May 7, 2015

After leading the Golden State Warriors to the NBA’s best record and breaking his own mark for most three-pointers in a season–he sank 286–Curry, 27, was named NBA MVP on May 4. The Warriors are shooting for their first title in 40 years.

• CLAIMS TO FAME

Colleges with big-time basketball programs passed on Curry, whose father Dell played in the NBA from 1986 to 2002. He landed at tiny Davidson and busted countless NCAA-tournament brackets in leading the Wildcats to an Elite Eight appearance in 2008. In the NBA, Curry has become a YouTube hit factory; clips of his sleight-of-hand dribbling, no-look passing and long-distance shooting from impossible angles have become morning coffee for millions of fans. During one April practice, Curry hit 77 straight three-point shots.

• CURRENT CHALLENGE

Advancing past the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals, where either the Los Angeles Clippers–a team built to win it all–or the Houston Rockets, who feature MVP runner-up James Harden, await. Given Golden State’s regular season and Curry’s rare talents, anything less than a championship would let the Bay Area down. Should Curry win, the NBA’s marketing machine will lift him to a new level of stardom: he’ll challenge LeBron James for the title of global face of the NBA.

• BIGGEST CHAMPION

“I don’t even know how to describe what I watched tonight,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr after Curry scored 45 points, with eight three-pointers, in an April win. “I have never seen a player with this skill set.”

• CAN HE DO IT?

For years, Golden State’s offense was a delightful sideshow. Now the Warriors are a top defensive team too. That combination may be enough to deliver a championship.

–SEAN GREGORY

This appears in the May 18, 2015 issue of TIME.

Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com.

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