Steph Curry is one of the leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here. This story also appears in the Nov. 30, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. To subscribe, click here.
Every so often the basketball gods open the door to the Zone. There is no telling who will be granted access and how long he will be allowed to stay. Great shooters can remain for a quarter, a half, even an entire game. The best ones may take up residence for a week. A few immortal marksmen have been known to move in for a month.
Warriors point guard Steph Curry has lived in this exclusive fun house all year. He was there when he splashed a record 286 three-pointers last season and a record 98 in the playoffs, 40 more than the previous mark. He was there when he sank the tying corner three with his eyes closed in Game 3 of the first round against New Orleans, while getting knocked down by two Pelicans. He was there when he delivered a heartfelt MVP speech, as his family wept, and when he conducted a hilarious press conference as his daughter jeered. He was there when he drained the double-crossover step-back three against Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova in the Finals. And he was there when he smoked that sweet victory cigar on a downtown Cleveland street corner at 4 a.m.
Police officers that June morning asked Curry if he wanted them to shield him from passersby. They must not have noticed that he was surrounded by his own force field. No one could touch him—not Anthony Davis, not James Harden, not LeBron James, all vanquished with a velvety flick of the wrist, en route to Golden State's first championship in 40 years. Rookie coach Steve Kerr was a genius. Two-year-old Riley Curry was a celebrity. The Warriors won more games last season, playoffs included, than any team that did not employ Michael Jordan ever has. All this was made possible because Steph never left the Zone.