Stephen Curry is widely considered the greatest point guard in the game right now, and the player is mainly responsible for changing the game with his style of play. His unparalleled shooting and skills have made Curry the most terrifying guard to play against at the moment. The superstar point guard is clearly a Finals MVP favorite this season as he builds his incredible resume. His career is already enough to give him Hall of Fame honors, as he managed to 3 championships as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
In fact, Stephen Curry is the man mainly responsible for spearheading a dynasty that has made six Finals appearances with a total of 29 games played. Currently, Curry and the Warriors are locked in battle with the Boston Celtics in a series that could very well stretch to 7 games according to predictions. Due to Curry’s sharpshooting abilities, the Warriors have managed to employ one of the greatest offenses in NBA history because his off-ball movement creates a ton of problems for opposing defenses.
Not to mention, Stephen Curry is the first-ever unanimous MVP with back-to-back MVP awards in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, Steph put up 23.8 PPG and 7.7 APG on 48.7% FG, 44.3% 3-PT FG, and 91.4% FT. The following year, the Golden State Warriors star averaged 30.1 PPG and 6.7 APG on 50.4% FG, 45.4% 3-PT FG, and 90.8% FT. Clearly, Steph is one of the most impactful players in NBA history and has an argument for being one of the greatest regular-season performers of all time.
But the Warriors have dropped Game 1 against the Celtics in shocking fashion, losing the game 120-108 due to a Celtics’ 4th quarter explosion. Steph held his own with 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 38 minutes of play, but his impact was sorely lacking in the 4th quarter when his team needed him most. That only helped the critics come out of the woodwork once again, because Curry’s playoff resume is greatly questioned for a variety of reasons. The Game 1 loss was quite shocking considering the Warriors were in control of the game, and if the Warriors cannot respond to win the series, Stephen Curry’s legacy could be in jeopardy.
There is no doubt that Steph Curry is one of the all-time great point guards, but if the Warriors lose the series to the relatively inexperienced Boston Celtics, it will be hard to argue that the greatest shooter of all time will have a ton of questions to answer. Here are the reasons why Curry’s legacy is on the line if the Warriors lose to the Celtics.
5. A Perception That Steph Only Shows Up When The Warriors Are Winning, Disappears When His Team Needs Him
Critics are always quick to point out that the most impactful point guard in the game piles on when the Warriors are ahead and has multiple appearances where he cannot bring the team out of adversity. When Curry’s threes are falling while the Warriors are sharing the ball quickly, the Warriors are unstoppable. It seemingly never ends for opposing teams, because Curry (and his Splash Brother Klay Thompson) tend to get hot from deep and rain threes from the sky. We have seen multiple times when Curry takes apart teams when momentum is on his side, especially a few years ago when the league had not yet seen shooting like this. With teams relatively unprepared to deal with the Warriors’ shooting, Curry went to task most time.
But critics tend to trust their eye test, and there is not much evidence of Steph showing up for his team during periods of adversity, especially in the postseason. The Warriors have often been on top throughout the past few years, but there is evidence that Steph could not deal with adversity when the odds were not stacked against the opposing team. One of those examples is the 2016 Finals (more on that later) where a 3-1 series lead was blown, with another being the 2019 Finals when he no longer had a superteam around him with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson going down with injuries.
There is also the 2021 play-in tournament when Curry could not get the job done for the Warriors when the team was fighting for a chance in the playoffs. There are a ton of critics who always point out to Curry lacking the impact he has when Golden State have things going for them, one of them being renowned analyst Skip Bayless:
"Steph is a special shooter, I've never seen anything like him. But a special player? I can't go there yet, I need to see more."
The Warriors always seem to have things going for them, but in moments when that is not the case, Curry has not performed to the level of his all-time great contemporaries. Most of the all-time great point guards, from Magic Johnson to Isiah Thomas, have never faced these types of criticism.
4. An Eyebrow-Raising Play-In Loss To Memphis In 2021
One of those moments where Steph could not deal with adversity was the 2021 play-in tournament when the Golden State Warriors were fighting for a chance to compete in the playoffs. Anytime an all-time great player misses the playoffs, it is not a good look for them because that is the ultimate purpose of competing in the NBA during the regular season. Curry held his own on the stat sheet with 39 points, but Ja Morant outshone him.
The athletic point guard, at age 21, did enough to usurp Steph on the court with a 35-point performance including clutch plays to get his side to the playoffs. The Memphis Grizzlies had missed the playoffs since 2017, but he managed to steal a victory against the favored Warriors in the play-in tournament. Last year, there was no doubt Steph was a better player than Ja, but he could not deal with the adversity of the high-energy youth.
Stephen Curry was in high spirits after the loss, basically admitting that he needed Klay Thompson by his side, at least:
“You don’t want to see us next year. You can talk about the collection guys that were out there this year this last little stretch and what we didn’t have (with injuries), what we lacked, but we did have a lot of heart.”
Meanwhile, Ja Morant showed the type of killer instinct that Curry surprisingly failed to show with his comments:
“Late in that game, you know, I love pressure honestly. I feel like my game rises to another level.”
Morant also showed supreme confidence in his improving shooting:
“I’m always confident in myself, but give a lot of credit to my coaches and teammates… tonight, after learning how they played me in the first game, I was locked in on that.”
Clearly, Curry admitted he did not have enough to get past the Memphis Grizzlies despite the fact Ja was only 21 years old and the rest of the roster was not ready for big moments. Failing to lead the Warriors into the playoffs, even without the presence of Klay Thompson, can be considered a negative mark on his Hall of Fame record.
3. Very Poor Defensive Impact
Stephen Curry is a legendary offensive player due to his shooting and ball-handling, but he is not known as a consistent defensive stopper. The point guard is constantly criticized for being a pushover on defense, although he is not blessed with the ability or the skills to be a lockdown defender like his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson. Steph is 6’2” and only weighs 185 lbs, meaning he is a slender player without the physical gifts to actually be an impact player against opposing guards who are normally bigger and stronger than him.
Steph also lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with the multitude of explosive guards in the league, with the Warriors usually hiding the guard on defense. The Warriors star has not let the critics take free roam with their criticism because he has fired back on occasion:
“I do my job, man. And know exactly what I need to do to hold up my bargain on that end of the floor. It’s my job to take those challenges, take those matchups, and just compete. Bring effort. It’s all about effort, it’s about consistency (and) just the want-to be in the right place at the right time. Definitely up for that challenge.”
Steph even admitted he was “improving” on defense, although that might not be true:
“I’ve gotten a lot better. Whether I get that acknowledgment or not, I don’t care … I do my job. I know when I’m locked in and when I’m not, and what that looks like.”
No doubt about it, Curry gets taken advantage of in the playoffs, due to his relatively miniature size and lack of defensive impact. He struggled to keep up with opposing guards, especially ones with All-Star skills. Just a reminder, guess who was defending Kyrie Irving when the Cleveland Cavaliers star nailed the game-winner in the 2016 Finals?
2. A Shocking 3-1 Loss To The Cleveland Cavaliers In 2016
One of the biggest black marks on Stephen Curry’s career has to be the 2016 Finals collapse, where the Golden State Warriors faltered in the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite holding a 3-1 lead, Curry could not manage to get one victory over the last three games and kill the competition. Almost 6 years later, Curry acknowledged the loss as a painful one but wouldn’t take it back if it meant losing the 2017 and 2018 rings:
“I would say no. I think for the rest of my life I’ll be able to laugh at ’16. It’ll always be that awkward acknowledgment of an amazing regular season… I’m glad I don’t take myself seriously cause goddamn that was hard”.
Even though Curry is at peace with his career, the fact that he failed to close the deal and give up the first 3-1 comeback in Finals history as the best player on the team is almost inexcusable for an all-time great player. It is hard to imagine a situation where any other all-time great point guard, from Magic Johnson to Isiah Thomas, would not be able to win at least one game out of three.
Game 5 was not a great one for Steph, as he went 8-21 from the field en route to 25 points on 38.1% FG and 33.3% 3-PT FG. The Warriors lost the game by quite a big margin, 112-97. The following game, the pressure was on Steph to close the deal and not give the Cavaliers hope in Game 7. But Curry went 4-11 in the second half and could not stop the bleeding when the Cavaliers went on a run, in a game that ended 115-101. Finally, in a critical Game 7 with Curry’s legacy on the line, he went 6-19 from the field, which is good for 31.6% FG and 28.6% 3-PT FG. Of course, he had to accept a Kyrie Irving game-winner over him to lose the series.
The 2016 Finals loss will be on Curry’s resume forever, and it is almost inexcusable for a player of his magnitude. Of course, had the Warriors won the series, Curry would have been named Finals MVP. But instead, Steph does not have a Finals MVP award to his name.
1. Zero Finals MVPs To His Name
By far the biggest critique of Stephen Curry’s career is the fact that he does not hold a Finals MVP award to his name. The Golden State Warriors guard has won 3 championships, but he was not the best player on his team for any of them. In 2015, Andre Iguodala changed the series as soon as the Cleveland Cavaliers went up 2-1. Curry was the best scorer, but Iggy’s defense and clutch plays helped the Warriors close the deal against LeBron James’ team that did not feature Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love.
Of course, when Kevin Durant was on the Warriors, Curry had to accept a backseat role to the 4-time scoring champion. Steph is not a better player on both ends of the floor than Durant, and there was no way he was winning either Finals MVP award over the former Oklahoma City Thunder star. KD won both Finals MVP, outplaying LeBron James in 2017 and 2018. Quite frankly, without Durant competing as the best player in the world, it can be argued that Steph would not have won those titles over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It is hard to find an all-time great player with multiple championships that does not have a Finals MVP award. That essentially means Steph was never the best player on his championship teams, and if he cannot manage to be the best player on the Warriors this year, his legacy will be on the line. The stage is set for the 2-time MVP to win his 4th championship and 1st Finals MVP award, because that will shut up a ton of critics who cannot let go of the fact Andre Iguodala has one more than Curry.
Stephen Curry Has The Most To Lose From The 2022 Finals
Stephen Curry’s legacy is on the line this season because his playoff failures are well-documented. His three championships are certainly impressive, but the fact that he does not have a single Finals MVP award is shocking for a player of his caliber. The Golden State Warriors star could correct a ton of issues by winning his fourth championship and first Finals MVP, but losing could mean critics would continue flooding out of the woodwork.
Klay Thompson is not considered an all-time great player nor a top-75 player of all time, so his legacy should be out of the firing line. Similarly, Draymond Green is not a top-75 player of all time and is mainly considered an elite defender with leadership attributes. His name is out of the firing line as well. Steve Kerr has already proven he is one of the greatest coaches ever because he helped create the Golden State Warriors offense that we see today.
But Curry managed to win his first championship against an injury-ridden Cavaliers squad in 2015, and Kevin Durant’s presence stacked the deck entirely in Golden State’s favor during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. If Curry fails to close the series against an inexperienced Boston Celtics side, that marks yet another occasion where the point guard does not overcome adversity to win a championship and also capture his first Finals MVP award.