Shaquille O’Neal says Warriors’ Stephen Curry is ‘by far’ the best player in the world: ‘I love that kid’

Four times NBA champion. Eight times All-NBA. Scoring champion. Two-time NBA MVP, including the only unanimous selection in league history. All-time leader in triples made. For any other player, this resume alone would deserve significant consideration as the best to ever play basketball.

But for whatever reason, fans, analysts, and especially former players, have consistently refused to include Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry along with the usual GOAT candidates from Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul -Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

Whether it’s because of his angelic face, the fact that most of his points come from a shot that didn’t exist in the NBA until 1979, or simply the mind-boggling reality that he plays unlike any athlete who came before him, Curry. has traditionally been viewed as an anomaly: a freak with a superhuman, God-given pension for throwing a ball into a hoop, whose immense success is simply the result of rule changes limiting physical brutality that would have relegated him to mediocre status. . at any previous time.

Curry largely silenced those critics with his impressive performance in the 2022 NBA Finals, which earned him his first Finals MVP trophy, one of the few accolades he has yet to earn. Since June, critics have been much more willing to place Curry in the pantheon of NBA greats, as he has made it impossible for them not to.

For example, Hall of Famer and current television analyst Shaquille O’Neal recently praised Curry for seeming very unusual. On the latest episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area), the former center unprovokedly called Curry “the best player in the world.”

O’Neal was discussing the upcoming NBA season with his “Inside the NBA” co-star Kenny Smith, along with his podcast co-hosts Nischelle Turner and Spice Adams, when the subject of the Western Conference came up. Smith argued that the West could be as powerful as ever, and O’Neal countered by saying the Warriors should be the absolute favorites.

“No one is going to beat the best player in the world, Steph Curry,” O’Neal said.

When pressed about his statement, O’Neal didn’t hesitate to redouble his efforts, saying, “Yes, by far. Hell yes.” He then listed his reasons for ranking Curry at the top of the list of current NBA superstars.

“The real ones are recognized by the championships that you have,” O’Neal said. “Nobody plays better than Steph Curry. He’s a tough shooter, a tough shotmaker. I like where he’s taken his career. I love ‘Rocky’-type stories. … Steph wasn’t very recruited. So in order to working so hard and being the best shooter and one of the best players in the league, he gets my props for that. I love that kid.”

Smith backed up O’Neal’s remarks, noting Curry’s generosity, ultimately agreeing that “last year he was the best player in the world.”

Even with Curry’s incredible 2021-22 season, there are plenty of basketball analysts who would still place the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic above him on their lists of the best NBA players. So for O’Neal, who once said that in a hypothetical matchup between his Lakers and Curry’s Warriors, he “would have dropped his little ass a couple of times” to carve Curry into the pinnacle of the superstar hierarchy of the NBA, is a testament to how Curry’s late-career greatness has helped change his perception.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr and many others have noted how Curry is in the best shape of his life at age 34, so the gains will likely continue to pile up in seasons to come. When all is said and done, we could be talking about Curry as not only the best player in the league today, but perhaps the best to ever pick up a basketball.

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