Stephen Curry was the darling of the 2012-13 NBA postseason, but the Golden State Warriors guard's spike in popularity was only the beginning. In 2013-14, Curry is going to cement his status as one of the league's 10 biggest stars.
As a preliminary matter, it's important to understand that the term "star," along with its close cousin (uncle? great grandfather?) "superstar," is inherently ambiguous. For proof of that fact, see what's sure to be a heated debate in the comments section below.
Everyone has a different definition of stardom.
Here, being a "star" means much more than producing gaudy numbers. There are other, less quantifiable components involved as well. You know, stuff like charisma, guts and a tendency toward whipping fans into a frenzy.
Stars are supposed to be loved for their personalities and their games. As we'll discuss, Curry has plenty of both to spare.
By the Numbers
Let's get one thing straight: Curry is a star because he produces like one.
He made more three-point shots last year than any player in NBA history. So, if historical achievements are part of a star's credentials, we can firmly check that box off of Curry's list.
More impressively, he managed to nail those 272 triples at a 45 percent clip. New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson made the second-most threes in the league last year with 213. If he'd made his next 59 attempts in a row (the number he'd need to match Curry's makes), he still would have finished with a worse three-point percentage than the Dubs marksman.
That's perimeter dominance.
Also consider that only 52.8 percent of Curry's made triples were assisted in 2012-13, per Hoopdata.com. On average, 82.2 percent of three-point makes came via assists last year. It has long been a truism that spot-up shots are far more accurate than ones that come off of a live dribble, but Curry managed to break records anyway.
Everyone loves a do-it-yourself spirit, which is just another entry on the ledger for Curry's case as a star.
Curry's not just a shooter, though. He's also a natural passer who managed to rack up 6.9 assists to go along with his 22.9 points per game.
But wait, there's more!
Curry was one of just four NBA players to average more than 22 points, six assists and four rebounds per game in 2012-13, per Basketball-Reference.com. The other three? LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant.
Forget next year; it sounds like he's in the company of stars already.
Admittedly, the point guard is going to have to improve his defense to qualify as a true statistical star. But Curry competes on every play and executes the Warriors' game plan more often than not. He has all of the basketball smarts to continue to get better as a stopper.
By definition, stars aren't supposed to be boring. With apologies to Tim Duncan, they're supposed to be exciting.
Curry has more flair than he knows what to do with.
For such a high-efficiency player, he goes about his business with reckless abandon, seemingly still playing with the exuberance that made him a March Madness favorite at Davidson. It's blatantly obvious that Curry loves what he's doing.
He flings left-handed whip passes because they're usually the fastest way to get the ball to open shooters on the pick-and-pop, but also because they're cool. Curry is often sneaky and sometimes plays with a mischievous attitude.
He's that rare breed of competitor who doesn't want to destroy his opponent because he's bloodthirsty; he does it because it's fun.
Don't let the constant grin fool you, though. Curry is also tough as nails. He gutted out a series of ankle sprains during the regular season and the playoffs that would have sidelined a softer player.
Sometimes, stars have to be gritty, too.
What's a star without a few signature highlight clips?
Everyone remembers Michael Jordan's hanging jumper over Craig Ehlo from the foul line. More than any other league, the NBA immortalizes its greatest moments with unforgettable video clips. Occasionally, as was the case with Jordan, they're seconds-long snippets.
Curry has a few of those, but his iconic moments typically lasted for entire quarters—or even games.
Case in point: his absurd shooting exhibition in Madison Square Garden last season.
It's not necessarily a prerequisite to stardom that a player dominate a game in New York, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
The playoffs were also marked by his ridiculous scoring outbursts. His 22-point quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Warriors' first-round series win proved that he was ready for prime time.
Nobody gets hotter more quickly than Curry. What's even more incredible is that nobody stays hot longer. As a result, he has a habit of setting arenas on fire.
A Good Dude
Perhaps chief among Curry's intangible "star" qualities is his how people can relate to him. Put simply, he's a likable guy.
Some of that comes from his charity work, which took him to a Tanzanian refugee camp over the summer. All year long, Curry had been part of an effort to donate mosquito nets to areas in Africa that were plagued by malaria. Every time he ripped the net with a triple, three lifesaving nets of a much more important variety went to those in need.
He checked in on some of the people he helped in the offseason.
Curry also engages with fans closer to home and has been something of a pioneer in his social media efforts to connect with Warriors supporters. His monthly #SC30 contests create unbridled cyber enthusiasm in the Bay Area.
Plus, Curry occasionally lets everyone into his private life with a well-placed video, just to prove that he's a normal guy. Or at least a guy who likes a Zumba class every once in a while.
Come to think of it, dancing is something of a theme in the Curry household.
Taco night part 2 https://t.co/rO7YXYthtT— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) September 14, 2013
You get the picture. Curry is a regular, engaging, funny guy in a league that has far too few of them. Lots of players try to be entertaining off the court, but his personality comes through as particularly genuine.
The NBA knows what it has in Curry, and you can bet it will continue to include him in as many marketing opportunities as possible. Relatable stars are good for business.
The Bright Lights
After 20 years as a laughingstock, the Warriors are suddenly one of the league's marquee franchises.
Thanks to the exciting playoff run a year ago and the bevy of promising, young talent on the roster, Golden State has become one of the NBA's must-watch teams. If out-of-market fans aren't yet familiar with the up-and-coming Dubs, they'll get 17 chances to watch them on national television in the 2013-14 season.
And Curry, the 25-year-old who plays like he's just a kid, has a lot to do with the team's elevated profile.
With a game and a personality that are both ready to shine on a much bigger stage, Curry is going to become a major star this season.