When you evaluate the greatness of Stephen Curry, what impresses you the most? Is it the fact he’s one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, of all time? Is it how he’s a two-time MVP, one of which was won unanimously? Or is it how he has three championships with the Golden State Warriors?
While all of those things are amazing in their own way, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has something entirely different in mind. Something that many overlook as to why Curry is the superstar he is.
Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors took on the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals
The Warriors dynasty was in full effect during the 2010s. Beginning in 2015, the Warriors played the Cleveland Cavaliers for four straight years. Aside from 2016, the year they won 73 regular-season games, their season ended with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
In 2019, the Warriors would once again end up playing for a title. Golden State secured the West’s top seed with a 57-25 record. In the playoffs, it took care of business against the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers, losing only four games en route to the Finals.
Unlike the four previous years, Golden State had a new foe in the Raptors. Even though Toronto finished with one more win than their Finals opponents, its lack of previous playoff success made it a surprising finalist. Nurse’s squad had to fight through the Eastern Conference playoffs with hard-fought wins over the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks.
Even with Kevin Durant out since Game 6 of the conference semifinals, Curry and the Warriors were still favored to take down the underdog Raptors. But surprisingly, Toronto took a 3-1 series lead before closing out Golden State in six. Kawhi Leonard, in his first and only season with the Raptors, claimed MVP honors after scoring 28.5 points per game.
Curry amazed Nick Nurse with an overlooked quality
With barely any Durant, there was more pressure on Curry to carry Golden State to a series victory. While he fell short of his fourth ring, the Baby-Faced Assassin still finished the series leading all scorers with 30.5 points per game on 41.4% shooting.
However, it wasn’t Curry’s scoring that most impressed Nurse. The Raptors coach discussed the star on a recent episode of JJ Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three.
“I can’t believe the kind of shape he must be in, as fast as he runs,” Nurse told Redick. “The whole game, every game.”
Yes, Curry’s speed up and down the court is what Nurse most remembers, as he further elaborated.
“That’s what amazed me playing him in the Finals. One of the things I said over and over again in that series was, ‘I know they’re running fast, but you gotta run fast too. We gotta run fast too, keep chasing ’em. Like play tag and keep chasing ’em because it’s like nonstop.'”Nick Nurse
With Curry leading the way, the Warriors consistently had one of the best offenses in the NBA. And as Nurse described, a big reason why is due to pace. All of Golden State’s Finals teams finished in the top 10 of pace, with the first four teams finishing within the top five.
Stephen Curry is on a one-way sprint toward the Hall of Fame
Maybe Curry’s brilliance can be attributed to his overall endurance and conditioning. Whatever the reason, it’s clear the 33-year-old is on a mad dash to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Now in his 13th season, Curry has racked up multiple MVPs and championship rings. But he also has seven All-NBA and All-Star recognitions, with an eighth for each certainly on the way in the coming months. In addition, the former Davidson Wildcat is one of the few active players named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
Through 801 career games, Steph is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 43.0% from three. The latter is particularly impressive, as no player has made more 3-pointers than Curry at 3,024 and counting. By the time his career comes to an end, he’ll have a mammoth lead over the next-best 3-point shooters in league history.
By all accounts, Curry still has several more years to add to his illustrious career. And as Nurse pointed out, we’ll know he’ll be in good enough shape to do so.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.