How Steph Curry, Michael Jordan's paths to NBA superstardom compare

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The comparison between Michael Jordan and Steph Curry is a case study in how revolutionary greatness comes in all shapes, sizes and styles. And we're all fortunate to have witnessed their artistry.

The tightest thread that brings each player together is North Carolina. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born and raised in Wilmington, a port city on the state's coast. As a sophomore at Laney High School, he famously was cut from the varsity team, perhaps birthing his competitive edge. Three years later as a freshman at UNC, he hit the game-winning shot to bury Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas for the 1982 NCAA title. 

Wardell Stephen Curry would get to North Carolina five years after Jordan's NBA career started. Born in Akron, Ohio, his family settled to Charlotte after Curry's father Dell was picked by the Hornets in the 1989 expansion draft. Like Jordan, Curry had early disappointments, failing to get a scholarship from Virginia Tech, his father's alma mater, before settling for Davidson. 

Jordan found stardom earlier than Curry, averaging 28.2 points in his first season and earning Rookie of the Year honors. By his fourth season, he led the league in scoring twice, was a four-time All Star, and had won Defensive Player of the Year. Comparatively, Curry finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, struggled to stay healthy early in his career, and didn't make an All-Star appearance until his fifth season. 

Nonetheless, each revolutionized the game in their eras. Jordan did it from the sky, using highlight dunks to live up to his "Air" moniker. His skill forced teams to adapt team-wide strategies -- most famously Detroit's "Jordan Rules" to stop him. With the help of Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson, he won six titles in eight years. Along the way, he took the Bulls from annual cellar dwellers to a larger-than-life franchise that transcended the NBA. Off the court, he became one of the most famous spokesmen in America, becoming the face of iconic brands like Gatorade, Nike and Wheaties.

Listen and subscribe to the Runnin' Plays Podcast:

 

While Michael ruled in the clouds and Fifth Avenue, Curry resides beyond the arc, becoming the best 3-pointer shooter in league history. In 2015-16, he averaged 30.1 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range, winning the NBA's first unanimous MVP, leading the Warriors to an NBA record-setting win total of 73 games, eclipsing Jordan's Bulls record of 72. Two years later, he captured his third title in five seasons. Like Jordan, Curry is a media darling whose baby face has made companies millions. 

[RELATED: Kerr explains how Jordan, Curry's fame differs]

But each player's paths to glory were different. Jordan famously rode teammates, weeding out ones who didn't fit his competitive spirit. He routinely sparred with Bulls management, making fun of general manager Jerry Krause publicly. Following retirement, he's been a notorious recluse, rarely granting interviews and staying out of the public eye despite being the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. 

Though Curry's combativeness hasn't come out against management like Jordan's, it still can suddenly surface. In Golden State's locker room, Curry is widely thought of as the most competitive player the organization has ever seen. And while Curry has openly called out President Donald Trump for racism, Jordan has been a more centrist figure, donating to both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the NAACP Defense Fund following the rise of police-related shootings of black people.

While MJ and Steph took different paths to get to the NBA mountaintop, both revolutionized the game and transcended the sport in a way we might never see again.

How Steph Curry, Michael Jordan's paths to NBA superstardom compare originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area