Stephen Curry Joins Michael Jordan on a Ridiculously Elite List
Stephen Curry entered Sunday’s regular-season finale for the Golden State Warriors three points shy of securing his second career scoring title. Bradley Beal had scored 25 points earlier in the day, helping lead the Washington Wizards to the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with a victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Getting that scoring title moved Curry into rarified territory in NBA history. How rare? He’s on a list with Michael Jordan.
Curry’s Warriors were hosting the Memphis Grizzlies with the Western Conference’s eighth position at stake. He scored a few more than three points in the victory over the Grizzlies. A lot more.
Curry finished with 46 points in 40 minutes, and Golden State earned a trip to Wednesday’s No. 7 vs. No. 8 play-in tournament game. The winner of that game is the seventh seed in the West; the loser hosts Wednesday’s San Antonio Spurs-Memphis winner for the eighth seed.
He’s one of only four players in NBA history to accumulate the combination of accomplishments necessary for inclusion with Jordan on a very special list.
Stephen Curry in legendary company
Curry now has multiple NBA championships, NBA awards, and scoring titles by winning the scoring crown again. The list of players to have done that is not a long one. It’s reminiscent of a quote from a different sport. When the late NFL coach Bum Phillips spoke of Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell, he once said, per Texas Monthly:
“I’m not saying Earl is in a class by himself, but whatever class he’s in, it don’t take long to call the roll.”
The other players on the list? Wilt Chamberlain, the player Curry passed earlier this season as the all-time scoring leader in Warriors’ history, is one. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time scoring king, is another. And then there’s another reasonably well-known player from a slightly later era from the aforementioned big guys.
Michael Jordan said Curry had more to do to be a Hall of Famer
Less than two years ago, Michael Jordan — he of the six NBA titles, five MVP trophies, and 10 scoring championships — called out Stephen Curry in a nationally televised interview. Shortly after talking about his choices for a hypothetical pickup game that didn’t include Curry, Jordan doubled down with interviewer Craig Melvin.
“So Steph Curry shouldn’t be offended when he watches this?” Melvin asked.
“I hope not,” Jordan replied. “He’s still a great player. Not a Hall of Famer yet, though. He’s not.”
In the most literal of terms, Stephen Curry isn’t a Hall of Famer yet. He’s not eligible to be one because he’s still playing. Jordan was grinning when he said it, and he’s known to say things for their shock value. That might be what this was.
Stephen Curry is no Michael Jordan, but he’s Hall of Fame material
There is another link between Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry. They are the only players in NBA history to win a scoring title at age 33 or older. Curry turned 33 in March, so this is technically his age-32 season, but the birth certificate says 33 right now. Curry averaged 32.0 points per game in 2020–21, setting a new career-high.
With nine 3-pointers on Sunday, Curry ends the season with 2,832 for his career, 141 behind all-time leader Ray Allen. Allen made 2,973 3s in 1,300 career games. Curry has logged 762 appearances in the regular season over his 12-year career. Curry’s 46 points Sunday pushed him to 2,015 for the season in just 63 games.
Per Stathead, the fewest games played by a player with at least 2,000 points had been 68. World B. Free was the first to do it with the San Diego Clippers in 1979-80, and James Harden of the Houston Rockets matched that feat last season. In deference to Chamberlain, it’s worth pointing out he passed the 2,000-point plateau in 42 games in 1961-62. That season, he finished with a record 4,029 points in 80 games.
Curry is also in the top 10 all-time in 3-point percentage, an impressive feat at the volume of deep tries he takes. Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets, averaging 4.8 3-point attempts per game, is the closest to Curry among players on that top 10 list. Curry’s average? Try 8.6 per game. So, you know, it’s a close second for Harris if defining “close” as being on the same continent.
If Curry stays healthy next season, he should pass the 20,000-point mark for his career. He’s also the NBA’s all-time leader in free-throw shooting, hitting 90.7%. His average of 24.2 points per game is in the all-time top 20.
It’s getting to the point where even Michael Jordan might have to admit Stephen Curry is a Hall of Famer.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA Stats.