The team that passed on Stephen Curry oh so many years ago got beaten in the NCAA championship game by what else? A 3-pointer.
You have to believe the folks at Davidson, especially one particular ex-student, took a little extra gratification from Kris Jenkins’ title-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that lifted Villanova over North Carolina. Because it was Davidson, you may recall, that benefited most from the decisions by North Carolina and Duke to take a pass on the player who would go on to become the face of the NBA.
Yes, the face of the NBA.
Let’s face it: It has now been almost two full years since LeBron James was the unquestioned face of the NBA. And it would have been hard to find anybody who would have argued that his move from Miami to Cleveland would keep him in that position for at least a half-decade.
But here we are at the start of April, with the playoffs set to begin in less than two weeks, and you would be hard-pressed to find fewer than nine out of 10 NBA fans beginning each of their daily water-cooler discussions without the words “Stephen” and “Curry” coming out of their mouths. OK, so maybe the nom du jour might switch to Draymond Green or Klay Thompson from time to time, but the story of the season from Day One has been the player who has become far and away the best 3-point shooter – heck, the best shooter, period – in the history of the game.
What kind of kicks do your kids want? Not Nikes. Under Armours.
What is the number everyone is thinking about over these final few games? Not 1964, the last year any Cleveland pro sports team won a title. Instead, it is 400, the number of 3-pointers Curry is on pace to make after setting the single-season record of 286 just a year ago.
Youngsters do not aspire to be built like a bull and to be a homecoming hero. They aspire to handle the ball like a Harlem Globetrotter and fire away with no regard for how deep the shot may be while having a degree of confidence unmatched by any player since … well, perhaps since LeBron was at his peak back during his penultimate season in Miami.
We haven’t seen a phenomenon in sports quite like this since … Tiger Woods? Mark McGwire? Wayne Gretzky? Pele?
Seriously, what we are seeing from Curry and his record-chasing Golden State Warriors is truly transformative, and that is a sentence that can be written maybe once per decade. Maybe.
This year’s draft is going to be all about Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram and Dragan Bender (and the heist Danny Ainge pulled on Billy King), but the question in the back of everyone’s minds will be this: Which of these guys has the potential to be the next Stephen Curry? For the curious, two names to keep in mind: Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State, who went 79-of-156 (.506) from the arc this season, and Bryn Forbes of Michigan State, who launched 233 threes and made 112 for a nifty .481 percentage.
Keep those names in mind when the second round and/or Summer League rolls around. You can sell more tickets by having the potential next Stephen Curry than you can by having the next Karl-Anthony Towns. (Got that, Sean Marks?)
But we are here one last time during the regular season to give you our MVP rankings, which have been a difficult write throughout this season because everyone has known since the beginning of December who was going to win the award.
Still, it is worth remembering the best of the best that we have seen from Curry this season. So let’s go back and look at month-by month highlights:
October: In the third game of the season, he dropped 53 points on the Pelicans after going for 40 against them on opening night. In three games, his average was 39.3 ppg.
November: Had three 40-point games, five 30-point games, three games in which he hit at least eight 3-pointers, and played at least 30 minutes in every game except one — a 50-point blowout of the Grizzlies.
December: In his worst shooting night of the season to that point, he was 9-for-27 from the field overall (but 6-of-13 on 3s and 14-for-14 from the line) in a double-overtime victory at Boston that improved the Dubs to 24-0. He also had 11 rebounds and eight assists.
January: Had five games with at least 37 points, and during one 14-day stretch from Jan. 9 to Jan. 22 made 50 3-pointers. Yup, 50.
February: This was just nuts. He scored 50 points twice, 46 once and 42 once, capping the month by going 20-for-27 at Orlando and 14-for-24 (including a record-tying 12-for-16 from downtown) at Oklahoma City, where he drained a 38-foot game-winner at the buzzer.
March: Very pedestrian by his standards. His team lost twice, including a nationally televised debacle against the Lakers, and he averaged only 27.6 ppg. But he did reach double figures in assists three times, making Draymond Green a teeny bit envious.
April: We have a small body of work to judge him on as we go to press. But he is 17-for-27 on threes in two games and is averaging 34.0 points. Needs 22 more 3-pointers in five games to reach 400. Cue the Ted Williams references that will have 92 percent of the millennials reaching for their smartphones.
So, yeah, he’s getting my vote.
On to the rankings:
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State. Guaranteed to become the first player ever to win the award unanimously. LeBron James fell one vote shy in 2013 when Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe voted for Carmelo Anthony. Shaquille O’Neal was one vote short of unanimous in 2000 when Fred Hickman of CNN cast his ballot for Allen Iverson. There will be no Hickmans or Washburns this time around, guaranteed. And I don’t make guarantees very often. LAST EDITION: No. 1
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. I’ve got him in the No. 2 hole right now, but I was not impressed watching James Harden trash him and the Thunder on national TV Sunday afternoon, and there has to come a point where leading the NBA in blown fourth-quarter leads counts against you … no matter how much Russ wants to belittle that damning statistic. For now (and I never cast my ballot until all 82 games have been played), I’m leaning toward him over … LAST EDITION: No. 2.
3. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. You know what the over/under was for Blazers wins was in the preseason? 29. They’ve beaten that by a dozen (and counting), and chances are they are going to end up as the fifth seed playing the Los Angeles Clippers. And if you are the Clippers, the last thing you want to see in the postseason is a team that just doesn’t give a damn. It’s the polar opposite of what they faced in last year’s first round vs. San Antonio. Lillard’s production has tailed off since mid-March, and he could be No. 4 on my official ballot. Or not. LAST EDITION: No. 4.
4. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He will make a wonderful addition to the Golden State Warriors next season when they go 82-0. Unless, of course, he wins a title in OKC, which means he will stick around for one more year with one of those LeBron-style contracts. Then we get to have Summer of Durant II. I could see him rising to No. 2 on my final ballot, because I tend to run a little hot-and-cold on certain guys at certain times. Right, LeBron? KD has scored at least 20 points in 61 straight games, the fourth-longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger. Had Durant not sat out the second half vs. Washington on Nov. 10 with a hamstring strain, his streak would be for the entire season. LAST EDITION: No. 3.
5. LeBron James, Cavs. It’s not just you, we’re all sick of him. But we also all know that we’ll be watching him a lot more closely in the postseason as he makes his sixth straight trip to the Finals and averages a triple-double along the way. No, I’m not going to guarantee that one … but don’t count this guy out. He is a sleeping giant right now, and he has shot 63 percent of better in five of his last eight games with a pair of triple-doubles. The killer for him this season has been the 3-point shot. He is at 29 percent. He was at .406 just three years ago when he was at his peak. LAST EDITION: UNRANKED.
NEXT FIVE: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs; Draymond Green, Warriors; Chris Paul, Clippers; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; John Wall, Wizards.
PREVIOUS MVP RANKINGS:
EDITION VIII: COACHES WEIGH IN ON THEIR OWN AWARD
EDITION VII: SUPER TUESDAY EDITION WITH CURRY, HILLARY AND TRUMP
EDITION VI: AH, THE ALL-STAR BREAK
EDITION V: THE POST-BLATT EFFECT
EDITION IV: POWERBALL MANIA
EDITION III: ON KOBE BRYANT, STEVE HARVEY and ISH SMITH
EDITION II: WHO’S VYING FOR RUNNER-UP?
EDITION I: HYPOCRISY, AND THE END OF DAILY FANTASY SPORTS?
Chris Sheridan, publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com, is an official MVP voter. Follow him on Twitter.