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All for One

The NBA's first unanimous MVP, Steph Curry is a player of this particular moment, statistically, as a transitional figure and as a showman
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FORGET THE numbers (though they are unprecedented). Forget the Warriors' regular-season record (though, again, historic). Rather, what I may remember most from Steph Curry's second consecutive MVP season is the anxiety. Not his, for he is an unusually confident young man, and has been since he first entered the league in 2009. No, ours.

Anxiety that if we didn't watch the Warriors on a Tuesday night in early December, we'd miss something special. Something everyone would talk about the next morning. Something that would have made us leap off the couch, or startle the dog, or rouse our partner, because someone else has to see this.

Such WTF moments are why we watch sports, but they are also a rarity. And yet, this season, Curry gave us one or two or half a dozen seemingly every night. That's an incredibly high bar to maintain. Not just to win and accrue gaudy stats but to wow us, every single time, like a comedian who produces new, killer material each day.

Often, Warriors coach Steve Kerr compares Curry with Tim Duncan, citing the similarities: "Quiet, confident, humble but arrogant at the same time," as he says. And all that is true. Both players are ideal pillars for a franchise. But, and no disrespect to Duncan, I doubt anyone's ever worried about skipping one of Timmy's games lest they miss something magical. Duncan's very consistency has been his greatness. And so is Curry's, only his consistency extends beyond performance to showmanship. He is at once the league's best player and its greatest entertainer.

—C.B.

Little Men Rising...

Since the NBA began giving out its MVP award in 1955-56, it has been won by a player 6' 3 or shorter only seven times—and five of those seven wins came in the last 12 years. Today's game has de-emphasized the big man: It moves at a faster pace, takes place farther from the basket—thanks to the three-point line—and is increasingly dominated by point guards who can run the floor, initiate the offense and drill it from deep. Sound like anyone familiar?

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

7'0"

6'6"

6'0"

BOB COUSY

BILL RUSSELL

WILT CHAMBERLAIN

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR

MICHAEL JORDAN

ALLEN IVERSON

STEVE NASH

LEBRON JAMES

DERRICK ROSE

STEPH CURRY

55|56 56|57 57|58 58|59 59|60 60|61 61|62 62|63 63|64 64|65 65|66 66|67 67|68 68|69 69|70 70|71 71|72 72|73 73|74 74|75 75|76 76|77 77|78 78|79 79|80 80|81 81|82 82|83 83|84 84|85 85|86 86|87 87|88 88|89 89|90 90|91 91|92 92|93 93|94 94|95 95|96 96|97 97|98 98|99 99|00 00|01 01|02 02|03 03|04 04|05 05|06 06|07 07|08 08|09 09|10 10|11 11|12 12|13 13|14 14|15 15|16

6'3" AND UNDER

Man on Fire

In 2015--16, Curry broke his own record of 286 threes made in a season by hitting 402. It was a feat of both volume and percentage

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE

44%

42%

40%

38%

36%

34%

32%

'12/'13

CURRY

'14/'15

CURRY

'15/'16

CURRY

45.4%

500

600

700

800

THREE-POINT ATTEMPTS

Going Long

When it comes to shooting from well beyond the three-point line, only fellow Warrior Klay Thompson came close to Curry's 44.6%

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

THREE-POINT PERCENTAGE (FROM 25 TO 29 FEET)

44%

42%

40%

38%

36%

34%

32%

'15/'16

THOMPSON

'12/'13

CURRY

'13/'14

CURRY

'14/'15

CURRY

'15/'16

CURRY

43%

300

375

450

525

THREE-POINT ATTEMPTS (FROM 25 TO 29 FEET)

Past Imperfects

How great play, good teammates and a policy change came together

STEPHEN CURRY enjoyed the greatest shooting season in NBA history and he led the Warriors to a record 73 wins, but his most impressive feat might have been persuading an entire nation of sportswriters to finally agree on something.

Curry is the first unanimous MVP in the 61-year history of the award, which has been voted on by writers and broadcasters since 1981. Curry's MVP case was bulletproof, and he has been the presumptive selection since early December. The best player on the best regular-season team of all time, he led the NBA in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares, True Shooting Percentage and jersey sales.

For years, though, obvious MVPs like Curry have been denied unanimity, sometimes by as little as a single vote. Indeed, the voting process has reinforced stereotypes of sportswriters as contrarians, homers or petty grudge-holders. How else to explain a vote for someone besides Michael Jordan during his prime?

Two major factors helped Curry capture all 131 first-place votes: a top-heavy field of candidates and a more transparent voting system.

Prior to Curry, Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James came the closest to winning unanimously, falling one vote short. Both times the lone dissenting voter argued for a candidate who was "more valuable" because he was surrounded by less talent and was therefore more integral to his team's success. In 2000, CNN/SI broadcaster Fred Hickman chose Sixers guard Allen Iverson over O'Neal. In 2013, Boston Globe writer Gary Washburn drew intense criticism for selecting Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony over James.

This year, there was no obvious "Atlas" candidate who strapped a weak roster to his shoulders. Runner-up Kawhi Leonard was surrounded by Hall of Famers in San Antonio. James, who took third, was flanked by forward Kevin Love and guard Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.

Curry's unanimous selection was a reflection on the system too. In 2014, fresh off the James-Anthony controversy, the NBA and the Professional Basketball Writers Association opted to publish voters' ballots. Before the change a writer could have secretly voted for Leonard, deciding he was a more effective two-way player than Curry. Doing so in 2016, however, would open that voter to scrutiny on social media and beyond. What's more, the dissenter would bear the "guy who didn't vote for Curry" label for years to come.

Curry became the MVP because he was clearly the most deserving candidate. He became the first unanimous MVP because he was the right player, in the right place at the right time.

—B.G.

Close Calls

Previous highest MVP vote getters by share

T-1 / SHAQUILLE O'NEAL / 99.8% / 2000

T-1 / LEBRON JAMES / 99.8% / 2013

3 / KEVIN GARNETT / 99.1% / 2004

T-4 / MICHAEL JORDAN / 98.6% / 1996

T-4 / KEVIN DURANT / 98.6% / 2014

New Frontiers

Stephen Curry's 402 made threes surpassed the old record by 40%. What would the numbers look like if some of the other best-known records in sports were blown up by that large a percentage?

RECORD: OLD / NEW

HOME RUNS: 73 / 102

HIT STREAK: 56 / 78

TD PASSES: 55 / 77

CATCHES: 143 / 200

SACKS: 22.5 / 31.5

GOALS: 92 / 129

ASSISTS: 163 / 228

Extra Mustard

21

SI Edge

Jim Herman

22

Dan Patrick

Dana White

24

Faces in the Crowd

26

Media Circus

28

FIVE PHOTOS

JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (CURRY, NASH, JAMES, THOMPSON)

PHOTO

HY PESKIN (COUSY)

PHOTO

DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (RUSSELL)

PHOTO

WALTER IOOSS JR. (CHAMBERLAIN)

PHOTO

FOCUS ON SPORT/GETTY IMAGES (ABDUL-JABBAR)

PHOTO

JOHN BIEVER (JORDAN)

PHOTO

MANNY MILLAN (IVERSON)

PHOTO

GREG NELSON (CURRY, MAN ON FIRE)

PHOTO

GARRETT ELWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CURRY & LEONARD)

ONE, TWO The Spurs' Leonard (2), the MVP runner up, played on a star-studded team, as did Curry (30).

PHOTO

SPORTING NEWS/GETTY IMAGES (SHAQ)

THREE CHARTS