One of the highlights of the 2023 NBA Playoffs was the heavyweight clash between two of the NBA teams with the most populous fanbases in the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. While the two teams, led by all-time greats in LeBron James and Stephen Curry, respectively, traded one punch after another, it was the Lakers that came out on top in the end by sheer physicality and force of will.
It's revisionist history to say that the Lakers, despite blowing out the Warriors in Game 6, had an easy time against the then-reigning champions. They didn't — especially those who had the thankless task of trying to slow down the greatest shooter of all time. Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt explained just how difficult being Curry's primary defender is on an appearance on Theo Pinson's Run Your Race podcast by Tidal League.
“Ran like 3 miles [in Game 2 of the 2023 Playoffs vs. Warriors], chasing Steph around. Obviously, Game 1 did a good job. Game 2, I actually got hurt in the 2nd game, I think Moses Moody fell on my leg. [But] I still got to chase [Steph]. Steph [Curry] just nonstop moving… It’s a tough task. People don't realize that it's a tough task being the guy that has to chase somebody around,” Vanderbilt said.
"Ran like 3 miles [in Game 2 of the 2023 Playoffs vs. Warriors]… I actually got hurt in the 2nd game… Steph [Curry] just nonstop moving… It’s a tough task being the guy that has to chase somebody around.”
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 19, 2023
Nevertheless, as difficult as it was to pull off for Vanderbilt, that was his role — to defend the opponent's best player. Vanderbilt isn't exactly a stellar offensive player, so being able to stay in front of Stephen Curry to at least give the Lakers some chance of surviving against a potential barrage from the Warriors star was imperative. And Vanderbilt was able to do just that.
Of course, stopping Curry completely is impossible. But Vanderbilt did as good a job as any, as he possesses a combination of size and speed that would at least bother the Warriors star's line of sight and make him feel the contact as he flies around the court. This is the exact reason why the Lakers signed Vanderbilt to a four-year, $48 million extension, as he'll be a huge defensive piece for the team for years to come.