The most exciting thing about the NCAA tournament is that you never know if or when a new superstar will emerge. This doesn’t take away from the beauty of an unbelievable upset or the heart-stopping craziness of a remarkable buzzer-beater. Each of those things are special in their own right. But we will always be floored when an individual takes center stage at the big dance and proceeds to steal the show. And at the 2008 NCAA tournament, that player was none other than Stephen Curry.
As hard as it is to believe, people were not always fawning over the reigning NBA MVP. But all it took was one amazing tournament run for the world to realize that this kid from the little-known Davidson College was the real deal. And the way we see it, out of all the spectacular things he did, these are the three performances that stand out among the rest.
3. 2008 Midwest Regional final: Curry vs. Kansas
Davidson’s Cinderella story during the 2008 NCAA tournament finally came to an end against the No.1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the Midwest Regional final. Considering Bill Self’s club would go on to cut down the nets at the end of the dance, we can hardly hold this one against the scrappy underdogs. However, even in defeat, Curry put the rest of the country on notice.
Any way you slice it, the Chef was hands down the best player on the floor. Despite getting off to a slow slow, Curry still connected on nine of 25 field goals, went four for 16 from three-point land, and hit all three of his freebies. The Baby-Faced Assassin would finish with a game-high 25 points to go along with four assists, three rebounds, and one steal. Curry’s magical tournament run would end with a 59-57 loss, but from that point on, the world would remember his name.
2. 2008 Midwest Regional semifinal: Curry vs. Wisconsin
As a program known for its defensive toughness, there was reason to believe that Wisconsin had the necessary chops to solve the puzzle that was Davidson’s Curry. However, when the third-seeded Badgers met the Wildcats in the Sweet 16, despite going into halftime tied at 36, they soon realized what others already knew: Curry was unstoppable. For the third straight game that tournament, Curry dropped over 30 points; this time, putting up 33 points on 11 for 22 shooting, including six for 11 from three-point range.
In fact, Curry was so dominant that, in the second half of the game, he managed to outscore Wisconsin all by himself, 22-20. With the 73-56 victory, the Wildcats won their 25th game of the season and advanced to the Elite Eight. For everyone else, this win just meant the rest of the nation got at least one more opportunity to see the Chef cook up a storm.
1. 2008 Midwest first round: Curry vs. Gonzaga
It’s crazy to think there was a time when the majority of basketball fans did not know who Stephen Curry was. But that was the world we lived in prior to the start of the 2008 NCAA tournament. Perhaps we’re wrong, but something tells us that the No. 7-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs were among the collective being introduced to the future NBA MVP for the first time as well.
However, by the time the final buzzer sounded on their first-round matchup against Davidson, we were fairly certain they’d be having nightmares of him dropping buckets for the foreseeable future. On the back of a shooting clinic that consisted of knocking down 14 of 22 shots and hitting eight of 10 from long range, Curry torched the Zags for a whopping 40 points.
Thanks to this superstar performance, Davidson pulled off the 82-76 first-round upset. For the bulk of the country, this was probably first time they witnessed Curry completing taking over a game. But as we’ve seen throughout his NBA career, it would not be the last.