Count NBA Commissioner Adam Silver among those who believe the Warriors, namely their star shooters, are revolutionizing basketball at its highest level.
In repeating as the league’s MVP this season, Warriors guard Stephen Curry made an NBA-record 402 three-pointers, obliterating the previous mark of 286 that he set in 2014-15. At his news conference before Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday, Silver compared that to another iconic, transformative accomplishment in sports.
“I was thinking about it, and in some ways maybe that’s like when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile,” Silver said of Curry eclipsing 400 threes. “It’s something that, just a few years ago, people thought wouldn’t be done.”
The Warriors set a host of three-point records this season, led by Curry and guard Klay Thompson, whose 276 made three-pointers were the third-highest total in NBA history. Four of the top seven seasons in three-pointers made belong to Curry, the reason some argue he’s the best shooter the league has ever seen.
Yet Silver said Curry’s eye-opening three-point numbers – and the style in which he compiles them, often pulling up from well beyond the three-point arc – may also be opening minds.
“When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, it wasn’t something that nobody touched for another 20 years; shortly thereafter, others broke that barrier,” Silver said. “And my sense is that Steph together with Klay, what they’re doing when it comes to three-point shooting, they’ve overcome a psychological barrier for a lot of players who just never thought the kind of shots they make were possible.”
The need of opposing defenses to guard a player who shrugs at shooting from 30 feet and beyond, Silver said, “changes the whole dynamic of our game.” Given that fact, Silver was asked if the league would ever consider moving the three-point line back, altering the very nature of its playing area. His answer: Not anytime soon.
“When we changed the rules in the past … there was a view that a particular player, because of his skill, had frankly an unfair advantage over other players, and it made the game either less enjoyable, less competitive, less aesthetically pleasing,” Silver said.
“I think in this case, this is the best basketball many of us have experienced in our lifetimes.”
In fact, Silver said, he sees Curry’s three-point shooting not as an unfair advantage but “an equalizer.” Physically, Curry isn’t among the league’s more imposing players. Yet largely because of one skill, he has become one of its best.
“I think it broadens the pool in many ways of potential players in the league,” Silver said. “You can’t dream that you’re going to be seven feet tall. But you can work and become a fantastic competitor on the floor.”
This year’s Warriors were the first team in NBA history to make 1,000 three-pointers in one season, finishing with 1,077. Their opponent in the Finals, the Cavaliers, averaged the second-most three-pointers made per game, with 10.7. It’s an indication, said Golden State head coach Steve Kerr, that the influence of shooters like Curry and Thompson is already being felt.
“One of the reasons you don’t see a lot of dominant low-post players (today) is because all the kids are shooting threes growing up,” Kerr said. “And I think (NBA) offenses are reflecting that.
“The game has changed a lot based on rules and trends. But I don’t see the three-point trend being a trend. I think it’s probably here for a while.”