Stephen Curry presented a serious dilemma when it came time for Sports Illustrated to compose its annual “Top 10 NBA Moments” list. Clearly, no such list would be complete without the reigning MVP. But how much is too much?
That’s a real question, not a rhetorical one, because Curry’s hit list was a mile long. What’s the best way to balance his big shots and individual accolades with the achievements of his fellow superstars, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and the successes of his Warriors team as a whole?
There was only one possible solution: Give Curry his own list. So, here it is: “The 10 Best (Stephen Curry) Moments of 2015.” Check out the non-Curry edition right here.
Note: Apologies to Riley Curry and her fans. While she probably deserves her own list, SI will pass that task along to someone else.
1. March 8: Curry blows Steve Kerr’s mind with roundabout three
What sets Curry apart is his combination of fearless spontaneity and practiced skill. His zigging, zagging, spinning three-pointer against the Clippers brought together that whole package and put a bow on top. Curry weaved through three defenders—using an effortless through-the-legs/behind-the-back dribble sequence—before he retreated to the three-point line for a casual turn-around triple. Pure audacity. Warriors coach Steve Kerr initially looked mortified once the possession broke down, but that gave way to awe at how Curry pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Relax, coach. He’s got this.
2. March 31: Curry drops Chris Paul to the court with crossover
While Curry is more likely to kill you with kindness than unleash a death glare, his dribble moves are as nasty and vicious as they come. Just ask Clippers guard Chris Paul, who was dropped to the court break-dancer style by a pair of Curry’s behind-the-back crossovers. The sequence, which immediately launched a million memes on social media, was completed by an all-net jumper that sent the Warriors bench in a tizzy. That’s a good lesson for aspiring ankle-breakers everywhere: hit the shot if you want your highlight to have true staying power.
3. April 2: Curry turns young fan into a ball of glee
One conversation dominated the NBA landscape back in April: Curry or James Harden for MVP? Both had guided their respective teams to strong seasons and both had posted excellent numbers as the focal point of their respective offenses. While Harden’s case largely hinged on the idea he had less help around him, Curry’s supporters could reasonably argue that he was more than a player—he was a phenomenon. Indeed, “Curry Mania” memorably struck after he buried a last-minute, go-ahead three against the Suns. The TNT camera panned to a young fan completely losing her mind—jumping up and down and pumping her fist—and the ongoing MVP debate suddenly seemed over.
4. April 23: Curry forces overtime with crazy corner three vs. Pelicans
It only takes one second for Curry to beat you. The Pelicans learned that lesson the hard way in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. Clinging to a three-point lead at the end of regulation, New Orleans only needed one stop to claim its first victory. Curry missed his first look at a game-tying three but then broke open into the corner for a second look as Quincy Pondexter momentarily lost track of him. With two other Pelicans bearing down on him, Curry managed to swish a corner three while falling to the court. New Orleans never recovered; Golden State went on to win in overtime and complete a four-game sweep.
5. May 15: Curry hits three-quarter court shot vs. Grizzlies
The grit-and-grind Grizzlies were no easy out in the second round. Golden State had to adjust its matchups on the fly to take control of the series while Curry was held under 25 points in each of the first three games. Eventually, the deeper and more potent Warriors figured things out, claiming a 3–2 series lead in advance of Game 6 in Memphis. Any lingering thoughts of a Game 7 at Oracle went out the window on the final play of the third quarter, as Curry claimed a loose ball and nonchalantly launched a shot from his own three-point line. Swish, of course. The back-breaker gave Golden State an eight-point lead in a game it eventually won by 13. Next stop: Western Conference finals.
6. May 23: Curry clears out Toyota Center with 40-point night
The first signature moment of the Western Conference finals came in Game 2, when Curry and Klay Thompson harassed James Harden into a turnover on the final possession. The Splash Brothers morphed into the Stifle Brothers, ensuring the Warriors would head to Texas with a 2–0 series lead. Game 3, though, is where Curry and Golden State made it clear which team would be advancing to the Finals. The MVP dropped 40 points, including seven three-pointers, in an onslaught that was so demoralizing many in the crowd headed for the exits early. The Warriors took Game 3 by 35 points, by far their biggest margin of victory in the postseason, and cruised to a five-game series victory.
7. June 14: Curry shakes Matthew Dellavedova in Finals
All things considered, Cleveland handled Curry pretty well in the Finals: Matthew Dellavedova paid him plenty of attention, and the Cavaliers slowed the game down and committed to turning Curry into a passer. That approach worked for the first half of the series, or so, but Golden State’s decision to downsize its starting lineup helped open up the court. Finally, Curry truly got loose in Game 5, scoring 37 points and leaving Dellavedova grasping for air on two of his seven three-pointers.
8. June 16: Curry claims first championship
Prior to the 2015 playoffs, Curry hadn’t made it to a Game 7 in the second round, much less a conference finals or Finals. Golden State answered the “Will they be able to deliver when it matters?” question emphatically, blitzing through the postseason with a 16–5 record and toppling LeBron James’s Cavaliers in six games to claim the franchise’s first title in 40 years. Following the confetti and champagne, Curry and Klay Thompson sat side-by-side on the podium struggling to find the right words. “I think we're a great team,” Curry said. “And a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom.” Suddenly, Curry had something that eluded legendary point guards like John Stockton and Steve Nash: a ring.
9. Oct. 31: Curry drops 53 points on Pelicans
New season, new coach, same Steph. With Steve Kerr sidelined following back surgery, Curry didn’t skip a beat, leading the Warriors to a record-setting 24–0 start to the 2015–16 season. For those who couldn’t get enough in 2014–15, Curry was happy to provide more—averaging career-highs in scoring, three-pointers and all the major statistical categories. His top performance during a scorching start? His 53-point night against the Pelicans in the third game of the season, an overwhelming performance that included 28 points in the third quarter alone.
10. Nov. 11: Curry flings falling, one-handed three vs. Grizzlies
The lasting takeaway from Curry’s amazing 2015? He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. All of those “unfair” and “impossible” shots are the NBA’s new normal. Indeed, Curry is just beginning his prime at 27 and his game should age extraordinarily well. The last spot in Curry’s “Best of 2015” list might just wind up being the 2015–16 “Shot of the Year,” too. After taking control of the ball near his own foul line, Curry dodged, spun and then lunged into a one-handed, falling three-pointer that somehow kissed in off the glass. He was looking for the foul but he wound up with a doozy that once again exemplified his terrifying blend of improvisation and skill.