OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry‘s greatness as a basketball player can be measured by his record-setting shooting numbers that are changing the game. His immense popularity derives from something less tangible.
While many NBA greats rely on uncommon height and athletic ability that average fans can only dream of having, Curry’s game relies on the skills that every casual player can work on: shooting, dribbling and passing.
The difference is, perhaps nobody ever has put those three skills together the same way Curry has in the past year, as he has dominated on the court and made the once-downtrodden Golden State Warriors the NBA’s must-watch team.
“The way that I play has a lot of skill but is stuff that if you go to the YMCA or rec leagues or church leagues around the country, everybody wants to shoot, everybody wants to handle the ball, make creative passes and stuff like that,” he said. “You can work on that stuff. Not everybody has the vertical or the physical gifts to be able to go out and do a windmill dunk and stuff like that. I can’t even do it.”
That’s about all Curry is unable to do on the basketball court. His amazing year, in which he won an MVP, led Golden State to its first title in 40 years and helped the Warriors get off to a record-setting start this season earned him The Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year.
Curry finished first in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors, with the results released Saturday. He joined LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only basketball players to win the honor in the 85 years of the award. Curry beat out golfer Jordan Spieth, who won two majors, and American Pharoah, who became the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.
While American Pharoah got three more first-place votes than Curry’s 24, Curry appeared on 86 percent of the 82 ballots that ranked the top five candidates. More than one-third of the voters left American Pharoah off their list.
“That’s a real honor,” Curry said. “I’m appreciative of that acknowledgement because it’s across all different sports. … It’s pretty cool.”