Steph Curry is great. That is hardly a controversial stance to take in light of the sensational season unleashed by the Golden State Warriors sharpshooting superstar to follow up on his 2014-15 MVP campaign. While it has yet to be announced, there remains little doubt that Curry will soon be receiving his second consecutive MVP trophy for a season in which he averaged 30.1 points, made 402 three-pointers while shooting 45.4% from deep and led a high-powered Warriors offense to a record-breaking 73-win plateau that many NBA observers thought couldn't be achieved.
The greatness of Curry is plainly obvious for anyone who paid even the slightest bit of attention to professional basketball this year. Not only do those aforementioned stats stand out, but every Warriors game was appointment viewing for basketball fans this year as Curry thrilled Oracle Arena and vexed opposing defenders by making unthinkable shots from all over the floor. But just as special as Curry's season seemed to the naked eye, the gaudy numbers he put up place him in rare company that stand up across the history of the sport.
Here are 15 awe-inspiring numbers that can, at least partially, help explain Curry's season for the ages.
15 50 in Three or Less
According to Basketball-Reference, the NBA has seen 17 total games (including regular season and playoffs) in which a player managed to score 50 or more points despite playing fewer than 36 minutes. During the 2015-16 season, Curry registered three of those games. As the most valuable player on one of the best teams in NBA history, the 28-year-old enjoyed plenty of blowout games in which his superlative performance turned him into a fourth quarter spectator. So it's no surprise, then, that Curry recorded a number of games with less than three quarters worth of floor time. What's surprising is what he was still able to do, even in shorter spurts on the court.
14 A Season of Three's
Curry made a three-point basket in all 79 games that he played this year, which practically seems like an afterthought and even a prerequisite for a player who would average five made three pointers a game. In the history books, though, it will go down as a remarkably unique achievement. Believe it or not, no player before Curry had played more than 22 games in a season while sinking a three in each one. Even Kyle Korver, who previously had the record for consecutive games with a made three at 127 before Curry demolished it, earned his record across two separate seasons.
13 Harden's Better? Nah!
Let the record show that, upon the culmination of the 2015-16 season, James Harden of the Houston Rockets finished with more total points than Curry. However, unlike the 2014-15 season when Harden had a legitimate argument for the MVP award that eventually went to Curry, the bearded one has no such justifiable claim here. That's because Harden's one-point edge (2376 to 2375) came while spending 425 more minutes on the floor over the course of the season. That is the equivalent of nearly nine full games worth of playing time that Harden got over Curry.
12 Curry's Three's > Dunks
Back in February, some analytic braniac realized that Curry had become so reliable from long distance that his bombs from deep were actually a better bet than even the most efficient shot in basketball.
More crazy Curry stats. From 28 feet to 50 feet, he's 35-of-52 this season. Better efficiency than making 100% of your 2s— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) February 26, 2016
As of February 26th, Curry had made 35 of his 52 shot attempts from between 28 and 50 feet. Because shots from that distance all came from beyond the arc, they were each worth three points, giving him 105 points from those shots. If another player had made all 52 of those attempts from inside the arc, an achievement likely only possible through dunking every time, they would have only registered 104 points.
11 He Steals Too
If there were any Steph Curry haters out there - if there are, I certainly haven't found them - one could foresee attempts being made to label him as a one-dimensional offensive player who is only able to enjoy such eye-popping stats due to the efforts of his deep roster of talented teammates. In fact, in a far less heralded manner, Curry also led the league in steals this year, collecting 169 swipes to finish ahead of Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio and even Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard.
10 Big Gap
Fellow Splash Brother and starting Warriors guard Klay Thompson had a memorable season of his own, coming just 10 threes shy of matching Curry's old record for triples in a season (286) along the way to finishing second at year's end. That number would look more impressive were it not for Curry making 402 treys of his own. That's a stark difference of 126 made three's between the first-place finisher on the year and the runner-up, who just happen to be teammates. So stark, in fact, that you have to go from second all the way down to the 22nd-place finisher to match the gap between No. 1 and 2.
9 10+ Three's
Making 10 three-pointers in a game isn't exactly a common occurrence for NBA players. Few players have the confidence of their coach and teammates to make such a push on a regular basis and even fewer boast the accuracy to even come close to making it a reality. Curry, the only player to even average as many as 10 three-point attempts per game, still managed to turn the trick four times. The rest of the NBA, to put the mark in perspective, combined to do so three times.
8 30 in 35
The fact that Curry finished the season with an average of 30.06 points per game only tells part of the story of his scoring exploits. While a 30+ average is indeed impressive, there are 33 others players who have finished a year over that same plateau, making it a fairly common achievement among, you know, incredibly skilled NBA scorers. But Curry breaks away from even that pack by his remarkable offensive efficiency. He stands as the only player to average 30 in a season while playing less than 35 minutes per game.
7 Exclusive Company
While still working as an NBA statistical guru for ESPN, John Hollinger created the all-in-one basketball performance rating metric of Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The statistic measures a player's per-minute performance while adjusting for pace and typically identifies the game's truly elite. Curry's season ended with a PER of 31.5 in a league where a mark of 15.00 is considered the median. Such a high PER places his season eighth all-time. The names above him? You may recognize them - Wilt, MJ and LeBron.
6 Most Improved?
A popular topic in the blogosphere late in the season was whether Curry could actually take home the Most Improved Player award this season. Although entirely unheard of for a reigning MVP to merit Most Improved consideration, blogs touting the interesting choice certainly made a compelling argument. Curry's PPG average was 6.3 points higher than his final average of 23.8 last season, representing the biggest jump of any player in their MVP follow-up season. In fact, he actually upped his numbers in nearly every significant statistical category from the season prior, save for a slight dip in assists.
5 73 Wins!
Lest we forget, the top individual award given out in the NBA doesn't necessarily go to the game's best player, but it's most valuable. If Curry's individual stats highlight his impressive candidacy as this season's best player, the NBA-record 73 wins enjoyed by his Warriors certainly tout the valuable side. Golden State became the only club in NBA history to go the whole season while not losing to any team twice. No disrespect intended to exceptional players like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, but this was Curry's team and man, did they ever dominate.
4 Curry vs All of NBA History
After this season's exploits, and following his seventh career NBA campaign, Curry has now recorded four games in which he has both scored 50+ points while making 10 three-pointers or more. He had two of those this season, including games in which he fell just two triples and four points shy of achieving the same lofty accomplishment. And just how lofty is the accomplishment? It has been done three times over the course of NBA history by someone not named Steph Curry.
3 8+ Three's
Since the three-point line was introduced in 1979, there have been some great long range marksmen to spread out opposing defenses and connect on back-breaking shots. But even in a league that has celebrated the likes of Reggie Miller, Ray Allen and even Larry Bird, Curry is beginning to stand out for how dangerous a volume shot-maker he can be anywhere on the court. But the level of dominance he showed from beyond the arc this season seems just plain disrespectful to Curry's historical forbearers. Consider that Curry had 16 games of eight or more three's, more than any other player has collected over their career.
2 50/40/90 Club
Even in the grand, rarefied air of the 50/40/90 club, Curry's season stands out. Simply by hitting the aforementioned major numerical benchmarks in shooting percentage (.504%), three-point percentage (.454%) and free throw percentage (.908%), he joined an elite club composed of just seven members. Within that, however, Curry is the club's highest scorer and one of just three members of the even more exclusive 50/45/90 club, ironically alongside Golden State Warriors employees Steve Kerr and Steve Nash.
1 402 Treys
Noticing Curry's individual greatness even within an impossibly stacked all-time NBA powerhouse team became considerably easier as his three-point achievements were being celebrated. First came breaking his own record of 286 three's in a season, which he did with 24 games to spare. Then he was recognized as the first player to 300 in a season, and then to 400. When all was said and done, Curry's 402 treys represented a 40% improvement on his own prior NBA record. To put that in perspective, FiveThirtyEight blog linked it to baseball, where a hitter would have to smack 103 home runs this season to surpass the prior mark in such grand fashion.