ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, no stranger to hot takes, said that if the Golden State Warriors win another title and Stephen Curry is named Finals MVP, he would be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore. In effect Perk is saying Curry would be one of the four greatest players ever and would join the GOAT conversation with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Curry would have quite the résumé if that plays out. But would he be worthy of GOAT status?
“If he goes on to win a fourth title and a Finals MVP,” Perkins said. “Forget the top-10 list, forget the greatest point guard of all-time, he’s going to be on the NBA Mount Rushmore. Period!”
Steph Curry will replace Magic Johnson on @KendrickPerkins' NBA Mount Rushmore if he wins a fourth NBA title along with Finals MVP 👀
"Forget the top-10 list, forget the greatest point guard of all time, he's going to be on the NBA Mount Rushmore. Period!" pic.twitter.com/Y6d1DnMfXJ
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 24, 2022
Comparing players across eras is a fool’s errand. The styles of play are different and the way opponents play are different. Yet we do it anyway.
For now let’s move Kareem to the side as his dominance took place in the 1970s-80s. Let’s also move Jordan to the side as he dominated the late ’80s and the ’90s.
Curry and LeBron are of this era so let’s compare them.
Championships are team awards, so we’re not going to look at that. Individual accolades are a poor metric to use, but they exist so we’ll use them.
In 19 seasons LeBron has earned four league MVPs. In 13 seasons Curry has earned two. LeBron earned his last MVP in his age 28 season. Curry earned his last MVP in his age 27 season.
Both men are in excellent physical shape and have played elite basketball into their 30s. But the odds of either winning another MVP are low. In the history of the league only two players have won an MVP over the age of 33. Jordan (34) and Karl Malone (35).
LeBron has been named All-NBA a record 18 times. That means for his entire career he’s been top-15 in the league. He was first team a record 13 times.
Curry has been named All-NBA eight times in his 13 year career. He’s been first team four times. Let’s assume Curry plays five more seasons to age 38. How many more All-NBA teams are likely? Even if he makes it every year and makes first team every time. He would still trail LeBron by a significant margin.
LeBron has made six All-Defensive teams. None for Curry.
All-Star appearances are a fan popularity contest, though LeBron handily wins that category too, 18-8.
LeBron is second all-time, trailing Abdul-Jabbar, in win shares. Curry is 46th. In career WS/48 LeBron is 7th, Curry is 23rd. In EPM, BPM and any other plus minus stat, LeBron leads there as well, and often by a significant margin.
If Curry were to win his fourth title. Championships would be the only thing they’d be equals in. But again, that’s a team award.
What isn’t so easy to measure, and carries weight in this discussion, is Curry’s impact on the game. He didn’t invent the three-point shot, but he changed the geometry of the court. He forced coaches to innovate on defense and rethink what was possible.
His impact will be felt for generations to come. One day the NBA might create a four-point line and it will be credited to Curry’s shooting brilliance.
But there is no way to measure that impact right now. There is no stat or advanced metric. You just watch the games and you see the volume, depth and accuracy Curry shoots with and how it tilted the game on its axis.
As for right now and Steph’s place on Mount Rushmore, sorry, Perk. He’s not there. Innovator and one of the game’s all-time greats, no doubt. Probably a top-15 guy when it’s all said and done. Maybe even 10.
Jordan, LeBron and Abdul-Jabbar. That’s rarefied air.