AP Basketball Writer
A 40-footer buzzer-beater in Miami one night. A 45-footer to beat the clock in Orlando the very next night. In both cases, the thousands of fans who came to watch the brightest star in today’s NBA do something special expressed their satisfaction with long, lusty cheers.
And remember, those were road crowds.
It is Stephen Curry’s game right now, and whether the Golden State Warriors are home or away it seems no one needs a reminder to enjoy what the league’s premier sharpshooter is doing on a nightly basis. The most entertaining player on the NBA’s most entertaining team has fans coming early and staying late to catch a glimpse, take a selfie, get an autograph, whatever they can muster in order to feel like they were part of the show.
“I was fortunate to play with Michael Jordan and just about every night I was awestruck,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday in Orlando, after Curry’s shot from midcourt was the highlight of a 51-point night. “I would say that Steph is on that level now. You see it night after night. It’s awesome, but it becomes routine because he does it so often.”
Curry was the NBA’s MVP last season after averaging 23.8 points on 49 percent shooting, with a league-record 286 makes from 3-point range.
He’s somehow better now.
He’s averaging 30.4 points on 51 percent shooting. He’s extended his streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 128 and counting, a new NBA record. Reaching 400 3-pointers isn’t totally out of the question; he should eclipse the record he set last year sometime next week.
The Warriors are 52-5, still on pace for the best record in NBA history and could actually clinch a playoff spot when they visit Oklahoma City on Saturday — with more than six weeks left in the season.
“What the guy has been able to do is different than we’ve seen,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said. “It’s rare to see a guy who dominates a game that far out on the perimeter. Jordan dominated the game from 15 feet and in, Kobe (Bryant) as well. Shaquille (O’Neal) dominated from about 7 and in. You’ve see a lot of guys dominate in different ways. We haven’t seen a guy dominate the way he’s dominated from about 38, 40 and in.
“If you’re a basketball fan, you’re a Steph Curry fan,” Wade said. “There’s no reason to dislike anything about Steph Curry.”
Even opponents can’t help but marvel at his long-range antics.
“Ridiculous,” Orlando’s Aaron Gordon said. “He’s been doing that all year long.”
Curry’s pregame shooting and dribbling shows have become the stuff of legend. There were more than 150 people around the court just before 6 p.m. Wednesday — most of them with phones in hand, poised to snap photos or take some video — when Curry took the floor to warm up in Miami. When he left, some fans were waiting for his autograph and a teenage boy held out a ball for Curry to sign.
“Make it out to me,” the boy said, handing Curry a Sharpie pen.
Curry started signing his name, and the boy said again, “make it out to …” before stopping. Curry looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m sorry,” the boy said. “I forgot my name for a second.”
The nervous youngster got his autograph, as have plenty of others.
For his part, Curry enjoys the circus that follows the Warriors around.
“We have a lot of support,” Curry said. “Every arena we set foot in, it’s a pretty electric atmosphere. That’s what you live for, really. To have that every single night, to get going in that kind of competitive environment with fan support, it’s pretty fun.”
The Warriors have seen sellouts all season, Curry’s jersey is the hottest seller in the league — look around a crowd at just about any NBA game, it’s out there — and Golden State merchandise is flying off the shelves as well.
And while there’s no shortage of star power on the reigning champions’ roster, Curry is the unquestioned leader.
“When you have the juice, enjoy it,” Wade said. “There’s going to be somebody coming up behind him. We don’t know who that person will be. Right now, he has it and he’s doing an amazing job with it.”
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Orlando, Florida contributed to this report.