Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors poses with his back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Awards following a press conference at ORACLE Arena on May 10, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Ezra Shaw—Getty Images
By Sean Gregory
May 11, 2016

No voters — in the sports media or otherwise — could screw this one up. On Tuesday, Stephen Curry became the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, as a panel of 130 sports writers and broadcasters, plus a fan vote, all awarded him first place votes. It’s a fitting honor for the player who turned in the best season the NBA has ever seen. Need reasons to back up this claim up? Like Curry, we’ll shoot for three:

  1. Curry became the first player, at any position, to average at least 30 points per game (he finished with an NBA best 30.1) while playing less than 35 minutes per game. His Warriors were so good, Curry could afford to sit out at the end of many. So compare this production to Wilt Chamerlain’s 1961-1962 season, in which the Philadelphia Warriors center averaged 50.4 points. That season, Chamberlain averaged incredible 48.5 minutes per game. So on a per-36 minute basis, Chamberlain averaged 37.4 points, while Curry clocked in at 31.5. Advantage, Wilt? Consider: Wilt was nicknamed “the Stilt.” He was 7’1″, competing against the smaller, less athletic players of that era. Not to diminish Chamberlain’s greatness, but the game was just easier for him. Curry is 6’3″, willowy and not exceptionally fast. Accounting for degree of difficulty, Curry’s haul is more impressive.
  2. No one has ever shot the ball better. Curry made 402 three-pointers during the regular season, breaking the record he set last year — 286 threes — by 41%. So imagine that after setting the new home run record of 73 in 2001, Barry Bonds returned the next year and blasted 41% more, or 103. Without any steroid suspicions. Curry’s 2015-2016 “true shooting percentage” — an efficiency measure that takes into account free throws, two-pointers and three-pointers — of 67% is an all-time best for a league-leading scorer.
  3. He’s the MVP of a team that won a league-record 73 regular season games.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There are many other reasons Curry made basketball history this year. Such as:

  • After scoring 40 points against the New Orleans Pelicans on opening night, Curry dropped another 53 on New Orleans four nights later.
  • Needing one more win to break the record for most regular season victories ever — 72, set by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls — Curry goes out and sinks 10 three-pointers. He finishes with 46 points, in 30 minutes, in Golden State’s 125-104 victory over Memphis:
  • This shot, against the Oklahoma City Thunder in February. Curry’s record-tying 12th three-pointer of the night, taken from nearly half-court, well, just, because, capped off a 121-118 comeback overtime win for the Warriors. It may have been the most thrilling regular-season game ever.

And though the MVP ballot doesn’t account for the playoffs, we have to mention Monday night. Curry, who hadn’t played in two weeks due to a knee injury, scores 40 points off the bench — including an NBA-record 17 in overtime — to lead Golden State to a 132-125 Game 4 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are now one win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals. Curry’s best ever season is far from over. Don’t be stunned if it only gets better.

 

 

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