SAN FRANCISCO — The treble off the hi-hats from trap music ticked loudly through Chase Center.
Aside from the occasional practice golf swings executed when he wasn’t swishing balls through the net, Stephen Curry blended inconspicuously with the rest of the players gathered on the floor Wednesday ahead of NBA Finals Media Day.
“I remember where I started and just the whole journey,” Curry would say later. “From high school to your first All-Star Game, it’s like a journey, and everything that had to go right in your life and on the court for that to happen. [I] never let myself get too big-headed on that front. That’s how I live my life.”
So, it’s safe to deduce Curry isn’t necessarily dying to capture his first NBA Finals MVP, especially considering his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials that stand on the mantel of three Larry O’Brien trophies. Andre Iguodala snatched one Finals MVP (2015) during the point guard’s three-title run at Golden State, with Kevin Durant (2017-18) taking the other two.
But the 34-year-old recently brought home his own individual hardware in the inaugural Earvin “Magic” Johnson Trophy, as MVP of the 2022 Western Conference finals. Plus, Curry has already seized two MVPs, becoming one of just eight players in NBA history to take multiple MVPs in addition to advancing to the Finals on six or more occasions.
“Everything about it in terms of the appreciation and gratitude for everything that happens, all the experiences that you have, everything you go through, you keep building on that,” Curry said. “And usually, good things happen because you appreciate everything, no matter what happens.”
Over the last 13 seasons, just four different players — LeBron James (four Finals MVPs), Kawhi Leonard (two), Kevin Durant (two), and Kobe Bryant (two) — walked away with 10 NBA Finals MVP awards, with Dirk Nowitzki and Iguodala each claiming one apiece, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo taking the third.
Curry might be finally due to take the fourth.
At least that’s our prediction in debuting the 2022 Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder, which we’ll update after every game of this series starting with Thursday’s Game 1 at Chase Center (9 ET, ABC).
And now, the Top 6 in our 2022 Race to the Finals MVP Ladder:
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Playoff stats: 25.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.2 apg
Think about it: Curry has scored 20 points or more in 100 career playoff games, which makes him the 16th player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. Of those players, 11 made it into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the other five (Curry, James, Durant, Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade) are surely on the way. Curry has drilled at least one 3-pointer in 128 consecutive playoff games, which registers as an NBA postseason record, per the Elias Sports Bureau. If you throw in the regular season, Curry has drained a 3-pointer in 229 consecutive games.
2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Playoff stats: 27.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.9 apg
With 17 career postseason double-doubles, including four in Boston’s current run, Tatum has racked up more than 400 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists and 50 3-pointers. He’s the youngest player (24) in league annals to produce those stats in a single playoff run, according to StatMuse. “Every kid can imagine themselves being in the NBA and being in the Finals, but actually living out your dream in real time is a surreal feeling,” Tatum said. “I walk in. I see this backdrop, and it’s like, ‘Damn, I am in the Finals.”
3. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Playoff stats: 22.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
At the end of January, Brown tweeted “the energy is about to shift.” Since then, Boston has gone 37-12 with the 25-year-old fresh off averaging 24.1 ppg on 48.8% shooting and 40.4% on 3-pointers in the Eastern Conference finals. Having played collegiately at Cal, where he was a teammate of Steve Kerr’s eldest son, Nick, Brown said he studied the Warriors’ dynasty closely. “Just watching those guys was pretty cool to see,” he said. “Coming into the league, knowing I wanted to be in that position, knowing I wanted to build that type of locker room environment you could sustain winning.”
4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Playoff stats: 19.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg
Thompson holds the record for the most playoff contests (five) with at least eight made 3-pointers, ahead of Ray Allen (four), Damian Lillard (four) and Curry (four). He has also put together three 30-point games so far in the playoffs, which is the most he’s logged in a single postseason since 2016. “I’m definitely more reflective now because it can be taken away from you like that, [with] one missed step or one bad jump,” Thompson said of his career. “It’s such an awesome job to be an NBA player. I knew that before, but now going through surgeries and rehab, putting a jersey on hits so much harder than it did back in the day.”
5. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
Playoff stats: 15.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 apg
Wiggins averaged 18.6 ppg and 7.2 rpg in the West finals and has four career playoff double-doubles — all amassed in the 2022 playoffs — in what has been been an incredible journey that Wiggins is savoring. “I’ll be nervous [for Game 1] for sure,” he said. “But right now, I’m excited. I’m soaking it all in. I’m just ready to play for real. It’s something that you dream of as a kid. I’ve watched it all my years in the NBA, but never got a chance to be a part of it.”
6. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Playoff stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.2 apg
Smart became the first guard since Gary Payton in 1995-96 to win Kia Defensive Player of the Year, and those credentials will be put to the test with the 28-year-old drawing the assignment of guarding Curry. Smart’s performance in that role should go a long way toward Boston setting the tone against the Warriors defensively. But it won’t be easy, since the guard is fighting through a sprained right ankle that he plans to play through in Game 1. “He’s appropriately named,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Very smart player, and a really versatile and great, great defender.”
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