Why Steph is finally equal to Zeke on Barkley's all-time list


STATELINE, Nev. – Charles Barkley’s anti-Warriors bias is so legendary it endures, even though he insists it’s old news. Which to some it is.

But millions of fans would be willing to quarrel with his opinion of Stephen Curry’s place in NBA history.

“He’s one of the greatest ever, somewhere between 10 and 20,” Barkley recently told NBC Sports Bay Area from the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

It’s not an altogether unfair opinion, considering the top eight spots seem to be reserved, by reasonable consensus, for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

But after acknowledging Curry was the primary force behind four Warriors championships in an eight-year span, Charles served up a rather provocative comparison.

“I said after he won this one, that puts him on the list with Isiah Thomas,” Barkley said. “He’s at the table in the Hall of Fame with Isiah Thomas as probably the best point guards. Those two guys are probably the two best points to ever play the game.”

Whoa. What about that guy in Los Angeles, the conductor of “Showtime” for the Lakers of the 1980s?

“Magic Johnson is a little unique because he’s a 6-foot-10 point guard,” Barkley said. “He played it differently. But I put Steph right up there with Isiah Thomas as the best little guards to ever play the game.”

Well, now.

Isiah was a 6-foot-1 playmaker, a 12-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA selection and the undisputed leader of Pistons teams that won back-to-back NBA Finals in 1989 and 1990. He never won an MVP award, and never ranked higher than fifth in the voting; he finished 13th and 17th in the championship seasons. In only three categories are his career numbers among the top five: assists average (9.3, fifth), total assists (9,061, ninth) and total turnovers (3,682, eighth).

On most NBA lists, Thomas falls between 25 and 40. He might be higher if not for the ruptured Achilles’ tendon that ended his career at 32.

Curry generally ranks higher than Thomas on every list. Why? Well, for one, Steph owns two MVP awards, including the only one with a unanimous vote, with two other top-five finishes. Two, he’s a two-time scoring champion, two-time steals leader, seven-time 3-pointers leader. Three, he’s the NBA’s all-time leader in total 3-pointers.

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Put simply, Steph trounces Zeke in every pertinent category except assists.

No matter to Charles who, as someone who spent much of his career playing against Thomas, may or may not be subjective in his comparison.

“He’s one of the greatest players we’ve ever had,” Barkley said of Curry. “He’s a great kid, too. It’s always fun to see him and be around him. He’s had an unbelievable career. I look at all these lists, he’s somewhere between 10 and 20. It just depends on your preference.

“But he’s had an unbelievable career. And it’s not over yet.”

Which implies there might come a time when Barkley is willing to move Steph, going strong at age 34, past Zeke and possibly into the top 10.

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