It’s no secret the NBA is a player’s league. The modern owner concerns himself with player happiness over all else – even the wishes of their head coach. It’s a league run by players, and has been since the television prowess of the 1980’s led to the shift in popularity from team to player. It started with Bird and Magic in the 80’s, continued into MJ’s 90’s, through Kobe’s (or Duncan’s depending on who you ask) 2000’s, and into the current era of LeBron. Every era has a once in a generation talent that bestows prowess on the league for his given prime.
Kobe fans will claim that his alpha-dog era lasted until 2010 (his final championship). Truth is Kobe’s era as the game’s most dominant player ended in 2007 when LeBron submitted a 30/7/6 split – all while shooting 52% from the floor and carrying a downright laughable Cavs roster to the finals. Kobe simply couldn’t put that kind of performance on the floor each night. Sure, the Lakers did win two more titles, but even the novice NBA fan could see who the game’s best player was.
Now, eerily enough in 2015, we enter the same stage for LeBron’s career. His game is still at an elite level (26/6/6, 49%) which yields little evidence his prime is even moderately slowing down, but it’s hard to ignore when seeing him in person. He’s on the wrong side of 30, evolving game – less explosive, more grounded- with a focus more on his city, brand, team and family more than expanding his individual game. Yet what is happening on the west coast can’t be ignored: an unbelievable stretch which Steph Curry led his Warriors to the greatest opening to an NBA season ever: 24-0. The number-junkies can spit so many ridiculous stats (15-20 on 3’s longer than 30 feet, 60.7 3 point FG percentage off the dribble) regarding Curry’s season it can become superfluous. The man is coming off a remarkable season in which he set a new NBA 3 point FG made mark, won an MVP on a 67-win team and, oh yeah, won an NBA Championship.
Pundits could argue that had Steph simply stayed on his path statistically that he established during 2014, he would still be in control of the league. The 2015 version of Steph Curry has taken yet another step. He has been out of this stratosphere both on and off the court. Averaging an improbable 32.3 points per game (in only 34 minutes played on average), 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds. All remarkable considering he’s top 20 in assists, and averaging over 5 rebounds per game being only 6’2. Not to mention the man plays plus defense with over 2 steals per game. The eye-popping stats could go on for pages, but what is making Steph Curry approach LeBron’s crown is his marketability off the court with the younger generation. Amongst his largest endorsements; he is tied to Under Armour’s massive growth, Apple’s cell phone monopoly and that is just the beginning. He reigns supreme for the kids with his unfathomable bombs from 30+ feet. The YouTube videos are almost laughable.
All of this popularity mixed with downright silly stats and a team off to an astonishing start raises the question NBA fans should be wondering: “Is this now Steph Curry’s league?” In my opinion this year will tell the story. LeBron notices the urgency at hand, and is pushing his Cavs like none other. He feels the pressure Steph is putting on him, and knows that another Warriors title will formally make it Steph’s league. I don’t personally think LeBron let’s it slip away quite yet, but I do know one thing… it’s going to be fun to watch.