Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Only a completely misinformed idiot could look at the past two seasons of brilliance displayed by one Stephen Wardell Curry and conclude that his career is in shambles and doomed for failure. He’s the best player on arguably the greatest team in the history of professional basketball – and that was before they added fellow once-in-a-generation talent Kevin Durant. NBA champion? Check. Two-time MVP? Double check. Lock to be enshrined at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame the second he’s eligible? You bet. Oh, and that won’t be for a while yet because Curry is still in his prime. So what exactly is there not to like?
Well, the problem is that fans are fickle, and success is relative. There are a lot of ways to measure success, some involving literal measurement with numbers, some less tangible. If we’re talking about financial success, I’m sure Steph won’t have any trouble putting Riley through college, to put it mildly. If we’re talking about personal satisfaction, only the man himself will be able to answer that when all is said and done.
I’m here to talk about the one measure of success that matters most to fans like you and I: legacy. Legacies are constantly being shaped, reformed, and reframed with each passing season, with massive swings often happening seemingly overnight. Remember when Derrick Rose was the the youngest ever MVP and seemed poised for superstardom with his hometown Bulls? Fast forward just five years later and he’s now the latest washed-up former star to find themselves in basketball purgatory, i.e. New York (sorry Knicks fans, all your booing remains justified). When it comes to history, you’re only as good as the court of public opinion judges you to be, and there’s some compelling evidence to suggest that the tide is beginning to shift against Steph Curry.
Below are 15 reasons Steph Curry's career may be doomed.
We all saw what happened in this year’s playoffs when Curry missed two weeks of action with various ankle and knee ailments, and was never quite his usual extraordinary self when he came back. His game may not be overly reliant on explosiveness, but his joints need to be able to withstand his frequent changes of direction and give him elevation on his famous jumper. While he’s been pretty durable for his career, playing at least 74 games in six of his seven seasons, he did miss most of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and has a long history of frequent ankle injuries.
Some problems, no matter what you do, can’t be resolved. Unfortunately for Curry, all the ankle surgeries and biometrically supported rest schedules in the world won’t change the fact that he’ll be 29 by the time next year’s playoffs roll around. Still young, but older than you thought, right? Perhaps because Curry spent three years in college (a rarity for future stars), and then took a few more years to become an All-Star level talent, the casual fan is left with the impression that he’s only been around for the last three or four seasons. In the grand scheme of things, he’s still a baby, but don’t let the face fool you; in basketball years, Curry may be closing in on his twilight.
12 League-Wide Point Guard Depth
11 New Defensive Schemes
Going at Curry as a defender was just one of many methods teams tried to implement to slow down Curry. Quite frankly, that was one of a very few that even sort of worked, but coaches and analysts are constantly evaluating and adjusting game plans to solve new problems, and you can bet Curry is priority #1 on most teams’ lists. OKC developed a blueprint for defending him during their playoff series, which involved being physical and not being afraid to switch their bigs onto him, a plan that nearly paid off. Unfortunately, with the Thunder roster now blown to smithereens, there is no team that can replicate the length and athleticism required to defend in this way. Not yet, anyway. Milwaukee seems to be attempting to build something similar with physical freaks Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, and now, Thon Maker.
10 NBA Rule Changes
If the brightest minds on every coaching staff can’t figure out how to defend Curry, the bigwigs at the league head office might rise to the challenge. Transcendent talents have a history of forcing the rules to bend in the interest of fairness, like when defensive menace George Mikan forced basketball to adopt rules against goal-tending. Already there have been rumblings from around the league and from fans that the game is becoming too reliant on 3-point shooting, and Curry and his Warriors are the poster children for this style of play.
9 Wild West
For nearly two decades, it’s been evident that the NBA has a parity problem, with the Western Conference consistently dominating. In a staggering 16 of the past 17 years, the West has had the better record in head-to-head matchups with the East, and 12 of the last 18 titles have gone to the Western Conference Champions. At times it’s been so bad that a comfortable 4th seed in the East would be a 10th seed out West. In other words, Curry and his Warriors will have their work cut out for them, particularly come playoff time, as long as the West maintains its strength.
8 Kevin Durant
Steph Curry has been the unquestioned face of the Warriors franchise for the past few years, but all that is about to change. There’s a new star in town, and his name is Kevin Durant. While Curry will still likely be an MVP candidate, he’ll be forced to share the spotlight with another one, and his basic per-game stats may suffer due to a slightly reduced role. Durant will also eat into some of Curry’s marketing and media opportunities, potentially bad news for Curry’s sponsor, Under Armour, as an underdog trying to break Nike and Adidas’s dominance in the shoe game.
7 Team Chemistry
6 Great Expectations
5 Damage Already Done
How Steph Curry deals with the pressure of being asked to lead the greatest basketball team of all time (on paper) seems key to how his legacy gets written, but in the end, it may not even matter. For many fans, no amount of future success can compensate for the bad taste left by Curry’s recent failures. Sure, he’s coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, but he didn’t even win Finals MVP when his team won the championship, and things got even worse this past season when he failed to lead the presumptive best team ever to a second title. Of course, lingering injuries likely played a huge part in his subpar play, but the lasting image of Curry from the 2016 playoffs will be Kyrie Irving draining the championship-clincher in his grill.
4 Escalating Arms Race
3 Salary Cap
2 Lockout Looming
Yeah, so, about that salary cap…
The league and National Basketball Players Association will likely begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement in December, one which will have to address the ramifications of the rising salary cap among other things. Super-teams have caused the league a lot of anxiety in recent years, and modifications to the salary cap are one way they've attempted to deal with the issue. For instance, the introduction of a punitive luxury tax during the last negotiations was meant to limit the ability of franchises to overspend, something the recent TV deal income has temporarily negated. The Miami “Big 3” made parity in general, and the salary cap in particular, hot-button issues in 2011, and Golden State’s blockbuster offseason will likely make things even more contentious this time around.
1 LeBron James
When all is said and done, Curry might end up being one of those players who just played in the wrong era. Michael Jordan dominated his '90s opponents like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, and the Jordan of the 2010s is LeBron James. While James’ teams have been slightly less dominant, his presence still looms large over the cultural landscape, and he seemed to reaffirm his alpha dog status by defeating Curry in this year’s playoffs, not to mention outplaying him in last year’s courageous defeat. The addition of Durant has essentially doomed any chance Curry could have had to redeem himself, turning Curry into Goliath and James into a likable underdog with nothing more to prove.
James coming out on top again would just be icing on the cake, but even if he doesn’t, the narrative remains in his favor. Legacy is all about perception, and while Curry is unquestionably an all-time great who changed the game, his greatness may become obscured over time by the long shadow of LeBron James.
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