Editor’s Note: This story about the secret skills that fueled Stephen Curry’s record career was originally published on January 21, 2021.
STEPHEN CURRY WHITE exactly how far he still has to go. Now that he’s officially overtaken Reggie Miller for second place on the NBA career 3-pointer list, it only takes Curry 317 to dwarf Ray Allen and the best 3-point shooter in history to become.
To get there, Curry, the two-time MVP, will have to drive another 200 miles of hardwood, relying on a portion of his game that has received little attention in the process. It’s a unique skill that has been critical to Curry’s career, three Golden State NBA titles, and even the Warriors’ current reboot: his all-out acrobatic work path from the ball.
It took Miller 18 seasons to hit his 2,560 3-series. Curry made it in just over 11 – in part because of his ability to run roughly 2.5 miles per game to get open. (That’s nearly 70 marathons over the course of his career.) To commemorate Curry as he climbed the career list and to better understand how he did it, we frame-by-frame a scoring sequence of Crashed Game 4 of the 2019 Western Conference Final – the last time Curry and Warriors were at the height of their historical powers.
It starts with failure.
The yellow digits on the Moda Center music box flashed 1:10 in the first quarter when Zach Collins’ Corner 3 in the Portland Center rattles the glass violently. It hovers gently over the edge and then into the outstretched hands of Golden State’s Kevon Looney. The Warriors Center hands it over to Shaun Livingston, who takes a dribble and then mixes it with Curry, who, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum, is taking the first step on this 226-foot journey.
Curry approaches midfield with the ball and immediately falls victim to his own reputation. In the past eight seasons, Curry has radically changed the geometry of the half-judicial offense almost single-handedly. Its range and accuracy armed an area of the square 10 feet behind the 3-point line that used to be largely dormant. Curry’s shooting has been so otherworldly, in fact, for so long – he’s topped the league five times in three seconds and is third among active players with a shooting percentage of 0.434 – that even tire historians have to refer to other sports to find a suitable comparison.
“Curry has the same effect as Lawrence Taylor,” said David Thorpe, TrueHoop.com analyst and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida. “You always had to be accountable for LT [a New York Giants Hall of Fame linebacker]and it made people paranoid and drained teams mentally and you could use that fear to free other defenders because people were so afraid to leave LT alone. Curry has the same effect. It was everyone’s job to make sure LT didn’t break your quarterback’s leg in half. At Curry, it’s everyone’s job to make sure they don’t break your back with their shot. “
While Curry trudges to the top of the Moda Center courtyard logo, which is about 30 meters from the basket, five pairs of eyes are glued onto it. Three Portland defenders, including his younger brother Seth, are over the arch, ready to engage. After more than a decade in the league, freebies are few and far between for Steph, even at 35 feet. On most trips to the field and especially now that Klay Thompson is still injured and Kevin Durant has been long gone, this is the challenge Curry faces in the later part of his career: if he wants room to shoot, he has to work it out himself with his legs and his mind.
“Steph tests you in so many ways beyond shooting,” says veteran NBA trainer and ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo. “He’s one of the best in the league who moves without a ball. It doesn’t get that much attention, but with his speed and stamina, Steph will kill you. It’s about the biggest nightmare you can have in this league . ” I mean, as a defense, think, ‘Jesus, how many problems can we have in trying to protect a man in possession?’ “
Curry has been quietly working on this part of his game for nearly a decade. During the 2011 NBA lockout, he was at home in Charlotte, where he and former Hornets player Gerald Henderson completed a unique training session at Accelerate Basketball with trainer Brandon Payne, who specializes in neurocognitive efficiency.
Payne, 40, has an insanely ingenious approach to training and developing elite fundamentals, conditioning and insight on the court. “Goal without a ball,” he calls it. And after just one session, Curry felt that it was exactly what he needed. He called Payne that evening and asked if they could work out together. Payne agreed. “OK, I’ll be there tomorrow at 7:00 am,” answered Curry.
They have been working together ever since. And they stay close enough to this day that the morning after big games or heavy losses, you’re likely to hear Payne chatting on the phone with Curry from his cramped, messy headquarters in an old metal-framed warehouse south of Charlotte. “I have a tough job,” says Payne. “I keep telling the greatest Sagittarius who ever lived, ‘It’s not good enough.'”
Because Curry’s pregame shooting routine is done in public and is so widely known, most people assume that his off-season workouts are similar. However, the viral pregame routine is not a workout. It’s a kinetic activation process, like hitting in baseball or reaching range before a round of golf. The truth is, Curry seldom takes more than a handful of shots of the same spot during his private off-season workouts with Payne, and never does traditional draconian tire conditioning exercises like wind sprints or gazers. Instead, he combines the two.
For Curry, typical off-season training looks something like this: With a funny golf tan and usually a colorful prototype of an Under Armor sneaker, Curry flies through an almost impossible full-court version of the conventional star shooting drill. Designed by Payne, it consists of 10 shots – from the corner, baseline, and wing – with 94 foot sprints in between. And it must be done with an accuracy of at least 80% and in less than 56 seconds, otherwise the drill will repeat itself. In essence, it’s the same drill run in almost every basketball practice session on earth that is absurdly charged for Curry, whose year-round conditioning goal is always to be ready to speak within two weeks.
Last off-season when Curry was doing this training session at Stanford, several Division I players in attendance asked to take part in Payne’s ultimate ball-free scoring – all either collapsing from exhaustion or giving up halfway. This is exactly what Payne expects, however, as the drill is specifically designed to challenge Curry’s remarkable stamina and unique abilities to prepare him for challenges like the one against Portland.
“Steph’s definition of conditioning is different from most of the others,” says Payne. “Lots of guys are in great shape. You can be in great shape, where you are tired after a long game like this and your quads are on fire and you can’t breathe, but you can still keep perfect mechanics and still make good decisions “Are you tired but still able to work at the highest level? Because that really matters.”
Back in Portland, while the game unfolds on Curry’s far left, Warriors striker Draymond Green blows through midfield on his way to the basket. Green had been guarding Collins in the back corner of the court at the previous property, but now he’s going to get his 230-pound frame to the length of the floor in less than five seconds because after seven years together he understands that Curry’s range isn’t right. t a weapon if there is no anchor under the basket to stretch the defense.
Curry continues to dribble toward the right wing, facing the right side of the forecourt (then trying not to stare). It’s wide open. The only thing that stands between Steph and a simple bucket is little brother Seth. The curries are the first siblings in NBA history to face each other in the conference finals. But they’ve been in this position a thousand times on the driveway behind their family’s home in Charlotte. Steph says those endless, dejected one-on-one games would go on for hours – until someone either cried or bled.
The Curry family dish is framed on three sides by a long driveway and flower bed, a three-car garage with light brick archways and a row of dark pink crepe myrtle trees in the background. The pool runs on the right side of the square. And now, back in Portland, as Steph approaches the right wing, Seth, like any annoying little brother, seems to feel a split second earlier, exactly where the big brother wants to go: the pool.
Steph offers a half-hearted head fake to the left while sending the ball behind his back to the right hand, only to be cut off immediately. There is no blood or tears this time, but if there is a win for little brothers everywhere, a terrified Steph will have to pull back and turn his back on his little brother to protect the ball and regain his composure.
Without hesitation or looking up, Steph instinctively drives to the center of the square. It’s not a coincidence. The basic philosophy of the Warriors’ offensive – the highest rated offense in NBA history two years ago – is to relentlessly move the ball and all five bodies, slice and dice the defense, keeping them constantly thinking Forcing, reacting and choosing are all while operating within a storm. So the reason for Curry’s cut is simple: the center of the square has the most options. When the ball is in a corner, the other players are at least two passes away from a threat. However, if Curry attacks the center of the field, all players on the ground will be activated.
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“I have to find out exactly how the defense wants to play against us and what they want to take away,” said Curry. “I’ve always played aggressively, but that never means taking every shot. It’s about being a threat and creating for others whether I have the ball in my hands or not.”
For five consecutive seasons, curry has been the centerpiece – and the beneficiary – of one of the most prolific offenses in NBA history. Between 2014 and 2019, Golden State’s offense was number one three times (The Warriors finished 2nd in 2015 and 3rd in 2018) During this stretch, the Warriors reached five NBA finals and won three championships, while averaging 64 wins per Season scored. And this piece represents a perfect time capsule of this time in the further course. At full speed it is nearly impossible to follow, let alone understand, the elements that formulate their scheme. But if you isolate Curry here from Portland – and watch him again a few hundred times in slow motion – it is possible for a fleeting moment to hold onto the secrets behind one of the greatest crimes in the history of tires and the 2,657 Curry 3 -points, that it spawned.
To begin with, Curry’s constant movements may seem frenetic or even selfishly random, but they make perfect sense in the larger context of the Golden State’s passing. Instead of playing one or two set games or isolations per possession, the warriors often go through a series of five or six “smaller” games, depending on how they read and react to the defense, and especially to each other.
“We play chaos and in the past few years it has been organized chaos: everyone knows where they need to be and it’s all kind of second nature,” says Curry. “It’s about knowing each other’s patterns. Usually we just do these readings automatically, but to do that is chemistry. You have to see the picture as it unfolds to know where to be and where the ball should go. “
This is both the genius – and the annoying complexity – of the warriors’ demise, a level of movement, anticipation and appreciation that is hard to defend. But as any subsequent Golden State team finds out on this offense, it is also extremely slow to evolve as it cannot be memorized, drilled, or taught. It has to be felt. It has to be instinctive. And while the 2020-21 Warriors learn, the process takes years.
The framework of the offense from Warriors trainer Steve Kerr is an extension of the philosophy he learned from his mentor Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. The Spurs’ goal for a long time has been to get a good shot and then, by reading and reacting to what the defense is doing, turn this good opportunity into a great one.
Similarly, the Warriors want to fly through looks and possibilities at a dizzying, pressurized pace, continually upgrading until the absolute best option presents itself. The trigger for the Warriors, when they know the first domino has fallen and it is time to shoot, is when the confusion and pressure cause multiple defenders to land on a player or in an area.
That means someone else has to be wide open.
In that regard, Curry’s ride in the middle doesn’t drop a domino. It will be three.
It’s like it has its own pull. When Curry reaches the free-throw circle, a trio of Portland defenders instinctively approaches him and lets an unguarded Livingston run down the left side of the key. As complicated as it may seem, here are the basic principles of distance and movement: if Curry approaches and Livingston stops in the top corner of the key, a single Portland player can defend both. Livingston forced the defense to make up their minds by cutting down on the basket and making themselves a goal threat and increased the scoring chance from good to above average (a scoring probability of 90.9%, to be precise, per second spectrum).
In this case, however, the warriors’ offense worked too well. Livingston’s way to the basket is so light-hearted and so far down the road that the passage angle has dropped from a manageable 45 degrees to a problematic 15 degrees. Even so, Curry leaves his feet and only shows one boat a bit, the side Magic Johnson thread-the-needle pass. Rodney Hood’s blazer plunges. But if the pass ricochets off his hands, a watchful Curry, whose momentum carries him toward the left corner of the court, can reach forward with his right hand and tip the ball back on himself. Curry’s awareness and agility can sometimes seem so effortless that it’s easy to forget about the grueling, multi-faceted neurocognitive training – exercises like dribbling a basketball with your left hand while juggling a tennis ball with your right – that are required to perform this type of Make gaming look routine.
As curry gathers, it’s almost trapped in the corner by the looming 6-foot-8 hood. But here too, Curry relies on its uniqueness to resolve the situation.
Defense attorneys are taught to operate the upper body of a guard, but instinct and habit often direct their gaze to the face, which enables Curry to sell “shot” with his eyes with a split-second look at the edge. What it really sells, however, is Curry’s .654 career shooting percentage from that point on. This implicit threat is one of the greatest secrets to Curry’s success. “Defenders can never relax,” says Thorpe, “because with Steph anything is a possible shot.”
Using the sideline and baseline as a trap, Hood wants to position himself so that Curry doesn’t return to the center of the pitch where all options are available. But just by looking at the basket and hinting that he might start a 3, Curry Hood is unbalanced and overwhelmed enough to create an escape route from the corner.
While Green is still anchored under the basket, Curry pushes the ball towards Looney, who is a few yards behind the upper left side of the arch. A younger Curry may have foolishly continued down the baseline, but by sending the ball out onto the open field, he once again reset the offense and signaled the start of the next “mini” game in search of something better. Defenders also tend to relax, slow down, and take a moment to exhale right after Curry passes the ball. It’s another piece of human nature that Curry takes advantage of to create space by changing speed: accelerating at top speed while crossing the key. According to Second Spectrum, Curry averages 6.57 mph while in this possession. He seems to almost double that speed as he lures his opponent, who happens to be his own brother, into a brick wall pin-in pick that should be waiting for him on the right elbow to clear Steph for an open 3 on his favorite Point on the right wing.
“It’s about getting guys down to earth to be successful,” says Curry. “We have the threats that can attract attention, then we have to move the ball, make an easy pass and usually get a good shot. That’s how I see the offense: everyone has to be aggressive, we can’t.” Guys on the court who move only to move, or move the ball to move it. Whether it’s shooting or attacking, or a simple game, you always have to be a threat. “
When Curry accelerates, Warriors newcomer Jacob Evans is in the perfect position to pin down the trailing Seth Curry. All Evans has to do is realize what is happening and stand still. However, Evans, who was forced into the line-up by injuries, struggles with the complexities of the Golden State offense, especially in this game when Evans wanders out of position after failing to anticipate Curry’s pin-in cut. Evans looks like that poor uncle, hopelessly two trains behind the line dance at the wedding reception, and can’t make the choice. It may have gone unnoticed, but when he realizes his mistake, Evans crosses his arms over his chest and rushes awkwardly toward his elbow a second too late as the Curry brothers fly by.
What’s worse, this bug allows Portland’s Damian Lillard to switch to Steph. At this point Evans can only hope that Kerr will spare him during the feature film review when the warriors tend to piss each other off (good-naturedly) for mental flaws during the game.
Curry is not safe either. Just a few days after being named NBA MVP 2014-15, after a particularly uninspired defensive position in the final, the Warriors coaches spliced the feature film with clips of Riley Curry, who yawned and feigned boredom during a press conference. Teammates laughed so hard they fell from their seats. But Steph got the message. And – at some point – all of the young warrior players too.
“Not only do Draymond and I have to perform every night, we also have to teach in the absence of a better term,” says Curry. “We all have to teach young people. They are hungry to learn and perform and take advantage of all opportunities, but there is a process. To know what the expectations have been over the past five to six years and then ask that of people who who have never been in these positions, that is [always] the challenge will be … to find that balance and put a few miles into those thoughts to find out this offense. “
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When Curry’s horizontal cut to the wing goes wrong, Green calls on the ball in the short corner to reset the offensive for the third time with a post option split. Even when the clock is running, the choices here are just what Kerr likes them: endless. Looney can cut into the basket. Curry can cut into the corner, head to the back door, or return to the wing for a 3. Green can fake a pass and drive the baseline, or he can turn the field with a long pass over the defense. Instead, Green picks another option, dribbles to the top of the button, and sets a tall screen for Evans.
“Even so late, the warriors can still play 500 games and never duplicate what they’re doing,” says Thorpe. “How do you stop that?”
When the ball changes hands on top of the key, Curry is doing something in the right corner that is not intuitive, something he has not done in all of possession. He stands still. Curry’s second wind comes from his ability to quickly lower his heart rate during short breaks, even in the middle of games. For this he trains his body. Once he’s out of breath at the end of most workouts, Curry lies on his back and Payne, his trainer, puts sandbag weights under his rib cage to overload and exercise Curry’s diaphragm.
With such conditioning and breathing techniques, Curry can often bring his heart rate below 80 during a 90-second break. But here, when he goes flat, he stretches his back and puts his hands on his side as if to signal: I’m done, I’m giving upIt’s mostly a bait. And it works. Because at this point, most defenders are begging for a hint of a break after following Curry non-stop across the pitch. Do you ever stop They often whisper to curry. It’s the best compliment he can get from an opponent, says Curry, even better than praise for his shooting. You’re killing me. Stand still for a brief second.
Now, as Curry relaxes, the tension is leaving Lillard’s body. Initially, Lillard had his eyes on Curry and stretched his left arm to block the baseline. But the second curry gets up, Lillard’s head spinning and his eyes instinctively wandering to the ball as Evans begins to slide down the right side of the key. Lillard doesn’t see Curry’s body coil like a feather. Curry’s famous shooting mechanics are a marvel of clean kinetic efficiency. But also his footwork – which is often overlooked.
“Once Steph gives up the action really starts the way we play. And that’s the hard part the guys have to figure out.”
Warrior Trainer Steve Kerr
Instead of lazily stuttering at the basket with his right foot, Curry first intervenes by taking a full step over his body with his left foot (like a tall leaguer stealing the second). Thanks to this economical footwork, Curry can reach top speed in just two steps. Then he emphasizes the swimming motion along the baseline by swinging Lillard’s left arm vigorously over his body with his right hand and rotating his upper body 45 degrees so that his back is now turned towards Curry. After making almost three feet of space where there wasn’t a split second ago, Curry accelerates down the baseline and awaits a well-deserved and wide open backdoor pass from Evans.
It never comes. For the second time in less than 10 seconds, Curry’s move without the ball created a scoring opportunity that Second Spectrum rates over 70% – and his teammates failed to capitalize on it. “A lot of people would stop right there or let up in frustration,” says Payne. “He’s already run all over the place and done the job to get open – twice – and his teammates have missed him. But he keeps going. That makes him so special. He’s mentally unbreakable. He won’t stop. He has won.” Do not stop. “
While Curry drives through the paint unguarded, Evans sends the ball back to Green on top of the key. The moment he goes under the net, Curry is already at the next opportunity. What unfolds again is not a set game, but another, half-planned pattern of movement, almost always in the direction of the open space on the square, to which Curry and his teammates have to constantly, instantly read and react. When Curry improvises, he doesn’t follow strict rules, but rather sophisticated instincts. He uses deliberate movements to capture and target open spaces on the court that place the greatest strain on the defense. And above all: he trusts that his teammates will see the same thing.
Evans, the rookie, missed his cue at the elbow and again at the baseline. And now, as Curry moves under the basket to the left wing, Looney, another relative newcomer, recognizes Curry’s target half a second late. Half a second on this offensive might as well be an aeon. Looney slips out of the corner late, but not far enough, turning a potential elevator screen into a ghost pimple on Lillard.
“Steph is so unique. There’s no one like him in the NBA,” says Kerr. “Nobody who can play on and off the ball at this level and who creates this kind of chaos. And so I think most of the players who come in are not used to the second half of possession. They kind of are.” I’m used to whatever the pattern is at the beginning. But as soon as Steph maybe gives up the ball, the action really starts the way we play. And that’s the hard part that the guys have to figure out. “
This time before Curry makes his next cut, he makes eye contact with Livingston, who arrived in Golden State with Kerr in 2014. When Livingston sees how far Lillard is behind Curry and knows that the Blazers will likely switch defenders to fill the gap on a shooter on the wing, he instinctively kicks on the elbow and checks his own man, preventing the defensive switch and forcing chase an already exhausted lillard with curry to the brim.
Now open at the top of the key, Green anticipates what is going on. But instead of taking a shot, he delivers the ball to the wing. Dies ist eine weitere kritische, aber fast unmerkliche Nuance des Vergehens der Krieger beim Klicken: Wenn der Pass die Hände von Green verlässt, ist der Flügel tatsächlich leer und für den Bruchteil einer Sekunde sieht es so aus, als hätte er den Ball nach rechts weggeworfen in den Schoß eines Fans am Hof, der an einem Getränk nippt. Der Cocktail des Fans ist jedoch absolut sicher. Green vertraut auf sein angeborenes Gespür für Currys endgültiges Ziel – das in Hunderten von Spielen und Tausenden von Übungen zusammen entwickelt wurde – und liefert den Ball genau an die Stelle, an der Curry in genau 0,6 Sekunden in Zukunft magisch materialisieren wird.
Wenn Green es nicht so macht, ist Currys ganze Arbeit umsonst gewesen. Wenn Green darauf wartet, dass Curry anhält und seine Schussabsicht signalisiert, bevor er den Ball weitergibt, wird der Vorsprung von einer halben Sekunde zunichte gemacht und – was noch wichtiger ist – der gesamte Raum gelöscht, um den Curry in den letzten 20 Sekunden unermüdlich gekämpft hat .
“Eine zielgerichtete Bewegung, die eine Verteidigung betont, indem sie sie in Entscheidungssituationen bringt, wird immer ein großer Teil von Stephs Spiel sein”, sagt Payne. “Er wird sich immer so bewegen, egal wer mit ihm auf dem Boden liegt. Die Frage ist: Wird der Ball zu ihm zurückkehren, wo er muss? Das ist die Frage.”
Vorfreude – die Fähigkeit, in Zukunft ein oder zwei Sekunden zu denken und zu spielen und von Natur aus zu wissen, was ein Teamkollege tun wird, bevor er es tut – ist wirklich das, was großartige Spieler und großartige Straftaten von den bloß guten unterscheidet. Wäre Thompson in dieser Saison gesund und in der Lage gewesen, sich Green und Curry anzuschließen, hätten die 2020-21 Warriors mit ihrer Synergie und Telepathie, die so gut wie intakt ist, den Platz eingenommen. Stattdessen wird Curry zu Beginn der Saison einen Großteil seiner Zeit damit verbringen, jüngeren Spielern wie James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins und Kelly Oubre die Nuancen des Golden State-Vergehens beizubringen und zu erläutern, wie das System die individuellen Fähigkeiten jedes Spielers erweitert.
Jüngere Spieler zu unterrichten ist ein Talent, das Curry durch seine SC30 Select Camps entwickelt hat. Um Curry weiter auf diese neue, erweiterte Rolle als Mentor und Ausbilder vorzubereiten, umgab ihn Payne während des Trainings außerhalb der Saison mit vielen jüngeren NBA-Spielern. (Nachdem Curry in den letzten 18 Monaten nur fünf Spiele gespielt hatte, erhöhte er in diesem Herbst auch die Intensität seines Trainings, um spielerische Bedingungen zu simulieren.) In der Zwischenzeit, so Kerr, konzentrierten die Krieger die “große Mehrheit” ihrer anfänglichen Übungen in dieser Vorsaison auf die Verteidigung Sie können in frühen Spielen antreten, während die Beta das Vergehen im laufenden Betrieb testet.
“Im Trainingslager ging es nur darum, in Form zu kommen”, sagt Curry. “Jetzt müssen wir das machen and Finde heraus, wer wo sein muss, welche Sets unser Brot und Butter sein werden, defensive Chemie und Kommunikation – alles, was ein Team großartig macht. “
Ohne Thompson könnte die neueste Version des Golden State-Vergehens ein lebhafteres, athletischeres Aussehen haben, mit mehr Fahren und Schrägstrichen und Platzierungen am Korb. Das ultimative Ziel bleibt jedoch dasselbe: die Chemie und den Rhythmus wieder aufzubauen und zu dem charakteristischen, unerbittlichen, schwindelerregenden Offensivfluss zurückzukehren, der zuletzt vor fast zwei Jahren in Portland gezeigt wurde.
Gerade als Curry seinen rechten Fuß jenseits des Bogens pflanzt, kommt der Ball perfekt in die Mitte seiner Brust. Mit Lillard auf ihm hat Curry irgendwie immer noch das Nötigste, um bis zum anderen Ende des Platzes zu schauen und die Schussuhr zu überprüfen.
Lillard muss jetzt sein Gift einsammeln, als er Curry nachläuft. Wenn er den Ball unter Kontrolle schließt, ist der Schuss wahrscheinlich weg, bevor er ankommt. Wenn er versucht, Curry von der Linie zu bringen, riskiert er ein Drei-Schuss-Foul. und wenn er einen “Blow by” versucht, ist er Curry völlig ausgeliefert, sobald er seine Füße verlässt.
Curry dreht sich zum Korb und als Lillard auf ihn zufliegt, richten sich seine Augen auf den Rand. Gleichzeitig nimmt er eine unangenehme Haltung ein, wobei sein rechter Fuß in der Nähe der 3-Punkt-Linie und sein linker Fuß praktisch außerhalb der Grenzen liegt. Wie alles andere in den letzten 21 Sekunden ist es beabsichtigt. Curry uses his right leg like a matador’s cape, forcing Lillard to sail by wide. Then he swings that leg back to form the base of a perfectly stacked vertical shooting coil — knees balanced over feet, shoulders and torso stacked over hips, wrist poised over elbow, chest aligned with the basket — that is the foundation of Curry’s perfect form.
After running 225.94 feet, changing directions 12 times, facing a triple-team and fighting through four miscues, Curry gets to perform what he’s best known for. And even after 10 years and nearly 2,700 3s, it’s still stunning the way his brain, his drive and his shooting mechanics are able to accomplish in one fluid movement what most shooters must do in several, deliberate steps. That kinetic efficiency is why Curry’s release is still almost 30% faster than that of most other NBA players. It’s reminiscent of the Navy SEAL motto: Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.
Out of bounds, Lillard lunges back over the top of Curry’s head to try to block the shot from behind. He misses by a fraction of a second and …
… when Curry’s shooting elbow passes in front of his eye, the ball floats off the tip of Curry’s index and middle fingers while launching in a signature, elevated Vitruvian arc toward the rim.
In a gesture that looks like he’s taking an oath, the ref on the baseline raises his right arm to signal 3.
As the ball travels toward the hoop, Curry, who says he knows if a shot’s good the second it leaves his hand, drops both arms behind his back, palms up, chest out, like a superhero about to lift off from earth. Then he turns and sends his best “I’m a baaaad man” glare at the Warriors bench, which is already spilling out of its seats in anticipation.
The back of the net flutters almost imperceptibly, like an apparition.
It ends with a swish.