Comparing Steph Curry’s OT Masterpiece to Best in NBA & NCAA History

Curry’s 17-point detonation was one for all-time … and all-places.

After missing a potential winner at the end of regulation in Game 4 of the Golden State-Portland series, Steph Curry became visibly frustrated. On the bench, he slammed his hands together, clearing irked he’d missed a 10-foot running bank shot down the right side.

A game-winning shot there would have added some gleam to Curry’s already historic season. Instead, because he missed it, Curry ended up burnishing his legacy while strengthening his case for the greatest offensive season in basketball history far more than he could have with a mere game winner.

In his first game back from nearly three weeks off with injury, Curry filleted the Trail blazers to the tune of 17 overtime points — a perfect prelude to the announcement today that he is the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. A late, clinching stepback three-pointer left Portland owner Paul Allen doing this:

As you can see below, Curry’s performance set an NBA record for points scored in a single overtime:

Most points in OT, NBA history

Steph Curry 17 2016 vs. Portland
Gilbert Arenas 16 2006 vs. L.A. Lakers
Earl Boykins 15 2005 vs. Seattle
Butch Carter 14 1984 vs. Boston
Dirk Nowitzki 14 2009 vs. Chicago

via CSNBayarea.com

NB: The previous scoring record for a postseason overtime was 13 by Clyde Drexler.

This feat is amazing enough on its own. Even more amazing, though, is that the record would stand at the NCAA basketball level, too, where so many more players have had a chance to do better in so many more games. Roughly four times* as many Division I games as NBA games are played per season, according to research provided by basketball-reference.com.

Since the 1995-96 season, there have been 109,667 college basketball games and an estimated 26,000-27,000 regular season and postseason NBA games.

According to official NCAA records, the Division I record for points in an overtime period is shared by two players:

  1. Howard’s Ron Williams, who scored 17 points in the first OT of a win against Norfolk State in 2003
  2. Temple’s David Hawkins, who scored 17 points in the second OT against Massachusetts in 2004.

Essentially, scoring 17 or more points in a single overtime is really, really, really hard. The NCAA has had five-minute overtime periods since 1908, and yet it’s only been done twice before.

That Steph Curry could achieve this against a defense roughly four times more imposing than anything Norfolk State or UMass could summon, in the thick of a pressure-packed road playoff game, after recovering from an ankle injury, doesn’t seem human.

It’s possible that Curry is simply stretching the bounds of what we as fans imagine should be possible on a basketball court. Where he goes, others will eventually follow, right?

That’s not a given. The one player in the NBA who probably comes closest to Steph Curry’s long-range shooting abilities and handle — Damian Lillard — looks to be as much en fuego Curry’s match as Clyde Drexler was en fuego Jordan’s equal. Maybe a much better version of Lillard will ascend through the pipeline in the coming years, but I doubt it. The more I watch Curry, the more he appears to be a transcendental type of talent that may not come around but once a century at best.

Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were these kinds of talents, too. It’s been nearly 60 years since they burst onto the national scene, and we have yet to see two other big men who can as thoroughly dominate their opposition.
No little man has come close to destroying opponents in the myriad, potent ways Curry can. If anyone doubted this heading into last night’s game, their silence is deafening now.