On his way to his second consecutive NBA MVP award, Steph Curry has been, without argument, the best player in basketball over the past two years. Curry has led the Golden State Warriors to the number one seed in the Western Conference this year, and along the way he has set a few NBA records; including breaking his own record for most 3-point shots made in a single season. Curry’s uncanny ability to shoot the ball from long range, combined with his elite level of ball handling, makes it undeniable that he is a force, and would be very hard to handle in a game of one-on-one.
Steph has many thing in his favor when we start talking about playing a game of one-on-one, his shot, of course, makes him tough to defend, along with his ability to create separation. The thing that has made Steph so marketable and popular, could also be the thing that restricts his ability to win many battles with a lot of the all time greats; his size.
Curry is listed at 6’3″, 190 pounds, and many media members who cover him say he is more like 6’2″, or even a half inch shorter than that. A lot of fans love Steph because he is the size of a regular guy, and that is great, but when you start matching him up against some of the all time greats, that small frame will prove costly for Steph.
Curry would be very challenged when trying to stop some bigger players from scoring at will on him. The secret to his current defensive success is his teammates, the Warriors are a wonderful defensive team, and they are able to hide Curry’s size deficiencies with great team defense. Sadly for Curry, a game of one-on-one is just that, so he will have no support from teammates on this one.
Also it is important to know that this list is offering 15 players who, in their prime, would beat Curry, key words being “in their prime,” not in their current form.
15. Tracy McGrady
First off, it’s important to remember that McGrady was 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, and possessed as much athleticism as Steph.” T-Mac” was a superstar with Hall of Fame talents and abilities, even from his rookie year. McGrady could fill it up from anywhere on the floor, be it long range, or flying above the rim for highlight dunks, he could do it all. If it were not for injuries, Tracy McGrady would be a multiple time NBA Champion. If you are too young to remember “T-Mac”, you need to YouTube him!
14. Brandon Roy
“B-Roy” was on his way to taking over the NBA as the best two guard in the league before his knees gave out on him. Roy had it all, he was 6’6″ with handles, size, leaping ability, a mean jump shot, clutch reflexes, and elite level of defense. Steph would have a hard time getting a shot off against Brandon, and on the other end, he would have a difficult time preventing Roy from getting any shot he desired with his additional reach.
13. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem “The Dream” is the only center on the list. Most centers would have a tough time stopping Steph because of his quickness, but Olajuwon had fast enough lateral movement to prevent Steph from scoring at will. He would also have no problems scoring against Steph, as Curry wouldn’t be able to compensate for his size in the paint.
The only problem he may encounter, would be if Steph was hot from deep, but once Curry missed it would be all over. Hakeem had too many moves down low, and his size would be just too much for little Steph to handle.
12. Gary Payton
This match up would be one of the most entertaining to watch. It would put, possibly the best wing defender of all time, against the greatest shooter of all time. “The Glove” as he was referred to, would likely find a way to get Curry off his mark. At 6’4″, Payton would have a size advantage over Curry, and Payton was a master at using his body as size against his opponents. Payton also possessed a killer post game for a guard, and Steph would have trouble stopping GP when he got into the paint. Curry simply isn’t as accustomed to physical contact as players were in the 90s.
11. Russell Westbrook
Although these two guys are listed as the same height, it is clear when they stand next to each other, Westbrook is a couple inches taller than Curry. Regardless, Steph would have a chance, because he would not get pushed around by Westbrook, however, the OKC gaurd would have a major athletic advantage in this match up.
Westbrook would have no problem keeping up with the speedy Curry on defense, and on offense he would be able to get to the rim, while Curry would have to rely on making contested jump shots.
10. Dwyane Wade
This is where we have to remember that we are talking about players in their prime. There is no question the Wade of today would get trounced by Steph, but the Wade of six or seven years ago would do a number on Steph. Wade has the basketball IQ of a coach, and he has the sense and skill to embarrass even the greatest of defenders – Curry is not even a great defender. It would be a pleasure to see how Curry went about trying to stop the multifaceted abilities of “Flash.”
9. Kevin Durant
Finally we find someone with close to the same shooting abilities as Steph Curry, the only thing is, Kevin Durant is nearly a foot taller than Curry. Curry would have no chance at stopping Durant from scoring at will, and Durant has just enough lateral movement to keep Steph from hitting open shots all game. What separates Kevin in this match up is clearly the size advantage, benefiting from carrying a seven foot frame. If Steph were maybe six inches taller, this would make for a more compelling contest.
8. Larry Bird
The original 3-point assassin versus the current master. Again, Curry’s lack of size would cost him in this match up, against Larry Bird, who is just south of seven feet tall. Curry has the skills needed to handle a player like Bird, however, Bird has the competitive fire and the overwhelming size advantage. It would be a fun game to watch, but Bird has too much size and inside scoring ability for Curry to come out on top.
7. Carmelo Anthony
Many believe Carmelo is the best isolation player in the NBA. I don’t share that thought, but he certainly is in the discussion. Carmelo is 6’8, 240 pounds, and that is just too much size and strength for Steph to handle at maybe 190 pounds. Melo also has a great shot from deep to go with his elite post game. This would be a lopsided affair for Steph, due in large part to Melo’s nature of playing a one-on-one as he has done the majority of his career.
6. Magic Johnson
Magic and Steph are both point guards, and that is where the similarities end for these two all-time greats. Johnson was able to acquire the skyhook from his teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and that shot alone would get the job done against Steph. Not to mention Magic was 6’8″, with dribbling abilities on par with anyone of his era. This would be a tough match up for Steph, as magic may just be too long for him to contend with.
5. Allen Iverson
LeBron James once called Allen Iverson the greatest pound for pound player in NBA history – a claim that many have asserted over the past few years. Iverson was a scoring machine, and nobody could stop him. He crossed Michael Jordan in an iconic match up during his rookie season, and repeated the act on hundred of other NBA players throughout his career. Curry would have no answer for “The Answer”offensively, and on the other end, Iverson was a notorious pick pocket.
4. Scottie Pippen
Recently Pippen was quoted as saying his 1995 Bulls would sweep the Warriors in a seven game series. I happen to disagree with that sentiment whole heartedly, but I do believe Pippen would do a hell of a job guarding Steph. Pippen, at 6’8″ and 230 pounds was an amazing defender. Pippen was teamed with Michael Jordan, another great defender, but Scottie was always assigned the other teams best player. Scottie was no slouch on offense either, and with the height and weight advantage, he would have no problem getting buckets on the diminutive Steph.
3. LeBron James
King James is a monster, standing 6’8 and 250 pounds, Steph would stand zero chance at ever stopping him in motion. LeBron has world class athleticism, and the basketball IQ to rival any great basketball mind. Curry would be blanketed by a young LeBron, and this game could easily get out of hand very quick. Keep in mind that LeBron used to be able to dunk the basketball from anywhere on the floor… how could Curry stop that?
2. Kobe Bryant
As we get deeper into this list it becomes harder and harder to find ways for Steph to even have a chance against these guys. Kobe in his prime was unstoppable, even the best defenders in the league were rendered helpless when Kobe put on his “Kobe Face.” Steph might get skunked against a vintage Bryant, as not only was Kobe the greatest scorer since Michael Jordan, but Kobe prided himself on defense.
Bryant would routinely stick the opposing team’s best player, and he would relish the opportunity to shut down anyone, especially Steph.
1. Michael Jordan
Did you expect someone else? The greatest competitor the game has ever seen, and it’s most unstoppable offensive force is Michael Jordan. Jordan would have no problems containing Steph, as Jordan is 6’6″ and had the quickness and lateral movement to stay step for step with Curry. Michael Jordan in his prime would take this challenge so seriously, that it is likely Curry wouldn’t even score a basket.
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