Led by a dominant display from Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors extended their dynasty by winning their fourth championship in eight seasons.
Curry delivered a masterpiece in the title-sealing Game 6 win, finishing with 34 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six made 3-pointers and capping off his incredible season with his first Finals MVP award.
The trophy-laden campaign included winning All-Star Game MVP, the Magic Johnson Trophy for MVP of the Western Conference Finals, breaking the all-time 3-point record at Madison Square Garden and joining Jerry West and Michael Jordan as the only guards to average 30-plus points per game in multiple NBA Finals.
“Without him, none of this happens,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after Game 6. “You know? And that’s not taking anything away from Joe and Peter’s ownership, because they’re amazing owners, built an incredible organization. Bob Myers, helluva GM. Our players, we’ve had so many great players.
“But Steph ultimately is why this run has happened,” he said. “Much like Timmy [Duncan] in San Antonio. I’m happy for everybody but I’m thrilled for Steph. To me, this is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an incredible career.”
Now that the dust has settled on Curry’s 2021-22 season, the conversation has naturally entered the “where does Steph land in the all-time rankings?” realm, with his resume now stacking up quite favorably against some of the league’s best players to ever do it.
With four NBA championships, two regular-season MVPs, and a Finals MVP to his name, is Curry now an all-time top-10 player?
Seven members of The Sporting News NBA team came together to give their votes on the NBA’s top players, with only Michael Jordan and LeBron James earning unanimous votes for their respective positions at 1 and 2.
Curry came in comfortably at No. 11 all-time based on the votes, one spot ahead of his former running mate Kevin Durant. While we can debate who is the better player, the accolades Curry now holds have created separation between the two, with Curry’s highest vote coming in at No. 9 and his lowest vote at No. 12.
Check out the full rankings below.
*Finals MVP was first awarded in 1969
TSN’s list has Curry just on the outside looking in of the Top 10 all-time, which feels fair, given the names ahead of him.
However, if you’re going to put Curry in the top 10, someone has to fall out.
Assuming the top seven are safe, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan stand ahead of Curry — three players whose resumes are bursting with championships, Finals MVPs and basically every other accolade worthy of placing in the top 10.
Curry vs. Bryant
When it’s all said and done, Curry could well leapfrog Kobe Bryant in the top 10, but right now, Bryant still has the edge.
Bryant’s championship legacy speaks for itself with an extra championship and back-to-back Finals MVPs as the unquestioned No. 1 option on the team.
Curry has the edge when it comes to regular season MVPs and looking back, it almost seems absurd that Bryant only has one. Throughout his 20-year NBA career, it’s safe to say Bryant was the best player in the league for more than one season. Shoutout Steve Nash.
Curry vs. Shaq
O’Neal’s dominance in the paint is something we’ve never seen before in NBA history and something we’ll likely never see again.
You could say the same for Curry’s dominance from the perimeter, but the way the league has transitioned into a 3-point fiesta, is it that unlikely we won’t see someone break Curry’s 3-point record in the future?
Tied at four championships apiece, the major accolades separating the pair are Curry’s two MVPs to O’Neal’s one, but the big man has him covered with three Finals MVPs to Curry’s one.
O’Neal’s run from 2000 to 2002 with the Lakers, which saw him win three straight championships and three Finals MVPs is among one of the most dominant stretches in NBA history and in terms of apex performance in the Finals, it’s hard to argue against O’Neal.
Let’s just take a quick look at his numbers in those three Finals.
Curry vs. Duncan
The parallels between the homegrown super team in Golden State and Duncan’s San Antonio dynasty which amazingly stretched over 15 seasons between the first and last championship (1999-2014) are obvious.
Duncan is arguably the best power forward of all time and now that Curry has very much entered that same conversation for his position, it makes the argument more interesting.
However, I still have to put Duncan above Curry on the all-time rankings.
Duncan came in at No. 8 on the list and when you stack up the resumes, it becomes even clearer. Duncan has one more title, the same amount of MVPs (2) and two more Finals MVPs to his name.
Curry will likely match the longevity of Duncan and Bryant and bring with it the All-Star nods and All-NBA selections to mirror their careers, but if we’re talking today, Duncan doesn’t fall out of the Top 10 just yet.
What does Curry need to do to be Top 10?
Having said all that, Curry’s chances of retiring as a top 10 player all time are extremely high.
Sure, he’s 34 years old and coming off his 13th season, but Curry is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
The Warriors are perfectly balancing the transition from the veteran generation of Curry alongside Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to bringing forth the likes of Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, James Wiseman, and Jordan Poole, setting the Dubs up to remain os one of the league’s best teams for the next three-plus years.
Picking apart a player’s resume, their impact on their respective era and the raw numbers becomes a subjective exercise and in part succumbs to recency bias, but the argument for Curry might not even surround him being a top-10 player — there’s a chance he retires as a top-five player.
Let’s say Curry wins one more title and another Finals MVP. In a flash, Curry, along with his seemingly untouchable shooting records vaults into the tier of Bird, Chamberlain, Russell and Magic.
Such are the fine margins on the all-time list, Curry still has some ways to go to reach that conversation, but with the Warriors set up to continue their dynasty for a few more years, Steph’s story is far from written.