Diving into Stephen Curry’s Unanimous MVP Year
May 10, 2016, marked a momentous day in the career of Warriors guard Stephen Curry: he was not only awarded his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award, but also became the first person to receive the award by unanimous vote.
The NBA’s MVP voting was conducted by polling 130 voting members of the media and one granted to fans via online voting. All were asked to rank their top five MVP nominees from first to fifth. In 2016, all 131 ballots ranked Stephen Curry in first place.
The award capped off a season in which Curry averaged a career- and league-high 30.1 points and 2.1 steals per game. He was the first player in league history at any position to average 30 points per game in less than 35 minutes per game over a full season.
Curry’s scoring barrage on the season included 5.1 3-pointers made on 45.4 percent shooting from deep, while also dishing out and average of 6.7 assists nightly. He broke his own record for 3-pointers made in a season (272 in 2012-13, 286 in 2014-15) by not only becoming the first to make 300 treys in NBA history, but finishing with 402 on the season. Curry also had a league-high 40 30-point games, a league-high 13 40-point games and a league-high three 50-point games.
He was the first Warriors player to lead the league in scoring since Rick Barry in 1966-67 (35.6 points per game), and joined Barry and Wilt Chamberlain as just the third player in franchise history to average at least 30 points per game in a season. Curry also became the first guard to average 30 points on at least 50 percent from the field since Michael Jordan in 1991-92.
"I never really set out to change the game. I never thought that would happen in my career," Curry said as he accepted the award. "What I wanted to do was be myself.”
To top it all off, Curry had also just led the Dubs to a come-from-behind victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals the night prior to accepting the award. He scored an NBA-record 17 points in overtime for a 132-125 win to send the Warriors up 3-1 in the series.
Previously, Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal fell one vote shy of being the first-ever unanimous selection in 2000, as did LeBron James in 2013. Curry’s feat placed him along with Tom Brady (2010 NFL MVP) and Wayne Gretzky (1982 Hart Trophy winner) as the only unanimous MVPs in their respective leagues.
The 2016 MVP Award also made Curry the 11th player in NBA history to win the award in consecutive years, and the first guard to do so since Steve Nash (2004-05 and 2005-06). He is also the only Warrior in franchise history to have won the award besides Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60).
As eye-catching as Curry’s statistics and accomplishments were during that season, he had many key moments through that season which propelled him into the MVP discussion. Take a look at some of his highlights from the 2015-16 season and re-live some of his top performances that led to Curry being crowned the first unanimous MVP in NBA history.
Off to a hot start
The 2015-16 Warriors tipped off the season in record-breaking fashion when they won their first 24 games. As impressive as his season-long stats were, Curry’s numbers were even better during the Dubs’ start to the NBA season. Over those games, he averaged 32.5 points on 46.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc with 2.3 steals. That included seven games in which Curry scored 40-or-more points, one of which came on Opening Night on Warriors Ground as the team revealed their first Championship banner in 40 years.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Curry had himself a big night against the Indiana Pacers on Jan 22., 2020. The reigning MVP posted a game-high 39 points to go with 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his second and what-would-be final triple-double of the season. It was not his final line that drummed up excitement at Warriors Ground as much as his half court shots.
Yes, “shots” in the plural.
With 1.1 seconds left in the first quarter, the ball was inbounded from the opposing baseline to Curry. He took a couple steps up to about three-quarters of the courts away from the bucket and hoisted up the shot. Splash! But the buzzer had sounded before he released the ball and the shot didn’t count. Curry wouldn’t miss his chance to repeat at the end of the first half though when he had a little more time left on the clock.
Curry followed up his third 50-point game of the season on Feb. 25 against the Orlando Magic with a clutch performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb 27. The Dubs forced the Western Conference showdown into overtime with Curry already tallying 34 points on nine made treys. But the “Curry Flurry” continued through the extra frame as he connected from distance three more times and produced another 12 points for a game-high 46 to mark his third straight game with at least 40 points. But it was his final shot of the night that would be the most critical: a 38-foot shot made with less than one second left that secured the win for the Warriors while producing one of the most recognized calls in franchise history.
The deep splash was Stephen Curry’s 12th 3-pointer of the game, which at the time tied him with Kobe Bryant (1/7/03: LAL vs. SEA) and former Warrior Donyell Marshall (3/13/05: TOR vs. PHI) for most made threes in a single game. He became the first player in NBA history with at least 10 made threes in consecutive games while also breaking his own record for most 3-pointers in a season (286), which he had set the previous season.
First to 300
Mark the date: Mar. 7, 2016. It was the first time in NBA history anyone broke the threshold of 300 made 3-pointers in a season. It came during a home game against the Orlando Magic in which Curry posted a game-high 41 points to come away with a 119-113 win.
400 in the final
The splashing continued from that night in March. With 19 games left in the season, Curry still had time to reach another previously untouched record in the NBA’s history books: 400 3-pointers. He made 88 shots from beyond the arc over the next 18 games to set up an incredible game to end the regular season at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Curry and the Warriors had already tied the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the most wins in an NBA season at 72. A win that night would put the team into the record books, and eight 3-pointers would put Curry in another category all to himself.
The end result: a 125-104 win for the Warriors for their 73rd win of the season. Curry finished with 46 points on 10 treys made, giving him 402 3-pointers through the campaign. Both are still records to this day.
That night, along with the many other accomplishments Curry and the Dubs achieved during the season, led to history being made.
“To be the first unanimous MVP is something I can’t even put into words,” said Curry as he accepted his second MVP award.
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