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 times All-NBA. Double scoring champion. Two-time NBA MVP, including the only unanimous selection in league history. All-time 3-point leader. For any other player, that resume alone would deserve to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

But for some reason, fans, analysts – and especially former players – have always neglected to include Golden State Warriors guardian Stephen Curry alongside Michael Jordan’s usual GOAT contenders, james lebronKareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

Whether it’s because of his cherubic face, the fact that the majority of his points come from a shot that didn’t exist in the NBA until 1979, or simply the distorting reality he plays unlike any athlete who came before him, Curry was always seen as an anomaly – a freak with a god-given superhuman pension for throwing a ball through a hoop , whose immense success is purely the result of rule changes that limit the physical brutality that would have relegated him to low status in any previous era.

To a large extent, Curry silenced those critics with his stunning performance in the 2022 NBA Finals, which earned him his first Finals MVP trophy — one of the few unachieved accolades to place on his mantle. Since June, critics have been much more willing to place Curry in the pantheon of NBA greats because he made it impossible for them not to.

For example, Hall of Famer and current TV analyst Shaquille O’Neal recently praised Curry, which seems all too rare. On the last episode from “The Big Podcast with Shaq” (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area) the former center – without any provocation – 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 as well as 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 they’ve ever been, and O’Neal rebutted by saying the Warriors should be the outright 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 double down, saying “Yeah, from afar. Hell yeah.” He then listed his reasons for categorizing 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 tough shooter, hard shot maker. I love where he’s taken his career. I love ‘Rocky’ type stories. … Steph was never not very recruited. So in order to be able to work hard and be the best shooter and one of the best players in the league, he gets my props for that. I love that kid.

Smith supported O’Neal’s statements pointing to Curry’s selflessness and ultimately agreed that “last year he was the best player in the world”.

Even with Curry’s incredible 2021-22 season, many basketball analysts would still place players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic above him on their lists of the best NBA players. Thus, for O’Neal, who once said that in a hypothetical confrontation between his Lakers and Curry’s Warriors, he “would have put his little a– a few times”, to etch Curry at the top of the NBA superstar hierarchy, is testament to how Curry’s late-career greatness helped alter his perception .

Warriors coach Steve Kerr and many others have noted how Curry is in the best shape of his life at 34, so the accomplishments will likely continue to pile up over the next few seasons. Ultimately, we could discuss Curry not just as the greatest player in the league today, but perhaps the best to ever pick up a basketball.

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