Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we’ll relive the greatest Golden State Warriors moment of the 21st century: the team signing Stephen Curry to a four-year, $44 million contract extension in November 2012.
Greatest Golden State Warriors Moment of the 21st Century: Signing Stephen Curry to 2012 Contract Extension
After Golden State drafted him seventh overall in 2009, point guard Stephen Curry quickly showed the ability to shoot the ball confidently from anywhere in the gym. Curry’s game gave Warrior fans hope, and his earliest tweets showed his commitment to the team:
Promise to all the Warrior fans…we will figure this thing out…if it's the last thing we do we will figure it out
However, Curry also dealt with nagging ankle injuries throughout his early years. His earliest ankle injury surfaced during a December 2010 game against the San Antonio Spurs.
This initial tweak was re-aggravated several times during the season and lead to off-season ankle surgery in the summer of 2011. The surgery should have helped Curry stay on the floor, but the injuries kept coming. In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Curry missed 40 of the 66 total regular season games with his balky ankles. The future of Curry (and the Warriors) was seriously in doubt.
After some deliberation, the Warriors decided to bet on Curry’s potential and sign him to a four-year, $44 million extension. The contract was in line with other 2009 point guard draftees such as Jrue Holiday (four years, $41 million) and Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million). At the time, Lawson’s extension made the most sense. By extending Curry, the Warriors went all in on the Davidson product.
Proving the Warriors Right
Almost immediately, Curry began putting up stats that showed Golden State’s front office brass that they were right. In the 2012-13 season, Curry averaged 22.9 points, 6.9 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game, playing in 78 out of 82 games. His 38.2 minutes per game mark is still his highest for a season. A year after being seen as a perennial injury risk, Curry became one of the biggest snubs for the 2013 All-Star Game.
Curry caught fire down the stretch and led the Warriors to just their second playoff appearance since the 1993-94 season. The sixth-seeded Warriors toppled the third-seeded Denver Nuggets (who were led by Lawson) in six games, and Curry introduced himself to the masses:
As the salary cap continued to rise, Curry’s contract became one of the most valuable in all of sports. Over the next three seasons, Curry’s scoring average rose to 23.8, 24.0, and a league-leading 30.1 points per game, respectively.
He blossomed into a back-to-back MVP and became known by most as the greatest shooter in league history. At only $11 million per season, Curry’s contract provided the Warriors with the flexibility to make moves around him.
Creating a Championship Team
With Curry in the fold on such a cheap contract, the Warriors were able to make several important moves:
2013 – Signed versatile free agent and future NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million contract.
2014 – Signed free agent Shaun Livingston to a three-year, $16 million contract. Livingston became a steady two-way contributor at the backup point guard spot.
2014 – Extended starting shooting guard Klay Thompson (four-year, $70 million contract through 2019), a vital secondary scorer in their championship runs. Thompson has been an incredible backcourt mate for Curry and a terrific fit in Golden State’s culture and playing style.
2015 – Extended starting power forward Draymond Green (five-year, $85 million contract through 2020), the heart and soul of the Warriors. Green is the most versatile defender in the league and won the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year award.
These moves all paid major dividends for the Warriors and helped them win the 2015 NBA championship, the franchise’s first title in 40 years.
The Ultimate Free Agent Signing
Of course, the Warriors made another pretty big move last summer, as well…
2016 – Signed the most surprising and league-altering free agent on this list, 2013-14 MVP and seven-foot scoring machine Kevin Durant.
The Warriors, coming off a historic 73-win season, were able to woo a top-two player in the world away from a conference rival. This was financially feasible due to an unprecedented salary cap spike. However, without Curry’s bargain contract, signing Durant would have been incredibly difficult.
The acquisition of Durant helped the Warriors win the 2017 NBA championship in an act of redemption against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The entire 2017 off-season has consisted of teams trying to stack up against the defending champs. In other terms, the Warriors caused the whole league to become ‘shook,’ all thanks to some balky ankles.
Nothing in professional sports is guaranteed. However, the Warriors look to be major players throughout the next two seasons and beyond. With two titles already (and likely more to come), Bob Myers and Joe Lacob have done a legendary job constructing this team.
During this off-season, the Warriors brought back every major contributor, and Curry got a new contract. Unlike in 2012, Curry did not come cheap, as he signed a five-year, $201 million contract. It’s safe to say that he earned every penny.
The current iteration of the Dubs is arguably the greatest collection of talent in NBA history. A quartet of All-NBA level talents at their peak is not common due to salary cap constraints. Who knew that Steph Curry’s bad ankles would lead to the greatest stretch in Warriors history?
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