Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics during the first quarter in Game Five of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center on June 13, 2022 in San Francisco. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Stephen Curry has been known to cook defenders. Since entering the league in 2009 as the number seven pick for the Golden State Warriors, the undersized guard has been serving NBA defenses his signature dish: treys a-la-carte.
O.K. Maybe I’m forcing that food angle a bit. But there’s a reason he’s garnered international respect as “The Chef.” And for those of us who’ve been around for his legacy, it’s been delicious to experience.
At the start of 2021—last season—the Warriors began their campaign as non-favorites. Their starting five? James Wiseman, a newbie center who had played a total of seven NBA games; a forward in Kelly Oubre Jr. who began the year with a horrendous 3-point shooting percentage (literally the worst to ever start a professional basketball season); a freshly acquired Andrew Wiggins, who was deemed a bust; a recovering Draymond Green who hadn’t played much due to lingering ailments; and Steph Wardell Curry, the former two-time MVP who had also missed significant playing time from prolonged wrist and ankle injuries.
No one will remember a game like Jan. 4, 2021, when a depleted Golden State roster faced off against the Sacramento Kings. By halftime, Steph had racked up 23 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 19 minutes—including a sick alley-oop to the rookie, Wiseman. With a victory, the Dubs reached a winning record for the first time since 2019, when they finished with a franchise-low mark of 15 wins and 50 losses. But with Curry back on the team, players like Mark Mulder and Brad Wanamaker (you’ve probably forgotten about them already) were suddenly able to somehow win games.
As usual, Dub Nation’s hopes hinged on a miracle recipe that only Steph himself could whip up to get the team back in contention. And he did.
When it comes to superstars lifting up their franchises, it’s part of a gig we’ve seen before. LeBron has done it. Kobe did it. Jordan certainly did it. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. You name them, they’ve done it. But why is it that some critics still believe Curry is incapable of being among these top chefs?
Any longtime Warriors fan knows how much Curry has already done to reach this point—and the fact that he has done it multiple times, across a span of 13 years, is nothing short of otherworldly. He’s been doing it since 2009 at Oracle, when he notched his first career triple double. And in 2012, when he led a six-seed Dubs to the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 1976. And he continued to do it from 2015 until 2019, when the Warriors went on to become one of the most dominant franchises in NBA history, racking up three championships, the all-time most regular season wins, and five NBA Finals appearances in just as many years—all under his guidance.
Yet, when he introduced a sous chef by the name of Kevin Durant in 2017, it ruined the flavors. It was unforgivable for many, and suddenly, Curry became seen as incapable of running his own kitchen.
It’s time to forget all that noise and fully recognize Curry for what he is: the most distinguished, seasoned athlete of his generation. From a lifetime of watching this ball club, I’m telling you that Steph single-handedly (or single-splashedly?) transformed the aura around the franchise in a way that only the game’s GOATs have ever been capable of doing. Before Steph, the Warriors hadn’t delivered anything except Ls and a second round playoff appearance—and that was once, when Baron Davis led an incredibly charged “We Believe” unit in 2007.
After being dismissed in the draft, Steph gave us hope by proceeding to dismantle defenses with his scrawny stature and sniping his way into sports history, elevating the Warriors to heights not even Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry or Chris Mullin could achieve. Curry fed us that belief. Not KD. Not Steve Kerr. Not my Aquarian brother, Klay Thompson. Not any reason or excuse you can conjure about opposing teams’ injuries, luck or privilege that get mindlessly tossed around to divert attention from Curry’s epic achievements. It has simply been Steph—the original Splash Brother, and the Bay Area’s most improbable Chef.
I’ll admit, Curry isn’t the perfect player. He has struggled in major games at times. He doesn’t show that same “Mamba Mentality” to destroy another person’s soul like Kobe once did; he can’t bulldoze his way through the lane to overpower his defenders like LeBron; and he’s as far as can be from having the pitbullish defense and murderous anger of Jordan. But what those guys didn’t have—besides Steph’s unbelievable shooting ability—was Curry’s finesse. He not only makes the flow of a game fun and playfully light to watch, but gets teammates involved without ever forcing them into submission or fear.
Despite the ultra levels of doubt that have always followed Steph—from Davidson, North Carolina, to Oakland and San Francisco, California—he still manages to drop 43-point culinary gems against number-one-ranked defenses like the Boston Celtics in Game Four of a decisive series.
So, yes, Curry deserves his flowers because for too long he has been disrespected by salty pundits as a mere product of better players and coaching systems around him. But no one is bailing him out this time, and he doesn’t need it. The Chef himself is cooking yet another round of NBA defenders on his way to an exclamatory—and untouchable—chance at a fourth championship. Win or lose, we’re lucky to have a seat at his table.
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