The Golden State Warriors' sharpshooting point guard was already showing up on the superstar map heading into his MSG outburst, but the relentless bucket barrage he dumped on the New York Knicks last Feb. 28 made him visible from space.
He blew up. He was unconscious. He couldn't be stopped.
Curry torched what was (at the time) a very good Knicks team on a national stage in the NBA's most storied arena.
Now, Curry's heading back to the site of his coronation for the first time since his big night. He returns a playoff darling, an All-Star starter and with his name scrawled on every fan's short list of favorite players. There's no telling what he'll do this time around, but a review of his historic effort last year could provide some clues.
And even if we don't get anything else out of the process, it'll still be ridiculously fun to relive one of the most incredible nights of the 2012-13 season.
Heading into what would become Curry's greatest career performance, the point guard probably felt the weight of a little extra responsibility. David Lee, Golden State's second-leading scorer, didn't suit up against the Knicks because of a suspension he incurred for setting off a shoving match between the Dubs and Indiana Pacers earlier that week.
Curry missed his first triple of the contest and scored just four points in the first quarter, so there certainly weren't any signs of him doing anything special in the early going.
Although, if we'd only taken note of the shoes he wore, we probably wouldn't have been so stunned by what happened after a lackluster opening period:
Steph Curry's kicks with "I can do all things…" written on them pic.twitter.com/PzbjZ5KKP5— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 28, 2013
Curry came out with both barrels firing in the second, scoring 23 points in that 12-minute span and accounting for 11 consecutive Warriors points in one stretch.
He had it going from just about everywhere, hitting four three-pointers, another long jumper and a pair of shots in the lane.
Rather quickly, players around the league took notice of what was happening.
@StephenCurry30 is ballllllllllllllllllinnnnnnnnnnn Jim jones voice— Nate Robinson (@nate_robinson) February 28, 2013
To hear Curry tell it, though, there was a specific point in the game when he knew this wouldn't be an ordinary night.
Not all threes are created equal, and one of Curry's four second-quarter bombs stood out as a harbinger of what was to come.
Per Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group, via ibabuzz.com, Curry said he realized something special was happening on one particular long-range heave:
Some time during middle of the second quarter. I think the last transition 3 I hit. Usually one of those heat-check kind of shots and it went in. I was just happy I had my legs. I knew I was going to have to play the whole game so it was good that they were underneath me.
Curry would go on to hit 11 triples in the game, a feat that put him in extremely rare statistical company—which is to say he's the only guy to ever reach such an absurd point total with such a heavy reliance on long-distance shooting.
Stephen Curry with 52 points on 11 made threes, becoming the first player in NBA history with 50-plus on 10-plus made threes— GSWStats (@gswstats) February 28, 2013
As you can see from the clip below, Curry was pretty hot from downtown.
The only question is: Why'd he only shoot 13 threes?
The second quarter was the turning point in Curry's coming-out party, but the second half was when things really started to get out of hand.
Fortunately, Curry's teammates knew to keep their distance during his unconscious streak:
"My teammates were treating me like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter." - @StephenCurry30— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) February 28, 2013
In fact, the point guard was so dialed-in that he completely left Draymond Green hanging after nailing a critical late-game three:
But hey, sometimes you just gotta dance.
Most fans probably don't recall the outcome of Curry's greatest individual performance. The Warriors actually lost this game by a final score of 109-105.
In fact, it was a crucial turnover by Curry (and a highly improbable block by Raymond Felton shortly thereafter) that helped give the Knicks the victory. But Curry can be excused for fizzling out a bit down the stretch.
He managed to post 16 fourth-quarter points but was clearly exhausted in the final minutes. That tends to happen when you play every single second of an up-and-down game, as Curry did.
In the end, Curry amassed his 54 points on 18-of-28 shooting. He knocked down 11 of 13 attempts from long distance and tossed in seven assists and six rebounds for good measure.
As crazy as it sounds, the stats don't capture the impact of what Curry did to the Knicks a year ago. It was the way he scored those 54 points—firing off 30-footers after spinning away from double-teams, pulling up in transition from miles behind the arc and flipping high-arcing floaters over outstretched hands in the lane.
The confidence, creativity and sheer moxie of Curry's performance defies description. It was a thing to behold.
So, let's behold it:
Sometimes, the best way to judge a player is to listen to what his peers are saying. If the praise that poured in for Curry's efforts was any indication, he'd done more than wow fans; he stunned some of the best athletes on the planet:
Just saw stephs highlights. Damn. Clinic. Like a video game. Sick— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) February 28, 2013
Sheesh, @StephenCurry30 went to work!!!— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) February 28, 2013
In addition, his big night provided CSN's Ray Ratto the opportunity to play prognosticator:
Look at the bright side: Stephen Curry has made next year's All-Star Game, no matter what kind of season he has— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) February 28, 2013
That turned out to have been a pretty safe bet.
It's hard to expect Curry will match his career high and post another of the best games in the history of Madison Square Garden, but there are a few factors weighing in favor of a repeat performance.
The most obvious of those factors is the Knicks' sorry state this year.
In 2012-13, New York wasn't a world-class defensive outfit, but it was a good team still interested in putting forth some semblance of effort on D. In a year when the Knicks were actually playing for something, they posted a defensive rating of 103.5, per NBA.com.
That's no great achievement, but it looks like one when compared to the 106.4 rating they're posting this season.
With few healthy and/or defensively committed, guards on the roster, the Knicks are ripe for a torching. Plus, New York's general apathy toward this lost season could lead to the kinds of lapses that free Curry up for some uncontested looks.
And if he gets it going with some easy shots, we know what Curry can do from there.
Let's also note that Curry will be sporting some special kicks again this year:
Under Armour shoes Stephen Curry will wear tomorrow vs Knicks with his last year's stats on them pic.twitter.com/GOBjX3VivU— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) February 27, 2014
Emblazoned with statistics from both his MSG outburst and breakout overall campaign in 2012-13, maybe Curry's new shoes will give him the added boost he needs to chase another big point total.
Finally, the Dubs superstar is coming off what might have been his worst game of the year. He shot just 2-of-10 and turned the ball over five times in a 20-point loss to the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 26. He'll be looking for a major bounce back.
Still, 54 is an awful lot of points. So let's temper our expectations and set the prediction at a more reasonable number. How's 53 sound?