When Stephen Curry got the news on Tuesday morning that he was the NBA’s first unanimous KIA MVP award winner in the league’s history, not to mention one of 11 players to have won the honor in back-to-back seasons, the Golden State Warriorsstar did what anyone faced with that kind of humbling reality would.
Picked his jaw up off the floor.
“I looked at the list of every single MVP award winner, and to know that I’m in that group, and to be part of that club …,” Curry, whose Warriors went a historic 73-9 during the regular season, told USA TODAY Sports by phone before pausing. “At the start of the year, you have goals that you want to accomplish and what not, but you don’t know how the story is going to end, standing on the stage with two MVP trophies is something I never would have imagined before. I’m definitely appreciative of the journey. …I still have a lot to accomplish, but the fact that that’s something that nobody else did before, that’s crazy.”
The truly crazy thing, though, is that it was anything but. His last seven months have been downright wacky, to say the least.
Curry, who led the league in scoring (30.1 points per game), averaged 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and became just the third player ever to shoot at least 50% overall, 45% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line, was well deserving of this unprecedented distinction. The San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard is a two-way force of a player who continues to improve, but neither he – nor the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, nor the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook or his teammate, Kevin Durant – were on Curry’s level.
But while it has been unofficially known for months now that Curry would win this honor again, the part that no one saw coming was these past few weeks. The right ankle injury in Game 1 of the Warriors’ first round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, and later the right knee sprain in Game 4 just one half after he had returned, showed yet again how success and health can be so frail and fleeting.
Curry knew this before, having endured all those years of ankle injuries to make way for his ascent. But right about the time he was being roundly celebrated as the game’s best, that lesson was fresh in his mind again.
“It makes me more appreciative of everything,” he said. “Nothing is guaranteed in this league – a wet spot or a twist of an ankle can derail any momentum that you’ve built up, so you want to appreciate every single game, every single moment that I have. Missing playoff games, that hurts. It sucked to not be out there with my teammates.”
Inspiration was easy to come by on Monday night, when he returned from a four-game absence and turned in a 40-point outing against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 4 that will be talked about for years to come. With Curry scoring 27 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime, the Warriors took a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“When I finally got back on the court yesterday I kind of realized how much I actually love to play this game, and love to compete,” Curry said. “I’m just blessed that, for one, I’m back on the floor and have an opportunity to keep this thing going.”