Michael Jordan played in six NBA Finals and won all of them. And with some luck, and some self-control from Draymond Green, Steph Curry could be right there with him.
Curry has played in six Finals himself, and now won four of them. One he lost when the Warriors were up three games to one against LeBron’s Cavaliers and going home. But Draymond was enough of a bonehead to get one more technical foul when he knew he was on the doorstep of being suspended for a game. It didn’t stop him from being a bonehead. He did get suspended from Game 5. The Cavs won it on the road and never lost again to the Warriors that year.
Fast forward to 2019. The Warriors were the ones who got behind three games to one, to the Raptors. But Kevin Durant tore his Achilles in Game 5, even if the Warriors scratched out a win. Then in Game 6 Klay Thompson, once and future Splash Brother, tore an ACL with 2:22 left in the third quarter of Game 6. Thompson had already scored 30 by then. After that it was Curry against the world and the Raptors won the game and the title.
Is it crazy to think that the Warriors, even without Durant but with Klay, could have come all the way back and won another one? No. It’s not. Not by a long shot.
So that is how close Steph Curry is to having the same record that Michael does in Finals. And Michael, along with Kareem Abdul Jabbar, was the greatest winner in the NBA since Bill Russell, the greatest winner in the history of American team sports.
This is the kind of company Curry, at 34, now keeps. He has now won as many titles with one team as LeBron has won with three. He has won one fewer title than Kobe Bryant. Now there is all this debate about where Curry ranks with the biggest stars his sport has ever produced. I’ll make it easy for everybody: He ranks with all of them. He is in any conversation about any star of the modern game you care to mention, in addition to being the best pure shooter the game has ever known.
LeBron had a long run as the primary star of the NBA, even when Steph and the Warriors started winning titles. No longer. Now Steph is The One, the skinny 6-2 guard out of Davidson, son of Dell Curry, the champion of the world once more. Reggie Miller was some 3-point shooter. He never won. Ray Allen finally passed Reggie in 3-point shots. He won once. Steph keeps winning, and helping his team win the game even on nights when he’s missing. It’s a laugh that it took this long for him to win the Finals MVP award now named after Mr. Russell.
Steph won before Durant came to the Warriors. Now he has won after Durant left the Warriors. LeBron keeps moving around. Steph has stayed put, if you don’t count the way he keeps roaming the 3-point line all the way to the concession stands. Or maybe the parking lot. You keep hearing other shooters like Trae Young compared to him. Nothing against Young, I love watching him play and even love watching him sass the Garden. But there is only one Steph Curry. The One.
What we witnessed over the past couple of weeks against the Celtics isn’t some kind of valediction, not off what we just saw against the Celtics, all the way to the end of the tears and laughter for him at the end of Game 6. Again: He just turned 34 in March. In December, LeBron turns 38. Kobe was about to turn 38 when he retired. Michael didn’t call it quits until he was 40, and had changed teams himself, going to the Wizards. Steph Curry isn’t going anywhere. Of course, he and the Warriors are favorites to do it again.
Draymond on Steph: “Came out and showed why he’s one of the greatest to ever play this game.”
As a guard, you absolutely talk about him with Michael and Kobe. You just do. Michael averaged more points per game. So did Kobe. They were truly memorable. So is the kid from Charlotte Christian.
This is something I wrote here about Curry seven months ago, when the Warriors had gotten off to the fast start that was simply a heady portent of things to come:
“He is the biggest and most watchable and entertaining star in his sport and all our sports right now. In the NBA, it’s not LeBron and it’s not Kevin Durant. It is No. 30 of the Warriors, who has done something only a handful of players have ever done in the history of professional basketball: He has reimagined it.
“Bill Russell did it in a different way once, and so did Wilt Chamberlain. And Dr. J, who played the game so far above the rim you were afraid that he was going to hit his head on the ceiling. Michael did. And Magic and Larry, for a lot of reasons, including a rivalry between them that began in college, and because they brought the pass back to the NBA.
“Steph Curry has done that, for a lot of reasons, but mostly this one: He has made bad shots good shots.”
He does not do it alone. Did not do it alone against the Celtics. Against the team that was supposed to play the best defense of all the contenders, the Warriors played better team defense, and forced the Celtics into a Biblical number of turnovers. Andrew Wiggins finally was ready for his closeup, all this time after he was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. And Draymond, even getting benched for big moments, reminded us all that in addition to being a royal pain, he still can influence a basketball game in so many positive ways.
But the game ran through Steph Curry. It always does. The NBA Finals ran through him. Again. His coach, Steve Kerr, compared him to another great winner, Tim Duncan, when it was over, and that his high praise indeed, because Duncan did what he did with the same kind of grace Curry has shown. It has just been different with Curry. Duncan didn’t change the game. Steph Curry did. What he has ultimately reimagined is the game’s possibilities, unless you are one of those people screaming at 3-point shooters to get off your lawn.
“This was [Curry’s] crowning achievement,” Kerr said.
The Celtics were such a good story, because of the way they came on after being a .500 team in January. They have fine players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. They were just more of Steph Curry’s supporting cast in these NBA Finals. The star of the sport was the star of these games. He didn’t carry his team. He carried a whole league.
Buck Showalter might have made the shortest mound visit in all of recorded history the other night before Edwin Diaz got the last out of the last game of the Brewers series.
I asked him after the game what he said.
“It was eye-talking,” he said.
“You got this? ‘I got this.’”
Buck was back in the dugout in a blink.
Not long after that, the Mets had won another one-run game and another series.
Everybody realizes it wasn’t some kind of insult to suggest a few weeks ago that we needed to see what the Yankees were going to do once they moved out of the JV part of their schedule, right?
Somehow, though, that notion seemed to offend people in Yankee Universe.
So now we see how they’ve come out gangbusters against the Rays and Jays.
It is the real beginning of the 100-game season between now and the finish, and the Yankees have started it in high style, as they continue one of the remarkable first three months in their history.
But it’s always interesting the way the Yankees are still covered like the company in a company town, and when they look great again, as they sure do this season, it’s as if order has been restored to the baseball universe.
But what kind of order are we talking about with a franchise that has played in one World Series in the past 20 years, and hasn’t won once since 2009?
You know the deal:
The Mets want to win the World Series, and badly.
The Yankees need to win the World Series.
And here’s one more interesting question about the records of our two big-city baseball teams:
What would the Yankees’ record be if they’d gotten a total of eight starts from Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes the way the Mets have gotten just eight starts, total, from Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer?
My pal Barry Stanton recalls the days when George Steinbrenner thought mustaches prevented performance.
Once he got healthy, it was another master class from Mike Breen on the NBA Finals.
You’re going to love “Outside,” on sale soon from my Icelandic friend Ragnar Jonasson, one of the best crime writers on the planet.
The new LIV golf tour is about as meaningful a sports competition as Holiday on Ice used to be.
And while we’re on the subject: I’m surprised the Saudis didn’t try to buy Phil Mickelson’s way into the weekend at the U.S. Open.
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Finally today: Happy Father’s Day to my father, Bene Lupica.
I don’t get to celebrate it with him until I get to the house on Tuesday.
But celebrate we will, as he begins to move up on his 99th birthday, as he continues to live his wonderful American life with my mom.
Our phone conversations begin the same way, every single day:
“How you doing, Pops?”
And in that moment, it’s the world that’s great.