Several former NBA players, including Oscar Robertson, have criticized Steph Curry in recent weeks. Yes, rather than recognizing Curry’s brilliance for what it is, Robertson and others have essentially said that Curry’s greatness has less to do with Curry and more to do with the non-physical era in which he plays.
Eddie Johnson could not disagree more.
“There’s a lot of guys that are playing today’s game that, quite frankly, (would) have a difficult time with hand-checking and being pushed around,” the former 17-year NBA veteran and current NBA Today host acknowledged on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “But not that guy in Golden State. I think that’s where Oscar makes his mistake. He was a great player, and I think great players ascend to a different level where they can morph into whatever they need to to be productive. I view Steph Curry as that guy.”
Curry leads the league with 30.7 points per game, has led Golden State to a 54-5 record and has drilled 33 three-pointers in his last four games. For the season, he is shooting an unconscious 46.8 percent from three-point range despite having 10 eyes on him at all times.
Indeed, Curry, who is listed at 6-3, 190 pounds, doesn’t beat you with physicality. He beats you with skill.
“Look, Oscar was a guy that, when he played, he loved physicality of the game,” Johnson said. “He loved defenders touching him. He loved backing guys down and he was more effective when he was being touched. So he didn’t play like Reggie Miller played, like I played, like Dale Ellis played. We countered hand-checking by moving all the time. It was hard for them to hand-check us because we didn’t stop moving. We used our teammates, we came off screens, we set back picks – and those are all the things that Steph Curry does to counter guys trying to be physical with him.
“And then he took it a step further,” Johnson continued. “‘Okay, yeah, I’ll take shots eight to nine feet (beyond) the three-point line’ – which is something we’ve never seen. So Steph has created a way to counter guys from trying to be physical. Oscar says, ‘Well, he couldn’t play in this time period.’ What Oscar has to understand is if you’re going transfer Curry back to that level, his ball-handling would break his ankles. He’s talking about picking a guy up 94 feet, but if you bring Curry back there with his ability to handle the ball – (nope), won’t happen. He’ll blow right by you. That’s why it’s hard to compare eras.”
Curry, who is in the midst of his seventh NBA season, has shot 44.6 percent from three in his career and 90.1 percent from the foul line.
“He’s the greatest shooter I have ever seen,” Johnson said. “Trust me: I don’t say that lightly. I really don’t. I believe as a shooter that I was one of the best, okay? And I’m telling you right now: I have never seen anybody shoot the ball like he does. For me, I just think it’s wrong for those guys to even criticize him – because he’s unreal.”