There is something about the bright lights, the chanting crowds, and the history that you pass once you enter Basketball’s own legendary Collosseum: the Madison Square Garden in New York. While the occupants of this famous arena may not have had reason to celebrate the ultimate glory for decades, MSG has an energy that can elevate the greats into Gods, and make mortals of today into legends of tomorrow.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was a mere basketball mortal – albeit a freakishly talented one – when he entered the arena to play against the Knicks last week. Snubbed from making his first All-Star appearance a few weeks ago, the insult may have been unnerving for the 24-year-old sharpshooter, as he looked to be in a mood for vengeance against any and all comers since. Only a night earlier, he had lit up the Indiana Pacers for 38 points in just 20 shots. But his team lost that game and – following a brawl that overshadowed Curry’s performance – the Warriors also lost All-Star David Lee for the game against the Knicks. The burden on Curry’s shoulders got a little heavier.
There have been a plethora of memorable nights at the ‘new’ structure of the Madison Square Garden, which was unveiled in 1968. The biggest of those nights for home fans came in 1970 and 1973, when the Knicks won their only two championships. The Garden will always remember when Bernard King exploded for 60 on Christmas Day in 1984. But the story of the arena is also the story of visiting stars that have had spectacular nights in New York. Michael Jordan had the legendary 55-point game (the double-nickel) to announce his first comeback to basketball in 1995. The record for most points on the floor belongs to Kobe Bryant, who had 61 points as a visitor back in 2009. A week later, LeBron James had 52 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds in the same arena.
Enter Steph Curry, All Star Snub.
Curry had a game for the ages, scoring a career-high 54 points, the third-leading point total by a visiting player at the new Madison Square Garden and the leading scorer by any player this season. In the process, he set a franchise record with 11 3-pointers made. He shot an incredible 84.6 percent from 3-point range and 64.3 percent overall. He also led his team in assists (6) and rebounds (7). In other words, he did pretty much whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted on the offensive end.
That is, until the game’s very last minute, when the Knicks finally figured out a way to briefly contain him, and the Warriors fell on the road again.
The party has continued for Curry, though, who followed his historic game with 25 and 30-point outings against the Celtics and 76ers, respectively. Unfortunately for him, the breakout performances have come in vain, as the Warriors lost those two games as well to stretch their losing streak to four.
Still, a point had been made; a threshold crossed. Already known has one of the best pure-shooters in the league, Curry has elevated his game to another level this season, averaging career-highs in points (22.1), and assists (6.6) this season. The Warriors may have stumbled recently, but he – along with Lee and others – have led them to a 33-27 record and a sure-shot of making the playoffs for the first time in six years.
While his team still has a lot of work to do – especially on the defensive end – their young guard has already taken a quantum leap this season. In the midst of his best season yet, he has stuck a permanent reminder on why he is an All-Star level player, for now and for the future.
And the highlight of this remarkable improvement in form was that night in New York. When he entered the hallowed halls of the Madison Square Garden a mere basketball mortal and exited – even in loss – as a legend. Electrifying the road crowd with 54 points at the biggest stage in basketball. No one could snub that!