Stephen Curry. The best shooter of all-time. The baby-faced assassin. The man who changed the way the game is played, from playground blacktops to the NBA hardwood. The cornerstone of the Warriors’ offense, which has dominated the league for almost a decade. An MVP, a champion, and undoubtedly an all-time great. However, he's never won an NBA Finals MVP.

Unfortunately for Stephen Curry, there will always be that “but.” Or at least there always has been. In the 2022 NBA Finals, he has another chance to change that rhetoric. Locked in a fierce battle against the young and talented Boston Celtics, Steph can capture that NBA Finals MVP and get the proverbial monkey off his back.

First, let me tell you why he shouldn’t have to.

Stephen Curry NBA Finals MVP conversations

Everyone knows about his regular season greatness and all the accolades accumulated over the years. So we won’t focus on those. We won’t even worry about his very good (sometimes even great) Finals performances in 2017 and 2018 when he won championships alongside teammate Kevin Durant, who won Finals MVP both years.

Rather, our focus is the statistical absurdity that was Curry’s NBA Finals MVP “loss” in 2015. Andre Iguodala won the NBA Finals MVP when the Warriors took the title over the Cavs in 2015. He was great that year and stepped up both offensively and defensively, playing at a higher level than he probably ever had in his career. Detractors say Steph had a mediocre series by his standards and that Iguodala did a tremendous job slowing down LeBron James, which helped the Warriors beat the Cavs in 6 games.

Though his contributions were huge and his defense against LeBron crucial, let’s be objective and really put those arguments to the test. In the 2015 NBA Finals, Stephen Curry averaged 26.0 pts, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists, while Andre Iguodala averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists. While it is difficult to tangibly quantify the value of Iggy's defense, which was surely important, let’s be frank: Curry not winning that NBA Finals MVP is something that has never happened in the league since the 1990-91 season (the year of Michael Jordan’s first title), which many today would consider the modern era of basketball.

According to Basketball Reference, no player in that span has ever been on the championship team, lead their team in scoring by nearly 10 points a game, and not won MVP. Not one player. That is a 31-season sample size we are talking about. Moreover, only two players ever in that span won NBA Finals MVP without leading their team in scoring, and both trailed the scoring leader by less than half a point per game. In 2014 Kawhi Leonard won Finals MVP averaging 0.2 points a game less than Tony Parker, while in 2004 Chauncey Billups won averaging 0.4 points a game less than Richard Hamilton. In these cases the scoring was essentially a toss-up, so other statistics or even intangibles could be considered as important. Statistically speaking, though, what happened to Steph in 2015 has never happened in the modern NBA, and honestly nothing else has come close.

Now some might argue again that Iggy's defense was invaluable. Nonetheless, was it great enough to outshine the best player on the team, the glue, the spark that ignited the entire Warriors offense? If you look at the numbers again, James was outstanding in the loss, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. He was held to 39.8% shooting though, and credit should go to Iggy and the Warriors defense. Regardless, the rhetoric that Iggy played such amazing defense that he was an MVP without carrying the offensive load, a statistical circumstance that had never happened before and has never happened since? It simply doesn’t hold up.

Objectively, Curry probably played a little below his best on the biggest stage in his first NBA Finals, with his 3-point percentage dipping a bit from his usual average. Regardless, he was certainly still the Warriors’ best player that series and the entire year, winning the regular season MVP in the process. And therein lies another first. Over the same span since 1990-91, no player has ever won regular season MVP and then won the championship, but not been Finals MVP. Not one. Again, it just doesn’t add up. No one else valuable enough to be league MVP has not been the Finals MVP when their team took home the ultimate prize. Well, except Stephen Curry.

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That is why, though Kevin Durant deserved his MVP’s in 2017 and 2018, it is ridiculous that Stephen Curry has to answer questions about why he never won a NBA Finals MVP. Statistically, he should have won it in 2015. It is absurd that he must deal with doubts about his membership in the club of all time greats because his mantle misses that one piece of hardware. He should have that hardware, and his not winning it has never been replicated from a statistical standpoint in the modern NBA. Though he is undoubtedly the best to ever shoot the ball and a multiple time regular season MVP and champion, his top-tier greatness is still questioned in large part due to his missing Finals MVP. It’s a shame, but that’s how things went down. That’s the burden Steph Curry has to carry.

Stephen Curry NBA Finals MVP… 2022?

Which brings us all back to the present day and the opportunity Steph has to shatter that misconception. To this point, Stephen Curry has averaged 27.1 points per game in his Finals career over 33 games, good for 10th all time. This year so far, with the exception of one blemish in game 5, he has been masterful. He is averaging 30.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He put together an all-time great performance on the road in a must-win Game 4, with 43 points and 10 rebounds. He has been nothing short of incredible against the league’s best defense, which is geared almost solely at stopping him.

Many are still in shock about what happened in Game 5, but it shows that even the world’s greatest shooter is human. Missing all nine of his 3-point attempts and coming up empty from deep for the first time in his playoff career, Curry managed to post 16 points and 8 assists in what was by his standards a very subpar game. Andrew Wiggins, meanwhile, had what some would call the best game of his career when the Warriors needed it most. He had 26 points and 13 huge rebounds, with timely scores and a poise and confidence that NBA fans have never quite seen from Wiggins before. He was nothing short of phenomenal.

There have been talks, maybe just for a headline or maybe because some people actually believe it, that Andrew Wiggins could be the frontrunner for NBA Finals MVP should the Warriors eventually win the series.

Stephen Curry is averaging 30/5/4 again as stated above, compared to Wiggins at 18.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. Wiggins has been outstanding defensively and on the boards the last two games, but he also had a pedestrian 11 point output in Game 2 without backlash. Why? Because he is not the Warriors’ best player.

And that really is the point. Stephen Curry is the best player on the Golden State Warriors and there is no doubt about it. He leads them in scoring, makes their awesome team chemistry tick, and the entire offense is predicated on his movement and the greatness of his shooting stroke. Not only is he their best player, he has been great in this series. With outputs of 34, 29, 31, and 43 points prior to his Game 5 struggles, he has been carrying the load and scoring with amazing efficiency against a rugged Boston defense. Couple that with very solid defense despite being undersized (he is leading the team in steals per game in the 2022 NBA Finals), he has been everything you could ask of a superstar.

So with all that said, this is the question: If we all know Curry is truly great, and he has shown us that greatness again in this series on the league’s biggest stage, why does he need to prove to us that he deserves an NBA Finals MVP? Why doesn’t he get the credit he is due without being questioned in a way that superstars of his caliber historically have not experienced? I’m not sure anyone truly knows the answer to that question, nor that a good answer exists.

What I am sure of is that no one knows what the outcome of this series is going to be. For the sake of Chef Curry, the greatest shooter to ever pick up a basketball, when it’s all said and done he can sit back, relax, and never have to answer those questions again. Only time will tell, of course. Make no bones about it, though, Stephen Curry NBA Finals MVP would silence the haters.