There’s a moment in the life of an NBA superstar when he crosses from basketball famous—a guy hoops junkies know from the hardwood—to famous famous—a guy everybody knows from somewhere. For LeBron James, it came before he even played in the league. In 2002, when he was 17, James was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “The Chosen One.” Nike signed him to a $90 million contract before he was drafted.
Stephen Curry took a bit longer. In his first four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, he was a talented, but often injured, point guard. Curry’s breakthrough came a year ago at Madison Square Garden, when he scored 54 points against the New York Knicks, the most by any player in a single game last season. He made 11 three-pointers. After the 10th, a fast break pull-up from 25 feet that forced the Knicks to call a timeout, he ran back down the court shaking his arms and legs like a man possessed. That night the larger world took note of what hard-core basketball fans had seen since Curry was a skinny, high-scoring freshman at tiny Davidson College in North Carolina: the almost limitless range, quick release, and impressive repertoire of stop-and-go moves.