When roll is called to name the greatest long-range shooters in the history of the NBA, look for Stephen Curry’s name at the top of that list.
Of the thousands of players to have played in the NBA, none have shot with the uncanny range of Curry, who is in his seventh season as Golden State Warriors shooting guard.
Even longtime players are baffled how Curry’s dribbling act has become so spellbinding, and how he can make a 35-foot shot looks so routine when the 3-point arc is 23 feet 9 inches.
“In the history that I know of, as far as the NBA is concerned, there’s not anybody that I’ve seen that can shoot the ball with such lightning quickness, and most importantly with such great accuracy from a distance in which he shoots it,” said Rolando Blackman, a four-time All-Star guard who played 11 of his 13 NBA seasons (1981-94) with the Dallas Mavericks. “He makes a lot of stuff just a basic four-on-four basketball game because everybody has to continually know and understand where he is on the basketball court right from when he steps on it.”
Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird and Ray Allen are some of the all-time great shooters. Curry has joined the list.
“Curry is the best shooter I’ve seen ever, with the range and the quickness that he gets his shot off with,” said Gar Heard, a forward on four NBA teams from 1970-1981. “Plus, he handles the ball so well that he can get his shot off any time.
“You think back to when we were playing, you had guys that could shoot like Jerry [West], like Rick Barry could shoot. But nobody’s like Steph.”
Heard even took exception to Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson, who recently said the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Curry isn’t physical enough to have been able to play in the old days.
“I don’t think anybody back then could have kept up with this kid,” Heard said. “It’s a different era, the game is much faster, and the rules have changed.
“There are a few guys that you can put back in that era and be successful, and he’s one of those guys, because although we had hand-checking back then, you’ve got to catch up with the guy to hand-check him.”
Ryan Blake and his dad — late NBA scouting director Marty Blake — have seen untold number of basketball players around the world. Ryan Blake, an NBA consultant, said he’s never seen anyone that’s as compelling at handling or shooting the basketball as Curry.
“I just remember watching [Atlanta’s Kyle] Korver make seven shots in a row,” Blake said. “Curry was making 10 in a row – but not hitting the rim – and my daughter has it documented on her texting device.”
Curry’s pregame dribbling and shooting exhibition, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at American Airlines Center before the Dallas Mavericks host the Warriors at 7:30, is must-see entertainment.
“I’ve seen a lot of basketball and I’ve seen a lot of professional sports, and [with Curry] you just go, ‘This is just a different level,’ ” Blake said.
Curry’s style also conjures thoughts of the late Pistol Pete Maravich, a Hall of Famer, five-time NBA All-Star and still the NCAA’s all-time leading Division I scorer after averaging 44.2 points over a four-year, 83-game college career.
“I think Steph’s a much more consistent shooter than Pete, but I’d say they both had pretty much similar range, because Pete had great range,” Heard said. “And the ballhandling ability, I probably have to give that to Pete.
“But as far as being a pure shooter, I don’t think there’s anybody better than Steph Curry.”
Curry, whose father Dell was a formidable outside shooter in his NBA days, already has 330 3-point baskets this season, breaking his own record of 286 set last season, and more than 100 more than the next closest player, teammate Klay Thompson (214).
“What he does off the dribble, to be honest with you, it’s a video game,” Sacramento Kings coach George Karl said. “Everybody says when you’re feeling it, the rim looks really big. His rim is huge.”
Michael Finley, a guard in the NBA from 1995-2010, believes Miller and Allen could have matched Curry’s production had it been needed.
“They just didn’t because it wasn’t part of their offensive scheme,” Finley said. “I still think it’s a bad shot. But it goes in for [Curry], so that makes it a good shot.”
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki revolutionized the NBA as the first 7-footer with a consistent mid-range and 3-point shot. Yet, the 18-year veteran is amazed at what Curry has been able to accomplish.
“This league has seen some unbelievable spot-up shooters, shooters coming off screens, but I don’t think it has ever seen a shooter off the dribble like [Curry],” Nowitzki said. “It’s just one motion off the dribble and up from deep.”
So what can a defender do to contain Curry?
“Hope the bus is late,” Blackman said. “You’re dealing with a person who has mastered the skills, which is fantastic to see.”