Curry would not let his team lose. He managed to elude a double-team, took a pass, and made a three over a pair of defenders from beyond NBA three-point range. WVU by one. Back on defense, Curry stopped a taller WVU player’s momentum, anticipating his driving lane to the basket, then pulled down the rebound. No one else touched the ball as Curry headed up court. Curry found just enough space to take another three pointer, and buried it. MSG was Knicks-playoffs loud (remember Knicks-playoffs loud?). Howard Megdal, “The Stephen Curry Show,” The New York Observer (Dec. 11, 2008).
I remember Knicks-playoffs loud. I grew up a Knicks fan, and relished the team’s physical and sometimes violent style of play (multiple TV remote controls met their fate during my childhood after especially stressful Knicks playoff games). For me, Madison Square Garden has always been the greatest arena on earth, and I didn’t think twice in making my pilgrimage to this hallowed venue to see Davidson play West Virginia on Tuesday. Considering the mediocrity on display in the garden over the last decade or so, Stephen Curry’s brilliance made Tuesday night one of the most exciting nights that the MSG crowd has seen in quite awhile.
Having arrived in New York City after a busy morning of work in DC and a frantic afternoon Amtrak and subway dash north, I met my colleague Base Rich, himself just completing a bus ride from Boston, and we made our way to our 10th row seats, directly behind the basket, hardly able to contain our excitement. Near the end of warmups, Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar” came on over the speakers, and BR exclaimed, “they’re playing our song!” I didn’t get it at first. By the end of the night, though, the city that never sleeps would witness the greatness of Stephen Curry, and it would be obvious that, as Gus Johnson would say, “folks, we got a star!”
Everyone always talks about how Curry is a better person than basketball player (one of the most annoying cliches in sports), but I had yet to see this first-hand. Standing outside of the Davidson bar after the game Tuesday night, BR and I found ourselves suddenly amongst the entire team as they prepared to board their bus back to Davidson. At first, I didn’t even realize that the kid next to me in a gray hoodie chatting with some friends was the man himself, and after a nervous pause, I quickly shook Steph’s hand, congratulated him, and he returned the praise with a sincere “ohh, thanks a lot man!” that immediately made me realize that all the hype still had not gone to his head. Despite carrying the hopes of Davidson nation on his small frame game after game, Steph was still just a regular kid, enjoying college, but seemingly thinking little of being one of the greatest college basketball players of our generation.
Steph struggled mightily at first under the burning MSG spotlights, but in crunch time, as we have seen so often, he drilled the shots that mattered. With our invincible Curry weapon armed at the end of every game, Davidson is a hard team for anyone to beat. Oklahoma, with a 21-point lead on their home floor, barely salvaged a 4-point win after a late-game Curry onslaught. NC State was buried by a long-distance Curry bomb, and now West Virginia is the latest victim of Curry’s magical skills in the clutch. Moreover, Will Archambault’s 20-point outburst and Andrew Lovedale’s 18 rebound effort last night suggest that this team has an array of budding stars capable of complimenting Curry’s ridiculousness in tight games.
John Starks has always been my favorite Knicks player as he represented a time in Knicks history, and the NBA in general, when players wore their hearts on their sleeves and battled against playoff rivals as though their lives depended on the outcome. It might sound a bit dramatic, but I see Stephen Curry as a transformational player. I think his creative and unique game on the court, his uncanny ability to always rise to the occasion, and the inspiring story of his arrival from obscurity to superstar status could make the NBA fun again. And he could be my new favorite Knick, too.