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

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

Four-time NBA champion. Eight-time All-NBA. Two-time scoring champion. Two-time NBA MVP, including the only unanimous roster in league history. All-time leader in three-pointers made. For any other player, this resume alone would deserve significant consideration as the greatest to ever play basketball.

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

Whether it’s his cherubic 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 he plays unlike any athlete before him, Curry is traditionally seen as an anomaly — a freak with a god-given, superhuman pension for throwing a ball into a hoop, whose immense success is purely the result of rule changes that limit the brutal physicality that would have relegated him to mediocre status in any preceding era.

Curry largely silenced those critics with his jaw-dropping performance in the 2022 NBA Finals, which earned him his first Finals MVP trophy — one of the few unseen accolades left on his mantle. Since June, critics have been much more willing to place Curry in the pantheon of NBA greats because he has made it impossible for them not to.

Example: Hall of Famer and current TV analyst Shaquille O’Neal recently praised Curry, which seems all too unusual. On the latest episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area), the former center — completely unprovoked — called Curry “the best player in the world.”

O’Neal discussed 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 Western Conference topic came up. Smith argued that the West could be as powerful as it has ever been, and O’Neal refuted this by saying that the Warriors should be the absolute favorites.

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

When pressed on his statement, O’Neal didn’t hesitate to double down, saying, “Yeah, by far. Hell yeah.” He then listed his reasons for placing Curry at the top of the list of current NBA superstars.

“The real ones are recognized by the championships you have,” O’Neal said. “No one plays better than Steph Curry. He’s a hard shot taker, a hard shot maker. I like where he took his career. I like “Rocky” type stories. … Steph wasn’t very recruited. So, to be able to work so hard and be the best shooter and one of the best players in the league, that’s what he gets my props for. I love that kid.”

Smith supported O’Neal’s statements by emphasizing Curry’s selflessness, ultimately agreeing that “he was the best player in the world last year.”

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

Warriors coach Steve Kerr and many others have commented that Curry is in the best shape of his life at 34, so performance is likely to continue to pile up over the coming seasons. When all is said and done, we could be discussing Curry as not only the best player in the league today, but arguably the best to ever pick up a basketball.

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