Is Steph Curry Really Having a Greater Year Than MJ?

We are witnessing history unfold as Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are on a mission to shatter NBA records. Curry’s Warriors are off to a 24-1 start and many are comparing their season to that of the ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls, a Michael Jordan led juggernaut that amassed the highest single-season record of 72-10.

The success Stephen Curry and the Warriors are having this season is no longer being considered a hot start. With more than one-quarter of the season played, Curry is averaging an absurd 32 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals per game. Only one other player has ever reached those numbers in a season: Michael Jordan.

In MJ’s entire career, his best PER rating came in the ’87-’88 season at 31.71. Besides Wilt Chamberlain – PER(s) of 31.82 and 31.74 – no other player has ever posted a higher single season PER in the history of the NBA, dating back to the ABA days, than Michael Jordan.

So where does Stephen Curry end up on this list?

This season, Curry is holding a ridiculous PER of 34.73. If Curry maintained that for the rest of the season, that would be the best in history, at three points more than  Jordan’s phenomenal single season metric. In comparison, a three point margin from Jordan’s PER ends up being around 40th place on the PER list (28.71) with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone. At this rate, Stephen Curry may blow Chamberlain and Jordan’s PER record out of the water.

Jordan’s ’87-’88 season and Stephen Curry’s current season:

Player Points Rebounds Assists FG % 3-PT% FT % Steals Turnovers
Stephen Curry 32.2 5.3 6.0 .517 .458 .908 2.2 3.7
Michael Jordan 35.0 5.5 5.9 .535 .132 .841 3.2 3.1

Curry is on pace to enter the exclusive 50-40-90 club (50 percent from the field, 40 percent on threes and 90 percent from the line) while also averaging 20+ PPG, a feat that only Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, and Dirk Nowitzki have accomplished, and they were 6-9 forwards, not a 6-3 guard like Curry.

Although Curry and Jordan play different positions, the statistics are oddly similar besides the 3-PT%, but there is one huge, pivotal factor that is not mentioned above. Michael Jordan accomplished those numbers while averaging 40.4 minutes, and Stephen Curry is rivaling if not beating those numbers at only 34.4 minutes. That makes Curry incredibly more efficient than Jordan was.

In the category of Win Shares per 48 min, Stephen Curry dominates with a .373 compared to Michael Jordan’s .308 in their respective seasons. Curry’s .373 would also be a NBA record.

What makes Stephen Curry so special and even comparable to Jordan is that he is putting up these historic numbers while simultaneously leading his team to wins. In MJ’s best PER season of ’87-’88, he was only able to lead the Chicago Bulls to a record of 40-42. Curry’s team is 24-1 and he is putting up stats fans have never seen. This is why it’s so special.

Even Stephen Curry is comparing himself to Jordan. The reigning MVP believes that MJ’s legacy is part of what drives him. When asked about if he is trying to top MJ as the greatest of all time, Stephen Curry responded,

Yeah. Why else would I be playing? You want to be the best you can be. And if the best you can be is better than him, then why not? That’s good motivation.”

Curry is having the best individual scoring season of the modern era. But in terms of career achievements, Curry still has a long way to go. MJ is considered the greatest because of how he dominated season after season. Jordan’s the only player in the modern era who won the title the same season he averaged 30 per game… and Jordan did it four times. This season may go down as one of the best scoring seasons ever, but Stephen Curry must dominate for years to come to have his legacy on the same level as Michael Jordan.

photo via llananba