It will be wonderfully apropos for Steph Curry to break the NBA’s most revered shooting record in the league’s most hallowed arena on Tuesday night.
There’s no bigger stage than Madison Square Garden for the Warriors star’s coronation, which will come shortly after he buries his second 3-pointer of the night – and 2,974th of his career — to eclipse Ray Allen’s all-time record.
Also, no place outside of Oakland’s Oracle Arena has been such a significant venue for Curry, whose off-Broadway performance in New York City eight years ago first elevated him to NBA star status.
Curry was a scrawny, baby-faced 24-year-old the night he grew his legend in 2013 with a dazzling array of shot-making against the Knicks. From acrobatic finger rolls at the rim to now-common 30-footers with a defender draped all over him, Curry seemingly couldn’t miss. He buried a then-franchise record 11 3-pointers while scoring a still career-high 54 points.
Just like that, a star was born.
Ironically, it remains the only time in 10 games Curry and the Warriors have lost at the Garden. Curry outscored his Warriors teammates that night – 54-51 – but couldn’t prevent a 109-105 loss.
The defeat remains just a footnote to the break-through game of his career.
“We were just getting out of his way and letting him do his thing,” said Jarrett Jack, Curry’s teammate that season. “I just thanked him, because I have never been a part of anything like that in my life. He was uncanny. Unbelievable.”
It was the second night of a Warriors back-to-back, and Curry still played the entire 48 minutes of the nationally televised game. He made 18 of his 28 shots while missing just two of his 13 shots beyond the arc.
“I’ve seen a lot of great performances in this building and his goes up there,” said Brooklyn-born Mark Jackson, the Warriors’ coach at the time. “That shooting performance was a thing of beauty.”
Curry has usually risen to the occasion at Madison Square Garden, where he averaged 25.9 points and was shooting 51.1 percent on 3-pointers in 10 career games before Tuesday.
While the Garden has been home to arguably Curry’s most stunning, exhilarating performance, it hasn’t always been a house of thrills for him. He’s also experienced perhaps one of his most disappointing nights as well as his most humbling night in that same building.
Curry’s first career game at the Garden is a memorable one for different reasons. It’s the only time he’s ever been held scoreless in his 13-year career — if you’re willing to ignore an injured Curry’s 3.3-second appearance as a shooting decoy in the final seconds of a 2012 game.
With the New York crowd anticipating Curry’s Garden debut on Nov. 13, 2009, the rookie found himself anchored on the bench almost the entire night. Finally, coach Don Nelson summoned him into the game with 2 ½ minutes left in Golden State’s blowout win. Curry didn’t even attempt a shot while registering just a blocked shot and a foul on his stat line that night.
As stunning as Curry’s Hall of Fame career has turned out to be with the Warriors, it’s worth remembering a time when he didn’t want any part of Golden State’s franchise.
Madison Square Garden was again the backdrop of a rather disappointing night for Curry and his family when the arena hosted the 2009 NBA draft. Only seasoned Warriors fans can recall how Curry’s agent, Jeff Austin, dissuaded Golden State and other teams from selecting Steph.
Armed with the seventh pick, the Warriors were determined to draft the Davidson College star, despite the best efforts of Curry’s agent and family to steer him to the New York Knicks.
Austin refused Warriors executive Larry Riley’s request to have Curry come to Oakland for a pre-draft workout.
“I said, ‘Larry, I like you a lot and respect you a lot, but don’t take Steph. This is not the right place for him.’ We wanted him in New York,” Austin told Yahoo Sports years ago. “The Knicks had (pick No. 8) and we thought in New York he’d be a great fit. We really wanted him to drop to eight. Once we got to seventh, we were like, ‘C’mon man, don’t pick him with (Golden State).’ At the time, the Warriors were not in our mind as a preferred destination.”
Curry has admitted his infatuation with the bright lights of New York City was once a real thing.
“I wanted to go to New York and thought I was going to New York,” Curry told former teammates Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on Showtime’s “All the Smoke” podcast.
Now, Curry’s back where he once wanted to be while on the verge of making NBA history. The best part for the Warriors and their fans is the Curry show in New York City are still just one night only.