Stephen Curry heard the criticism. He knows his legacy is being challenged, and he knows that any bad game will restart the review of his accomplishments. After Curry posted a career high of 62 points for the Golden State Warriors in a 137:122 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night, he sent a clear message to his critics: keep talking.
“I like to be talked about because there are expectations,” he said.
Curry’s best career achievement came in a matchup with one of his biggest rivals on the court – Portland’s Damian Lillard – and after a storm of social media criticism that challenged his superstar legacy.
“Cue the Jordan Meme: ‘I take it all personally,'” Curry said with a laugh, referring to a line by Michael Jordan in the documentary “The Last Dance”.
Curry then explained that the performance – he had 31 points at halftime – came from a much easier place than people might think: “I had the opportunity to get my way in the game early and generate some energy.”
His will included shooting 18 of 31 from the field, 8 of 16 from 3-point range and 18 of 19 from the free-throw line. Curry became the first player since Kobe Bryant on Dec. 20, 2005 to score at least 30 points in each half of the game, and he improved on his previous career high of 54 points set in a road loss to the Knicks in 2013.
His 62 points were also the most of any player that season, making him the fifth player in franchise history to score 60 or more points, an accomplishment last accomplished by Klay Thompson in a blowout win against Indiana scored 60 points in 29 minutes for Pacers in 2016. Rick Barry, Joe Fulks, Thompson and Curry played 60 points apiece for the Warriors, while Wilt Chamberlain had 27.
“He looked like a man on a mission,” said Draymond Green of Curry, who got 21 points in the first quarter.
Thompson greeted Curry with a tweet at the 60-point club, and Curry’s younger brother, Seth, who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, took the opportunity to poke fun at Stephen’s critics who voted almost every game into a referendum on his legacy seem to transform.
Curry said his brother’s tweet was the best he had seen so far and that criticism was only part of being a superstar.
“I don’t get confused easily and I’m very confident of who I am as a person and as a basketball player,” he said. “You won’t be able to say anything about me or me that could affect that. That’s how I came here at the end of the day. “
While Curry played well earlier this season, averaging 32.3 points and 6.2 assists in six games, there is no question that the Warriors are a far cry from the juggernaut once led by Curry, Thompson, Green and Kevin Durant has been. Golden State opened the season with losses to Durant’s Nets and Milwaukee Bucks and appeared incapable against Portland on Friday. While their bad play comes mostly from newcomers like Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre, much of the blame has landed right on Curry’s shoulders, the best player in the Warriors. Its staunchest critics have questioned why a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner can’t make a lesser team as relevant as LeBron James did.
Green, who recently returned from injury, turned down this premise.
“Everyone is always trying to find a reason to choose something Steph does, whether you didn’t win an MVP final or didn’t have a team,” said Green. “If I’m not mistaken, he carried the 2015 team.
“To be honest, he’s supported every team because he’s been the leader of the group since I’ve been here.”
Many of Curry’s younger teammates weren’t with Golden State during the championship years. You struggled to describe such a dominant performance.
James Wiseman, the team’s rookie center, compared it to a video game. “It reminds me of 2K,” he said, “because I played with Steph the whole time and I kept falling like 60. So it was phenomenal to watch it in person as well.”
Bringing the prospect of being one of Curry’s opponents, Oubre, a veteran wing acquired in the off-season to replace the injured Thompson, said, “I was just happy to be on the same side as him tonight be because I know it stank for the other team. “
Curry declined to predict whether high-scoring games would occur regularly. But he contradicted a reporter’s statement that he couldn’t get 62 points in every game and replied playfully, “Hey, why not?”
And coach Steve Kerr, who said he lifted Curry in the last minute of the game “so the 42 people in the stands can give him a standing ovation,” said he was confused by anyone who would criticize Curry in the first place.
“I’m not playing stupid: does he really take criticism?” Said Kerr. “I’ll check it out on Twitter later. I hope you say something good about him tonight. “