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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Stephen Curry Sets Record for Career Three Pointers Made as Warriors Beat Knicks 105-96

Stephen Curry scored a team-high 22 points and he set the ABA/NBA career record for regular season three point field goals made--breaking Ray Allen's mark of 2973--while leading his Golden State Warriors to a 105-96 win over the slumping New York Knicks. Curry shot 8-19 from the field (including 5-14 from three point range) and he hit two three pointers in the first 4:27 of the first quarter to tie and then pass Allen on the career list. Allen had held the record since 2011, when he surpassed Reggie Miller, who finished his career in 2005 with 2560 regular season three point field goals made. Allen made a special trip to Madison Square Garden to be on hand to personally congratulate Curry, while Miller was at the game to do color commentary for TNT.

In his previous three games, Curry shot 22-59 (.373) from the field overall, including 14-46 (.304) from three point range. He had 13 assists and 14 turnovers in those contests. When Curry was 16 three pointers away from the record, he spoke openly about the possibility of making 16 three pointers in one game, which would break the single game record of 14 held by Curry's teammate Klay Thompson. Prior to Tuesday night's game, Curry shot .400 or worse from the field in 12 of his 26 games this season, and he shot .300 or worse from three point range in 12 games. 

Imagine for a moment if Kobe Bryant had posted such poor numbers over a three game stretch while chasing an individual career record and talking to the media about chasing an individual single game record as well. Would the media coverage portray Bryant positively or negatively? Anyone who follows the NBA knows that the media coverage of Bryant in that scenario would be overwhelmingly negative, and that Bryant would be depicted as "selfish," "not focused on team success," "uncoachable," and so forth. 

It is hypocritical to bash Bryant as a self-centered player when he set individual records, but then praise Curry for seeking individual glory even when doing so clearly is having a negative impact on his efficiency, and possibly even jeopardizing team success. Curry's Warriors went 2-1 in the three games referenced above, but the wins came against two teams that are performing poorly (Indiana and Portland) while the loss came against a team that is hardly setting the league on fire (Philadelphia). 

Why is it acceptable for Curry to openly chase individual records, and to perform very inefficiently while doing so? 

If setting a career individual record is a great accomplishment and it is acceptable to openly seek to set career individual records, then that standard should be applied to all record-seekers. If doing so is selfish, then that standard should be applied to all record-seekers. 

To be clear, I don't think that Bryant was selfish, nor do I think that Curry is selfish. The point is not to criticize either player, but rather to demonstrate the hypocrisy of many media members.

It also should be noted that little to no media attention has been focused on the evolution of the career record for three pointers made. The current NBA was created in 1976 by a merger of the old NBA with the ABA's four surviving teams. The ABA used the three pointer throughout its nine year existence, but the ABA did not invent the three pointer; the ABL, which survived for less than two seasons in the early 1960s, was the first professional basketball league to use the three pointer, but the first recorded instance of the three pointer being utilized is a 1945 college game featuring Columbia versus Fordham. There are at least a couple other examples of the three pointer being used in individual college games long before the NCAA began using the three pointer in all college games in the 1986-87 season (a few NCAA conferences used the three pointer in the early 1980s before the rule was codified for all NCAA games).

The player who held the ABA/NBA career record for regular season three point field goals made for longer than any other player is Louie Dampier, who made 794 regular season three point field goals during his career. Dampier played in the ABA during each of the league's nine seasons (1967-76), and then he played three NBA seasons before retiring in 1979, one season before the NBA began using the three point shot. Les Selvage led the ABA with 147 three point field goals made in the league's inaugural season, while Dampier ranked ninth with 38 three point field goals made. Selvage only made four more three pointers during his brief career, so Chico Vaughn became the career leader in 1969 after making 137 three pointers in the ABA's first season and 145 three pointers in the ABA's second season. In 1970, Dampier--who set the single season record with 199 three pointers in 1969, and then made 198 three pointers in 1970--established a new career record with 435 three pointers, and he remained on top until Dale Ellis passed him during the 1992-93 season.

Ellis held the career record until Miller broke his mark in 1998. Miller retired in 2005, and he held the career record from 1998 until Ray Allen passed him in 2011. 

Note that the record that Dampier set during nine ABA seasons lasted until the 14th season after the NBA began utilizing the three point shot; thus, including the three post-ABA/NBA merger seasons during which the NBA did not utilize the three pointer, Dampier held the record for over 20 years, much longer than Ellis, Miller, or Allen. 

Curry is a fantastic shooter, but he is thriving in an era during which minimal defensive contact is allowed while most NBA players are encouraged to shoot many three pointers--and this era would have been perfectly suited not only for Dampier, but, also for Selvage, Vaughn, Ellis, Miller, Allen, and many others. Imagine if Pistol Pete Maravich had played in this era, let alone if he had played on a team coached by Steve Kerr or Mike D'Antoni!

The TNT studio crew speculated that Curry's record may never be broken, but a player has made at least 200 three pointers in a season over 100 times, and there have been 25 times that a player made at least 250 three pointers in a season. It is not clear if the steady increase in three pointers attempted and made has stabilized or not, but unless there is a big decrease in the utilization of the three pointer there is a decent chance that Curry's record will be broken. It is not inconceivable that at least one player will average 200 or 250 three pointers made per season for 15 years or so; in fact, unless something changes about the way the game is being played it seems almost inevitable that Curry will be surpassed in 15 or 20 years, or possibly even sooner. 

Acknowledging the reality that this record is likely made to be broken under the prevailing circumstances takes nothing away from Curry's greatness. He is the most prolific outside shooter of his era, and a good case can be made that he is the greatest shooter of all-time. It is fun to watch Curry play, and it is refreshing to see both his joy and his work ethic; it is not nearly as enjoyable to read, watch, and/or listen to media coverage of him, but the media's shortcomings are not his fault.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:04 AM



At Wednesday, December 15, 2021 4:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media lately has been trying to shoehorn Steph into the GOAT debate, he's a great player but people overlook his size/skillset flaws that are present even in today's 6'3 and under friendly league and hide behind his "gravity". There's a few players playing right now that belong in that discussion more than Steph does

At Wednesday, December 15, 2021 11:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Yes, you are correct, but this is nothing new; media members have been trying for several years to elevate Curry above Kevin Durant, and they willfully ignore the abundant evidence that Durant had far more to do with Golden State's success than Curry did when they were teammates. No rational basketball analyst could honestly believe that Curry is more valuable than--in no particular order--bigger and more versatile players such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard, but far too many prominent basketball analysts are either dishonest or incompetent.

At Thursday, December 16, 2021 5:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it was wrong to bash Bryant over his individual records (and it was - its a great part of the sport - and trust me, my cat is named Kobe, I'm a huge fan), but it kind of feels like you are bashing Curry a bit for the same. yes, you give a caveat at the very end of the post but most don't read til the end. Curry is absolutely not one of the five best players of all time - you just can't reach that level unless you dominate both sides of the floor. However, Curry is probably one of the five most influential players and has done more to change the game than anyone since Jordan. I think Wild, Dr. J, Michael Jordan and Curry are the Mt. Rushmore of influence and changing the way the next generation plays the game. Kobe is my all-time fav, but like Lebron, he maximized his potential rather than fundamentally altering the game. So props to Curry for making the game so much more exciting for a whole new generation.

At Friday, December 17, 2021 12:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I cannot control whether or not people "read til the end," nor can I control the extent to which people understand what they read--and anyone who reads what I wrote should be able to understand that I am not "bashing Curry."

A player's "influence" is difficult to quantify. Wilt Chamberlain's influence is obvious--his name still dominates the record book in multiple categories nearly 50 years after he retired. Erving's influence both on style of play and on the economics of sport--in terms of being a major factor leading to the ABA/NBA merger and also in terms of being an endorser of multiple products not directly connected to basketball--is well documented. Michael Jordan's influence on and off the court is indisputable.

Whatever one thinks of LeBron James, his influence on multiple levels is clear. He was the first player to go straight to the NBA from high school and immediately play at an All-Star level. He pioneered the modern "super team" (one can debate whether or not that is a good thing, but his pioneering role is obvious). He may retire as the all-time scoring leader. He has performed at an All-NBA level for a longer time span than any other player in pro basketball history. It would be bizarre to suggest that Curry is somehow more influential than James.

Bryant was an All-NBA level performer for the last team to win three titles in a row, and then he was the best player on back to back championship teams. He was the first player to jump straight from high school to the NBA and have a major impact on multiple championship teams. He had a major influence on many current stars, including Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and Kyrie Irving. He was a global icon before his death, and the massive worldwide outpouring of grief after he died speaks to his great influence.

Does Curry really belong in the same conversation with those guys? He is not nearly as good of a player as Chamberlain, Erving, Jordan, Bryant, or James--players who were much larger than Curry, and who impacted the game in multiple ways at both ends of the court. Curry is given a lot of credit for the three point revolution, but a careful examination of history shows that the number of three pointers attempted and made were steadily increasing before he entered the NBA.

Curry is a great player and he is also an influential player, but media members tend to overstate both his greatness and his influence. The driving force behind so many three pointers being attempted are the dictates of "stat gurus" who think that they made a scientific breakthrough when they noticed that a three point shot is worth one more point than a two point shot. The Warriors won their titles not solely or even primarily because of three point shooting, but rather based on having a well-rounded team that defended, rebounded, and could score in multiple ways. Kevin Durant was clearly the best player on two of the championship teams, and what we saw in the 2016 NBA Finals indicates that if the 2015 Cavaliers had not been devastated by injuries the Warriors may very well have not won even one title without Durant.

At Monday, December 20, 2021 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lebron "pioneered the modern "super team" --> but what about '07-'08 Celtics (bringing in KG, Ray Allen to join Pierce)?


At Monday, December 20, 2021 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LeBron "has performed at an All-NBA level for a longer time span than any other player in pro basketball history." --> what about Kareem?


P.S. I'm a LeBron fan, just questioning out of curiosity

At Tuesday, December 21, 2021 2:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The '08 Celtics, like many previous championship teams, were built by decisions made by management. LeBron James built the Miami Heat by recruiting Chris Bosh to join him and Dwayne Wade in Miami. James has been the de facto general manager of most of his teams. As I noted above, one can debate whether or not this is a good thing, but it is indisputable that James built super teams in Miami, Cleveland, and L.A.

Regarding who played the longest at an All-NBA level, James already holds the record for most All-NBA selections (17) and most All-NBA First Team selections (13). If he plays in enough games this season, he has a good chance to add to the first total and possibly even the second total. Kareem is tied for second for overall All-NBA selections (15), and he is tied for fourth for All-NBA First Team selections (10). LeBron's final totals for All-NBA selections and All-NBA First Team selections may never be surpassed.

At Tuesday, December 21, 2021 12:00:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lieberman said...

I'm not questioning Kobe or Lebron's greatness - I think they are both better all around players. But they didn't change the game, they just excelled within existing parameters. Kobe was the best MJ type player since and LeBron is like Magic but better able to get his own points. Both top 10 players of all time and I don't think Curry is (at least not yet - maybe if he wins another chip and is the mvp of the finals). I think Durant is a better player overall as well. That's not the point. the point is going to any rec league game with kids aged 8 to 15 over the past 8 years and you will see kids practicing the 3 and shooting from half court. that is all Curry. He has changed the way pro's play the game and he has changed the way the next generation played the game. I don't think anyone since MJ has had that kind of influence.

More generally, being a Kobe/Lakers and Dr. J/Sixers fan, I've really enjoyed your column for years. Thanks for everything you write.

At Tuesday, December 21, 2021 4:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for your kind words.

Regarding Curry as a game-changer compared to Kobe and LeBron, I understand the point that you are making, but I stand by my previous comment because I would argue that you are (1) understating the impact that Kobe and LeBron had outside of "existing parameters" and (2) overstating Curry's impact. The rise of three point shooting has been fueled by many factors, it was occurring before Curry entered the league, and likely would have continued to occur even if he had not entered the league. The "stat gurus" and coaches like Mike D'Antoni have had at least as much influence on this development as Curry has, but media members prefer simple, straight-line narratives. Curry has become the face of three point shooting, so I agree with the notion that kids are imitating him, but I disagree with the notion that Curry is the main reason that three point shooting has become so prevalent.

I would further argue that Curry has had less impact on winning than Kobe, LeBron, Durant, or even the oft-injured Kawhi Leonard. Curry was the best regular season player for one championship team, but that team had a great ensemble cast and he was not the Finals MVP. Durant was without question the best player on the next two GS championship teams. LeBron has been the best player on four championship teams, while Kobe was clearly the best player on two championship teams and he was "1B" on three others. Leonard was the best player on two championship teams. Kids would be well-advised to follow the example of players who polished their all-around skills at both ends of the court, as opposed to believing that basketball success primarily revolves around "logo threes," which is actually a small part even of Curry's repertoire.

So, if your contention is that Curry is more popular among kids than other great players, you may be right, but I am not sure how to prove that or how relevant that is. Kobe, LeBron, and Durant have had a far greater impact on winning, and on how championship level basketball is played.

At Wednesday, December 22, 2021 1:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to argue that Steph has accelerated the rise of the 3-ball (with a ton of help from rule changes and deep, well designed teams that allowed them to win games) but as mentioned several times already it was trending that direction anyway

The way the "he changed the game" crowd goes about it you'd think Steph changed the game the way Ruth did in his own time but that's far from what's actually happened

Klay doesn't get enough credit from that crowd either, would those mid 10s Warriors teams be anywhere near as potent if they didn't have TWO elite 3 point shooters on top of Draymond being one of if not the best and most versatile defender of his generation? And of course the deep bench that was made possible by Steph's very team friendly contract signed when he was seen as injury riddled. Even if one wants to argue that Steph "changed the game" it would have not been possible without the above circumstances happening

But I still think the league was trending there anyway, but the success of the mid 2010s Warriors did give teams an incentive to shoot more 3s seeing how successful they were and how the league in general is a copycat league and always will be. Forcing teams to guard from 3 has allowed the wide open NBA court that we see today that was definitely not present in earlier eras, it was the end goal of the 01-02 rule changes but it took far longer than it should have to finally get there

At Wednesday, December 22, 2021 3:45:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

David, great article as usual and interesting conversation in the comments. I think the "Curry has changed the game" crowd is not referencing his proclivity to shooting threes. You've mentioned that this was already trending up. Nash/D'Antoni/SSOL, then Pop's Spurs, then Morey/Harden/D'Antoni and GSW.

I believe the "change" Curry has ushered in, is the distance from which he takes his threes. Pulling up from 5, 6, 7 or more feet behind the three point line was not part of the 3-point revolution until Curry started hitting them regularly.

Today, all guards (and some bigs) are shooting it from way beyond the arc. Same goes for your local rec league and AAU ball, etc. This week, a video on social media is spreading of a kid who is like 4-feet tall, hitting threes from 5 feet behind the arc. That's the mega shift that Curry has ushered in.

Is it greater than Kobe's influence, who took the baton from MJ and Dream Team, and then elevated the NBA to a truly global game -- especially in China?

Is it greater than Lebron who took the baton from Kobe and showed that players could control their own fates and choose their own teams while securing business ventures (like Klutch) beyond the game?

Hard to say. I'd say no, Curry's influence is not on par with either of them. Though, from a purely basketball style standpoint -- you could make the argument he has influenced the style of gameplay more. Like Matthew said in one of his comments, Kobe is an MJ (and Baylor) clone, while Lebron is a Magic/Malone/Pippen clone. There's never been anyone like Curry (though there are a lot of his clones popping up now).

One side note, I was with you on the list of those who impact the game more than Curry, until you mentioned Kawhi Leonard. Over a 10 year career, Leonard has played in 576 games. I'm sorry, but that alone makes him less impactful to winning.

Furthermore, he was not the best player on the 2015 Spurs despite winning FMVP. Duncan was clearly the best player who carried the team through the season and was the linchpin for both the offense and defense (led the team in the playoffs in rebounding, blocks and Win Shares, and was second in scoring and FG%...Leonard was fourth in scoring and usage). I'd also point out that team still had all-star Parker and soon-to-be HOF Manu on it and was led by Pop with a strong supporting cast.

And, while Leonard won FMVP with the Raptors, that team was an even stronger ensemble cast than the first championship Warriors squad (Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka, Siakim, Green, VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby). Without that specific squad who carried Kawhi through the regular season (Leonard missed 25+ games while Siakim filled in and the team did not miss a beat), Leonard would never have been healthy enough, nor would the Raps have had a high enough seed, for him to "save" the day in the Finals.

At Wednesday, December 22, 2021 10:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Stephen Curry has "accelerated" the usage of the three point shot, but the key point--as you mentioned--is that the process was already underway before he even entered the NBA. In 2015, when he won his first MVP and first title, the Warriors ranked fourth in three point attempts per game (27.0), well behind top ranked Houston (32.7), though Curry was the individual leader. In 2016, Curry was the individual leader, and the Warriors narrowly topped Houston (31.6-30.9). In 2017, Durant joined the Warriors, and the Warriors dropped back to fifth in three point attempts per game (31.2, quite a distance behind top ranked Houston's 40.3). Harden (756) was not too far behind Curry (789) for the individual lead. In 2018, the Warriors dropped to 16th in three point attempts, but behind Durant's mastery of all scoring areas (three point, midrange, paint) they won the championship again. Curry only played in 51 regular season games that season.

As you aptly put it, Curry is hardly the Babe Ruth of the three point shot, regardless of how often media members and fans try to spin the discussion/perception in that direction.

At Wednesday, December 22, 2021 10:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


If the conversation is primarily about taking long threes, then "Logo Lillard" has at least as much to do with that--and is at least as much identified with the trend, as his nickname suggests--as Curry does.

The "Hangtime Pantheon" is Baylor-Hawkins-Erving-Jordan-Bryant if we are talking about MVP level, championship contending players who consistently played above the rim. I don't think it would be fair to say that only Baylor and/or Hawkins were innovators and the rest just copied them. Anyway, if that should be said about "Hangtime" then I would argue that Stephen Curry is just copying Pistol Pete Maravich, who was shooting long jumpers even before the three point line was used in the NCAA and the NBA. It has been calculated that Maravich's NCAA scoring record would have been several ppg higher had the three point shot been in effect just based on the measured distance of his shots--and think about how many more long distance shots he might have taken if those shots had counted for three points at that time! Maravich was influential not only for his long distance shooting but also for his ballhandling and passing. He is much more of an innovator than Curry.

We can agree to disagree about Kawhi Leonard, but he won two Finals MVPs with two different franchises while Curry has yet to win a single Finals MVP. I call Leonard the "dynasty killer." He beat LeBron in the Finals, he beat Curry in the Finals, and he killed two potential dynasties by leaving San Antonio and Toronto respectively. I hate Kawhi's load management, but regarding injuries it should be remembered that one of his most serious injuries was caused by a dirty play (Pachulia sliding under his foot) that has since been outlawed; if the Warriors had not taken out Kawhi with a dirty play, he may very well have killed their dynasty even earlier than 2019. So, it is not hard for me to take Kawhi over Curry, because I am not looking at popularity but just which player is more likely to lead my squad to a title.


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