More than an hour before the Denver Nuggets tip off against the Golden State Warriors, Denver's arena is already filling up. Fans watch as Stephen Curry floats shot after shot from the farthest reaches of the three-point line. His shots find the hoop with ease. Curry then steps near half-court, almost 40 feet from the basket, and starts again. "I have not seen him miss one!" says Ty Hansen, a Denver Nuggets fan whose loyalty to his team seems to fade with every swish.
This kind of excitement has been on display in arenas across the nation lately. Curry and the Warriors won the 2014-15 NBA championship, and began the 2015-16 season with the hottest start in league history.
And that's just on the court. Sales of Curry jerseys are up 500% this season, according to online retailer Fanatics. Industry experts credit Curry's $130 sneaker with almost single-handedly doubling Under Armour's basketball-footwear sales. "Steph's the face of the NBA," says Curry's Warriors teammate Draymond Green.NOAH GRAHAM—NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
More than Meets the Eye
It's exciting stuff for a guy who, next to most NBA players, seems downright scrawny. Curry is six feet three inches tall. He's 27 but looks much younger. His appearance is partly why major colleges ignored him out of high school. Curry ended up at Davidson, a small college near Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2009, he joined the Golden State Warriors.
Lately, the strategy for success in the NBA is to play fast and shoot more. That is, take lots of long-distance shots instead of carefully working the ball toward the big guys under the basket. As a result, teams today are taking and making more three-pointers per game than at any other time in NBA history. The game is moving faster than it has in more than 20 seasons.
These trends are a perfect match for Curry's skills. This season, he is making more than five three-pointers a game, more than the average for an entire NBA team 15 years ago. If he keeps it up, he'll shatter his own record for three-point shots made in a single season, which he set a year ago. "He's going to create a whole new brand of basketball player," says Jerry West, a Warriors executive board member and Hall of Fame player.
He's Got Game
Curry zips in and around defenders. He veers one way, then just as quickly stops, confusing defenders who are trying to keep up. Every movement is purposeful. "It's like dancing," says Curry's friend Misty Copeland, the ballerina.
Curry has big goals for 2016. He wants a second straight MVP award, another NBA title, and an Olympic gold medal as a member of Team U.S.A. at the Summer Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN—NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Oh, and there's one more thing we can look forward to from Curry. "You should expect me to keep getting better," he says.
Scary. Stephen Curry thinks he's just warming up.