Everyone can see a superstar; that makes them what they are.
Think of LeBron James at full-blast, chasing down a block on one end and flying down the floor to finish an alley-oop at the other. A Kobe Bryant fadeaway as the fourth quarter’s clock winds down. Carmelo Anthony jab-stepping his defender in isolation. Chris Paul expertly toying with the ball for no apparent reason at the top of the key.
These are our iterations of superstardom, the moments we associate with basketball’s most famous faces. Once their careers are over, that seminal image is what we’ll remember most. And while it’s wholly necessary to categorize a true superstar, there’s also more to it than that.
Superstardom is separate from overall influence or even production. The league’s most recognizable and marketable players combine elite and unique talent with a foreboding gleaned from their play that can’t be aptly described. We always know where they are and we always know what they’re doing; players and coaches do, too.
The Warriors haven’t had a superstar in decades. Baron Davis came closest in the “We Believe” heyday, but it was all too fleeting; he reached that hallowed threshold for the 2007 playoffs but never approached it again. Injuries and poor conditioning robbed the league of his best basketball just as we realized how dominant an all-encompassing basketball force Davis really was at his peak. So we forgot him almost as quickly as we anointed him; real superstars are always remembered.
It’s safe to say the same won’t happen with Steph Curry anytime soon (injuries withstanding, of course). He’ll linger in our basketball conscience for years the way he’s dominating it now – with unmatched skill and flair marked by a quiet confidence that borders on arrogance. The NBA world’s been on the Curry bandwagon for months; you don’t score 54 points at Madison Square Garden or set the single-season record for 3-pointers made without garnering fans.
But there’s something different about doing it in the playoffs. How high can a player – no matter how wonderfully dominant – ascend up the league’s hierarchy until he’s performed similarly on the biggest stage? Playoff basketball is a different animal, the befitting cliche goes.
A near game-saving 3-pointer in the final seconds of game 1. 30 points, 13 assists and one turnover in game 2. 29 points, 11 assists and five rebounds in game 3. MVP chants. Shakes and shimmies. Acrobatic, finger-rolled finishes. Side-step 25-footers. Fear in the Nuggets. Belief in the Warriors.
This is the birth of a superstar. Not the numbers, not the made shots and not the feeling put in the hearts of crowds, but all of it combined and consistently. Everyone can see it because it’s impossible not to; this exalted group shines in a way only they do.
There’s no telling who wins this series, but Curry’s meteoric rise to superstardom will be what Warriors and NBA fans remember most regardless. And the most thrilling thing about that? He’s just getting started. Where Curry takes his game and team from here is anyone’s guess, but the safe bet now is even higher.
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