Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are at a crossroads. They are the defending NBA Champions. They just completed a record-setting regular season and as recently as last week were being discussed as possibly the greatest basketball team of all-time. If they don’t come complete an improbable comeback and win the title, they’ll go down as the flukiest frauds in sports history and the face of that failure will be Wardell Stephen Curry.
Let me tell you a story about an injury prone 6’3″ scoring point guard who played college basketball at a private college on the East Coast that isn’t known for producing NBA players. This young man was passed over by the Minnesota Timberwolves multiple times before starting his professional career with the Golden State Warriors. Eventually he took the league by storm, became the biggest story in sports and finally put his stamp on the sport of basketball by scoring a career-high at the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden.
His name is Jeremy Lin and he too was once the fastest-growing brand in the world.
The similarities between Linsanity and the current Stephen Curry furor are striking and if the Warriors aren’t able to come back a similar fate may await the 2-time MVP.
Before we look forward, let’s look at back at the rise. Here are their stats from the 2011-2012 season.
Sure, these seasons compare Lin’s ceiling to Curry’s basement and this is obviously a ridiculous premise, but remember that Curry is just 5 months older than Lin and their numbers were eerily similar that year. And that is where their paths diverged.
Before the next season would start, the Warriors would give Curry a $44 million contract extension, wrapping him up until 2017. Meanwhile, the Knicks let Lin walk rather than match the Houston Rockets’ 4-year, $28.8 million offer sheet. The Knicks never recovered, going through 3 coaches to the tune of a 108-188 record over the next four seasons. Meanwhile, the Warriors have excelled.
Who is to say that if the Carmelo Anthony had embraced Lin and the Knicks had been able to retain him, the entire trajectory of the league would have changed? Is it that outlandish to suggest that with Melo playing a supporting role that Lin could have blossomed into an All-Star and MVP candidate? Perhaps the Knicks could have even fluked their way to a title in an NBA that former players constantly remind us is watered down and just not that difficult to succeed in?
If the Warriors can’t recover tonight, who is to say that Curry won’t face a similar fate to Jeremy Lin? Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Lin has turned into a serviceable contributor for a playoff team – the same team that some think Curry could head to when his contract is up after next season.
Win or lose this season, the Warriors will have to pay many of the supporting players who have helped contribute to their success over the last couple seasons. The Warriors championship window is closing and closing fast. And it starts with Curry who – excuses, explanations, or otherwise – has dropped off a cliff during the playoffs. Battling injuries his shooting percentages have dropped from 50% to 45% on field goals and 45% to 38% on three-pointers. Points, rebounds and assists have all dropped.
Suddenly, Stephen Curry is human again. Just like Jeremy Lin. And if the Thunder finish off the Warriors – and their 18-month “dynasty” – we can put that chapter of NBA history to bed. Right between the ones about Linsanity and proper tipping etiquette.