PHILADELPHIA — The record soon to be broken encompasses only a fraction of Steph Curry’s success from beyond the 3-point arc. For every one of the 2,964 3-pointers he has made over the last 14 seasons, hundreds more swish through the net every week in practice. Yet, for his teammates and coaches, past and present, one shot stands out.
You know the one. Bang. Bang.
“The Oklahoma City shot will always stand out,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“That half-court game-winner versus OKC,” said Kevon Looney, who witnessed it from the bench as a 20-year-old rookie.
Curry will enter Saturday night’s game at Philadelphia — against his brother, Seth, and the 76ers — needing 10 3-pointers to pass Ray Allen for the NBA career record.
With one shot, on Feb. 27, 2016, Curry cemented his place in Warriors lore. On a bad ankle, Curry completed a comeback in an overtime thriller against a Thunder squad at home and at the height of its powers
Its heroic nature — and ESPN commentator Mike Breen’s iconic “double-bang” call — is what seared the shot into the minds of Warriors fans and foes. But the play itself — Curry pulling up without hesitation from 38 feet — captured the essence of how the scrawny kid from little Davidson College changed the game.
Now a Curry banger is expected from any distance.
Back then, Curry had earned one league MVP award and was on his way to a second. He had helped the Warriors win a titles and would lead them to the promised land three more times, with two more rings to show for it. He had established himself as a superstar, but he had only begun to stretch the boundaries of a makeable shot.
As he has drawn increasing attention from defenders, Curry has been forced to move farther and farther behind the arc, which ranges from 22 feet in the corners to 23’-9” elsewhere.
Curry has made 123 of his shots from beyond 30 feet, most of them in the last seven seasons.
“Steph, on a personal level, just lifted the bar much higher in terms of what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot,” Kerr said. “The fact that he could do it off the dribble and off the catch. … I’ve just never seen a guy so confident and lacking any sort of discretion when it comes to shooting the ball — and I say that in a good way.
“He changed the outlook for a lot of players. Now guys are firing away from everywhere, but he’s obviously the best at it.”
The game-winner in Oklahoma City was one of 21 shots Curry made from at least 6 feet beyond the arc that season, almost three times the total for his first six seasons (eight). In the six-plus seasons since, he has attempted 333 shots from 30 feet or longer — more than five times the amount from his first six seasons — and made them at a 34.5% clip. He made 41 shots on 104 attempts from ultra-long distance last season — both personal bests — and is on pace to top both figures this year.
When he pulled up from 38 feet that night in OKC, with the scored tied at 118 in the final seconds of overtime, his teammates knew they’d won the game.
“It was so natural and so automatic — not desperate — that we knew when he let that ball go out of his hands, it was going to go in,” recalled Leandro Barbosa, who jumped off the bench in celebration as the shot went through the hoop with six-tenths of a second remaining.
The Warriors had to fight to get to overtime and, and for a brief time, it appeared they would have to do so without Curry. Early in the second half, he had landed awkwardly and tweaked one of his troublesome ankles. He returned a little more than five minutes later, and proceeded to score 31 of his 46 total points.
The shot was Curry’s 12th 3-pointer on 16 attempts that night, tying the single-game record for 3-pointers. That mark would be broken two more times, once by him, then by his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, whose record of 14 still stands. Curry also broke his own record for 3s made in a season that night, which he had set the year before with 286; he went on to finish with 402, a mark that he is on pace to break this season.
That night is memorable to Draymond Green for a different reason.. This was the nationally televised game in which Green and Kerr got into a halftime shouting match so loud that ESPN reporter Lisa Salters overheard it and reported live.
Curry’s heroics “completely overshadowed” the incident, Green recalled recently. “I like to think if we didn’t have that argument in the locker room, we would’ve lost the game. Who knows.”
Maybe Curry never gets a chance at his most famous shot of all time.
The shot is remembered even by those who weren’t yet teammates of Curry.
“There’s two that stick out to me, honestly. The first one is the one he hit against OKC,” said Juan Toscano-Anderson, the Oakland native and lifelong Warriors fan who at the time had just graduated from Marquette and was preparing for his first season playing professionally in Mexico. “I think everybody in the world knew he was going to hit that shot.”
(The other, for Toscano-Anderson, is personal. It was the game last April when Toscano-Anderson cracked his head open diving over the bench to save a loose ball. Curry wound up with it and drilled his ninth of 11 3-pointers. “I never forget that play,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I was just glad he made that shot because then that dive would’ve been for nothing.”)
The Oklahoma City shot had it all: range, the clutch-factor, even Curry’s potential kryptonite — his ankles — which is why it still conjures such vivid memories in the minds of so many almost six years and nearly 1,500 3-pointers later.
For so many of the others to blend together, well, Kerr believes that says something about the spectacle on display for the past 13-plus seasons.
“I think Steph in a lot of ways is like Michael Jordan in that there are so many moments that they all kind of bleed into each other, and they don’t even stand out because that’s just what you expect,” Kerr said. “Maybe that’s the true sign of greatness.”