goes for another name on the ballot.

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Unanimous Vote Warranted

This vote, despite there being so many other super talented players, was as on-target as any of Curry’s 30-foot rainbow shots.

However, the egg-heads (non-conformists) still let their yolk smear the balloting. Nine voters failed to put runner-up Kawhi Leonard in their first five. It did not change the outcome (Leonard edged out James for second place), but again it shows that despite the eye test and relative analytics, flawed judgment and antiquated reasoning haunts the professional sport.

This marks the second consecutive MVP award for the 6-foot-3 point guard from Davidson College. Last season he and his hot-shooting Warrior teammates won the NBA crown, but much was made that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost in the finals because they were minus two main players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, due to injury.

What does Curry do for an encore? He elevates his game to further cement his reputation as basketball’s best shooter, improves his cunning ball handling skills, and continues his role as an underrated defender. Curry increased his points per game average by seven, finishing the regular season as the leader at 30.1 ppg, and made 402 three pointers, breaking his record set last season of 286 (Curry has led the NBA in three-pointers for four consecutive seasons). He led the league in free throw percentage (90.8%), and steals (2.14 spg) while facilitating the fast-pace Warrior offense with 6.7 assists per game. For good measure, Curry set a career high by averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.

When you throw in his 50.4% shooting from the field, his 45.4% three-point shooting

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Curry “Stephed” Up His Game After Winning MVP Last Season

(making him only the seventh player in NBA history to go at least 50% from the field, 40% from beyond the arc, and 90% from the charity stripe), you get a glimpse of what keen observers of the game witnessed during this magical Warriors run at repeating their world title.

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about Curry suffering a Grade 1 MCL sprain when he slipped just before halftime of a playoff game with Houston. I mentioned that his injury, and the unknowns it created, had elevated the San Antonio Spurs to Las Vegas’s favorite to capture this season’s NBA crown. Well, no one will ever accuse Stephen Curry of being short on talent or dramatically impaired. The guy knows how to seize the moment!

With his teammates losing a game on the road against an overachieving Portland team (narrowing the best of seven series to 2-1 for Golden State), Curry and the Warrior brain trust decided to put him on a stationary bike courtside just in case he was needed during game four. Teammate Shaun Livingston, starting for Curry, was ejected after playing only twelve minutes, requiring an appearance by the rusty all-star.

The next three quarters and overtime session were a timeframe that will be indelibly forged into my best basketball memories (and, remember, I witnessed Pete Maravich play every one of his awe-inspiring home games at LSU). Portland, coming off its 12-victory in game three, sprinted out to 16-2 and 21-5 leads before the Warriors

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Talented Teammates Gave Curry Chance To Settle Into Flow Of Game

regrouped. Still leading by ten at halftime, the Trailblazers began to wilt under a barrage of three-pointers by Golden State (three for three from big man Marreese Speights leading the charge of 17 for 40 long range shooting) Curry was effective, but seemed tentative until late in the game, hitting his first three-pointer with nearly four minutes left in regulation.

Golden State did not win a record 73 games by being one dimensional, or one player oriented. Their offense, led by Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Igudola, Speights, and Curry, kept the scoreboard changing while playing enough defense to end the game tied 111-111. A running, down the right side of the lane, floater by Curry missed, giving Portland some hope.

Steph Curry Time. All great ones seem to have the rare propensity to rise to the occasion. He had helped rally his team back from behind, had narrowly missed a winning shot at the buzzer. Did he hang his head? Nope, he dug deeper and put on a

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Overtime Effort For The Ages

basketball display for the ages. Seventeen overtime points, four long range threes that kept Portland reeling. With almost a minute left (1.05) in OT, Curry weaved his way around and through a top of the key screen before releasing a 30-foot contested swisher.

The shot upped the Warriors lead to eight, 128-120, put the game in the Golden State win column, and led to a trip down the West Coast where Curry was named the league’s MVP unanimously.

Jaw dropping, you bet. When Curry’s clinching shot hit the net, television cameras focused in on Trailblazer owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The look of disbelief on his face as he looked up to take a peek at the replay spoke volumes. No doubt an intelligent man, he looked as clueless as the NBA defenders trying to guard Curry.

How special it is to be able to watch such a gifted, grounded athlete at the peak of his game!

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