The Black Swan Theory was an idea developed by a former stock trader Nasim Taleb in 2007. As explained by Taleb, the theoretical black swan can be summarized as an event or deviation outside the realm of realistic expectations, which has a profound effect on history and leads experts to come up with explanations, but only after the fact. The advent of the personal computer, the rise of the Internet, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand are notable examples of Taleb’s black swan theory. These black swans reveal our very limited understanding of the world. For basketball acquaintances, Steph Curry is that black swan.
Becoming a black swan, Curry entered the discussions of the top 10 players of all time. If you look at a respectable ranking of the top 10 players in NBA history, you can say that every player or those on the periphery has always been destined to participate in this conversation. Larry Bird calls Jordan a disguised God at the end of his second season.
Kobe Bryant was a pioneer in professional training. But he was also a Jordanian facsimile of greatness. Magic, Bird, Kareem, LeBron, Shaq, Wilt, Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell were selected first in their respective drafts. The Hall of Fame was a given, and the leading relevant NBA title franchises were the bare minimum on their career to-do lists. Oscar Robertson has ended his college career as the best NCAA goal scorer of all time and has been named Player of the Year in his honor.
Steph was a midfielder phenomenon who fell into the draft because he was too young to play a shooting guard and the teams weren’t sure how he would handle his move to the guard point. His first four years
were marred by ankle injuries.
At 6-foot-3, Curry is the smallest player in the aforementioned group of greats. If you divide NBA 75 legends into divisions by size, Curry occupies a tier of his own within the ‘6-foot-4 & under’ class. Relative to his size, there’s a wider gap between Curry’s accomplishments and those of Jerry West, Isaiah Thomas, or Allen Iverson than there is between LeBron and MJ or Shaq, Olajuwon, Wilt, or Tim Duncan in the heavyweight division.
In the ensuing decades, we might witness an undersized superstar guard come along to take advantage of modern spacing and shatter Steph’s 3-point records. And there will be other scoring champs smaller than Curry, but he’s the first below-the-rim guard to be the anchor of a bonafide dynasty.
After Durant left for Brooklyn, the Warriors were counted out again. Their acquisition of Andrew Wiggins was divisive. Bob Myers picking James Wiseman over LaMelo Ball was viewed as a blunder that would sink the Warriors’ trajectory. The league was beginning to catch up to their offense and Curry was in his age-34 season. We should have seen this coming, A lack of imagination once again led too many to count the 3-time champions out.
The Big 3 of Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were graciously fading into obscurity during their early to mid-30s. Expectations for Klay Thompson 2.0 were modest after he suffered an ACL tear and Achilles rupture in consecutive years. Before this season, Draymond Green was frequently mentioned as one of the NBA’s most overpaid aging assets. Iggy was traded to Memphis.
Even all the way up to Game 4 of the 2022 Finals, Golden State retained its black swan status. At the beginning of the 2022 postseason, Curry was slumping like we’d never seen him before. Two months later, he averaged 31.2 points, five assists, 5.8 rebounds, shot 44.2 percent from distance and earned his first Finals MVP. Prior to Game 1, FiveThirtyEight’s The prediction model gave Golden State a 17 percent chance of beating Boston despite the advantage of their home court. After four games, these odds doubled to 29 percent. FiveThirtyEight’s Basketball Power Index algorithm shattered the finals worse than in the 2016 election. Steve Kerr even called their championship the most incredible of the nine titles he has won as a player or coach.
The first title was the launch pad. Charles Barkley’s 2015 proclamation that “jumping teams do not win championships“Emblematic of the popular mood of the Warriors of the past.
The energy shifted again.
The first title was the launch pad for Curry’s legacy. His fourth title is a monument to his achievements and probably means more than any title they have won. He may be the first black swan to ever surprise so many people twice. Curry’s picture changed the paradigm for the better or for worse. It is often duplicated, but never copied. Golden State has once again been declared the favorite for the title in 2023. The fifth ring will make the case of Curry as the top 10 player of all time indisputable.