After an intense battle that raged for the entire season, Stephen Curry has officially clinched the scoring title over Bradley Beal, who only managed to put up 25 points in the Washington Wizards’ win over the Charlotte Hornets. Due to Beal’s relatively low total, Curry only needed three points to lock up the scoring race and took care of that in the first quarter of the Golden State Warriors matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. Curry ended the season averaging 31.98 points per game to Beal’s 31.3.
Beal would have beaten Curry in any other season, but this was something of a career year for the Golden State Warriors guard. He may not win MVP or compete for the championship, but that scoring total is now the highest of his career, beating out his historic 2015-16 season in which he averaged 30.1 points per game. The amazing thing about Curry’s 2020-21 success is that, despite his undermanned roster, it was largely organic. Curry actually played more minutes per game on the 2015-16 team that frequently blew out opponents and sat him out of fourth quarters, and while he attempted more shots this season, his efficiency numbers were roughly in line with his prime averages.
Curry’s scoring title, the second of his career, made plenty of history. At 33 years old, he became the oldest player to lead the NBA in scoring since Michael Jordan did so at the age of 35. No other player has won the scoring title at that age. By winning his second title, Curry became only the fourth player in NBA history with multiple scoring titles, MVP awards and NBA championships. The other three? Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Curry’s win breaks the three-year streak that James Harden had established in Houston. Harden has adopted more of a playmaking role with the Brooklyn Nets, so if Curry were to repeat next season, he would tie Harden, George Mikan, Neil Johnston and Bob McAdoo for the sixth-most in NBA history. Jordan holds the (likely unbreakable) record with 10.
The deck was stacked against Curry this season. In 2016, he played for a 73-win team that could punish opponents for doubling him. This season, defenses have thrown the kitchen sink at him hoping that his unspectacular teammates would be unable to pick up the slack. They haven’t needed to. Curry has overcome everything opponents have tried against him to post some of the most incredible scoring numbers the league has ever seen. In NBA history, aside from Curry, the record most 10 3-pointer games in a career is five, held by Klay Thompson. Curry matched that in less than a month, accomplishing the feat five times between April 12 and May 8.
The Warriors expect nothing less from Curry. Steve Kerr has spoken at length about his desire not to overburden Curry. The Warriors don’t force him to take every shot or play every minute. He’s good enough to post these numbers under relatively normal circumstances, and that’s what makes him one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.