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Is Steph Curry A Top 25 Player Of All Time?

Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports

Is ESPN’s rank of Steph Curry justified, or absurd?

In ESPN’s All-Time #NBArank, Golden State Warrior’s point guard Stephen Curry was ranked as the 23rd best player in NBA history. Even though he has played only 6 NBA seasons and three All-Star games, Chef Curry was able to crack the NBA’s top of 25 all time.

Fanatics in support of Curry’s all-time status will argue that his last year and a half has been so overwhelmingly dominant that he has to be in the top 25 discussion. On the flip side, some will argue that a player with just three All-Star appearances and six NBA seasons under his belt can not reach top 25 status. 

When taking a deep dive into the players ranked just behind Curry, it becomes much more clear whether Steph is one of the 25 best players in NBA history.

Steph Curry (23) vs. Dwyane Wade (27)

The Credentials

Steph CurryDwyane Wade
3x All-Star11x All-Star
2x All-NBA selection8x All-NBA Selection
MVP (2014-15)  Top 10 MVP Voting 7x
Best player on one NBA Title team 2nd Best Player on 2 Title teams
Top 5 in PPG 1xBest player on one NBA Title team 
FT% leader 2x1 All-Star Game MVP (2009-10)
3PM Leader 4x 1 Scoring Title
Top 5 APG 2xTop 5 PPG 3x
Top 5 SPG 3xTop 5 SPG 2x
Holds record for 3PM in seasonAll-NBA Defense 3x
1 Finals MVP (2005-06)

Looking at the accolades of both players, it is clear that Wade has had the more decorated career. He’s featured in eight more All-Star games, six more All-NBA selections, and won two more titles. 

Wade has also made the All-NBA Defensive team three times and led the league in scoring once, two achievements Curry has not yet obtained.

Steph Curry might have one MVP to his name, but Wade has appeared in the MVP balloting more often than Steph by a large margin, indicating Dwyane’s sustained excellence over a seven year stretch. 

If we are comparing these two on just accolades, Wade has a significant advantage on Steph Curry.

Prime and Longevity

Steph Curry425.134.487.381.85.24844.4590.25
Dwyane Wade726.515.146.641.821.0448.5727.6477.05

In this 2015-16 season, Steph Curry is undoubtedly having a year for the record books, but don’t forget that in 2008-09, Dwyane Wade had a season just as prolific, averaging 30.2 points, 5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game on 49.1 percent shooting.

The difference between the two seasons, other than three pointers, is that Steph Curry had the luxury of playing with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, while Wade was stuck on a team that was barely above .500.

One thing working in Dwyane’s favor when talking about the prime of both players is the incredible 2006 NBA Finals performance by Wade, which some argue is the best Finals performance of any player in the history of the NBA. In that 2006 Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game, while also being a destructive defensive player. 

When looking at the numbers of both players, the one thing that jumps off the page is that Dwyane Wade’s prime lasted longer than Steph Curry’s entire career so far. Another factor working in Dwyane’s favor is that he has averaged at least 18.7 points, 3.5 boards, 4.6 assists, and one steal per game for the last 12 seasons, a testament to Wade’s incredible longevity.

The Verdict

When talking about who has had the better single season, Steph Curry has the slight edge due to his record breaking three point shooting and team success. But when bringing together the entire career of both players it is hard to deny that Wade has is not the better all time player.

Both players have been the number one option for a championship team, but Wade has earned eight more All-Star appearances, six more All-NBA appearances, two more championships, and one more scoring title than Curry. Then factoring in the longevity of Wade’s career, averaging at least 18.7 points, 3.5 boards, 4.6 assists, and one steal per game for the last 12 seasons, it is hard to make a logical argument that Curry, who has played only six NBA seasons, is a better all time player than D-Wade.

Steph Curry (23) vs. Elgin Baylor (24)

The Credentials

Steph CurryElgin Baylor
3x All-Star11x All-Star
2x All-NBA Selection10x All-NBA First Team
1 MVP (2014-15)Top 5 MVP Voting 5x
Best Player on one NBA title teamRookie of Year (1958-59)
Top 5 in PPG 1x1 All-Star Game MVP (1958-59)
FT% leader 2x
Top 5 RPG 4x
3PM Leader 4x 
Top 5 PPG 8x
Top 5 APG 2x
Most point in NBA Finals Game (61)
Top 5 SPG 3x
20K points 10K rebounds club
Holds record for 3PM in season
Top 5 FT% 1x

In this head-to-head matchup, Curry has two clear advantages on Baylor. First off, Elgin never won an NBA title, while Curry was the best player on a championship team. Secondly, Curry has one MVP trophy in his award case, whereas Elgin has zero. 

The MVP argument holds less weight in this case though because Elgin was top five in MVP voting in five different seasons. 

Baylor, on the other hand, has eight more All-NBA appearances, eight more All-Star appearances, and was top five in scoring seven more times than Curry. On top of that, Elgin is also part of one of basketball’s most prestigious clubs, the 20 thousand point 10 thousand rebound club.

Prime and Longevity

Steph Curry
Elgin Baylor434.1817.284.5NANA43.38NA77.65

Statistically speaking, Baylor’s prime has the clear edge on Curry’s, averaging nine more points and thirteen more rebounds per game. In 1962, Elgin also put together one of the best single season performances the NBA has ever seen, averaging 38.3 points, 18.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. In his prime, Elgin also boasted three of the top fifteen scoring seasons in NBA history.

Throughout his career, Baylor also showed terrific longevity, named an All-Star in 11 of his 14 seasons and selected to All-NBA first team in 10 of his fourteen seasons. Curry isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Baylor in terms of longevity, evident by his only making three All-Star teams so far.

Curry’s biggest advantage on Baylor is his NBA title, but when factoring in Baylor’s ridiculous prime numbers and longevity, Elgin gets the advantage over Curry in this category.

The Verdict

When taking into account Elgin Baylor’s longer career, better peak numbers, and ten All-NBA first team appearances, it seems that Baylor is the better all time NBA player and deserves to be ahead of Curry in ESPN’s top 100 list.

Steph Curry (23) vs. Isiah Thomas (29)

The Credentials

Steph CurryIsiah Thomas
3x All-Star12x All-Star
2x All-NBA Selection5x All-NBA Selection
1 MVP (2014-15)Top 5 MVP Voting 1x
Best Player on one NBA title team
Best Player on two NBA title teams
Top 5 in PPG 1xAll-Star Game MVP 2x
FT% leader 2x
1 Finals MVP (1989-90)
3PM Leader 4x Led league in assits 1x
Top 5 SPG 3x
Top 5 in APG 4x
Top 5 APG 2xTop 5 SPG 2x
Holds record for 3PM in season
5th all time in APG

When looking at the accolades of both players, Curry has two clear advantages. First off, Steph was able to capture an NBA MVP, while Thomas was only top five in voting one season. Secondly, Steph was a much better shooter than Isiah, leading the league in 3PM and FT% a combined six times. 

Thomas, on the other hand, was the best player on two NBA championship teams, compared to Curry’s one. Isiah has made nine more All-Star teams and three more All-NBA teams than Curry and was the Finals MVP in 1990, an award Steph has never won. 

Given that Isiah has won two NBA championships, compared to Steph’s one, and has made a combined 12 more All-Star and All-NBA teams, Thomas gets the edge in this category, despite the fact that Curry has won an MVP trophy. 

Prime and Longevity

Steph Curry425.13
Isiah Thomas5

While the numbers for these two players are relatively similar, this season Steph Curry is putting up numbers Isiah Thomas could never dream of putting up, averaging 29.8 points, 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 three pointers a game on 50.7-45.2-91.3 splits. The most points Isiah was ever able to average was 22.9 on only 47-29-71 splits.

The huge advantage in Thomas’ favor though is the longevity of his career. In the first 12 years of his career, Zeke averaged at least 16.2 points, 7.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game in every season, and in 1984-84, Isiah averaged 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and a league leading 13.9 assists per game. 

While Steph gets the slight edge when it comes to who had a better prime, when factoring in the longevity of both players, Isiah gets the overall advantage in this category. 

The Verdict

Just like Dwyane Wade and Elgin Baylor, it is extremely hard to rank Steph Curry in front of Isiah Thomas when factoring in the total body of work of both players.

So Is Steph Curry A Top 25 All-Time Player?

After taking a deep dive into the numbers of Stephen Curry and three players ranked just behind him, it becomes clear that Curry is not one of the 25 best players of all time. 

It seems that the voters at ESPN suffered from a severe case of “recency bias” when ranking Stephen Curry. While it is easy to fall in love with Curry’s magnificent three point shooting and absurd no-look passes in the beautiful Golden State Warrior offense, NBA fans need to still remember the great careers of players before Curry and not get caught up in the moment.

While Curry’s last two seasons have been record setting in many respects, it is hard to value these two seasons more than 12 plus years of sustained excellence by many of the players ranked just behind Chef Curry.

Edited by Justin Peroff, Brian Kang.

What pick was Steph Curry selected with?
Created 2/8/16
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