Stephen Curry isn’t held to the same standard as his peers at the point guard position. Most would be thrilled to average 26.4 points and 6.6 assists through five games, but for Curry, it led to an onslaught of criticism. His Warriors were 2-3 with his shooting numbers down, and that raised questions about how capable he was of leading a team without superstars to help carry the load.
Well, if Sunday was any indication, he is going to be just fine. Curry scored a career-high 62 points on 18-of-31 shooting in leading the Warriors to a 137-122 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He did it against Damian Lillard, his contemporary at the point guard position, and a player who has gotten credit for leading lesser rosters in recent years while Curry was winning championships on super teams. Curry’s slow start led many to wonder whether Lillard was the superior player, but for the time being, Curry’s place atop the positional hierarchy seems more than safe.
But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten the disrespect of the season’s first five games. If anything, it drove him. After the game, he brought up Michael Jordan’s attitude during The Last Dance. He took it personally.
“You know the Jordan meme, right? I take all that personally. I sensed the opportunity to kind of assert my will on the game early and try to create some energy, and you know, get off on the right foot,” Curry said. “As crazy as it sounds after the game, all we really wanted to do was win the first quarter and take it from there. Obviously, that’s what we did, and we continued the momentum. We have a winning spirit, we’ve just gotta figure out how to do it consistently, and against the good teams in the league, it’s gonna test us.”
Curry had every reason to take that criticism personally. He’s a three-time champion and two-time MVP, yet fans were ready to relitigate the last five years of his career based on five games he played with a completely new roster. There is a reasonable argument to be made that the 32-year-old version of Curry is less valuable than the one Golden State won championships with, but to suggest that he was either no longer the NBA‘s best point guard or perhaps might never have been in the first place was always a bridge too far.
Curry reminded the basketball world what he is capable of on Sunday, but he also reminded the basketball world not to doubt him. He might be older, he might not have Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson flanking him, but he is still the NBA’s premier point guard, and the moment you forget that is the moment he’ll remind you with an explosive outing like this one.