It is fitting that Cam Newton and Steph Curry are friends and mutual admirers, especially this winter, and this week.
Curry grew up in Charlotte, N.C., home of the Carolina Panthers, and became a fan upon the franchise’s inception. He attended Davidson University in North Carolina. When the Golden State Warriors play in Charlotte, Newton and many of his teammates attend.
Now Curry is the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and is trying to guide the Warriors to a historic record, and he presumably will be attending Super Bowl 50 on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., to see Newton, the presumptive NFL MVP, try to help Carolina become the fourth NFL team ever to win 18 games in one season.
Curry often wears his Panthers jersey. He probably has mimicked Newton’s Superman’ celebration, and that, too, is fitting for both athletes. Each is playing in a way that has never quite been seen before.
Curry is already the greatest pure shooter in NBA history, and perhaps one of its most deft ballhandlers. His accuracy and range are almost unfathomable. He is like an old-school Harlem Globetrotter who performs his tricks against teams that are actually trying to stop him.
Any concern that Curry would be a latter-day Pete Maravich, a magician but not a transformative winner, was erased last season, when he led the Warriors to a remarkably easy run through a supposedly daunting playoffs. Today his team is 43-4.
We have never seen anything quite like him. The NBA lists him at 6-3, 190 pounds. Standing next to him, one would guess that he’s shorter and slighter than that, yet he is dominating a league that rewards genetic lottery winners and he is doing so with a style that is almost more artistic than athletic.
Curry was a league-best plus-719 in those first 47 games. Last season, Atlanta won 60 games and as a team was a cumulative plus-443.
He is on pace to make 380 three-pointers, which would break the record he set last season by 94. He averages 4.8 made three-pointers per game on 10.6 attempts — the point-production equivalent of shooting 68 percent on two-pointers. If he never took a two-point shot he would be averaging 14.4 points per game, according to statistics provided by San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami.
His PER (player efficiency rating) is 32.4. That would be the best of all time, beating Wilt Chamberlain’s 31.82 and 31.74 in the early 1960s and Michael Jordan’s 31.71 in 1987-88.
Newton is similar in uniqueness, but he combines rare skills with more size, speed, and agility than any successful passing quarterback in NFL history.
Proponents of modern, precision-passing offenses have dismissed the notion of the running quarterback, but quarterbacks who can run have always ranked among the greats. Roger Staubach, Steve Young, John Elway, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson all used mobility to win titles, and Fran Tarkenton scrambled his way to three Super Bowls.
Never before has a winning NFL quarterback been the best athlete on the field at all times. Newton is his team’s best rusher, as well as one of the NFL’s best passers. He plays the game like the fever dream of a fantasy football fanatic.
Newton threw 35 touchdown passes this year, despite not having a single wide receiver who approaches star status. Only Tom Brady, who had 36, threw more.
He led NFL quarterbacks with 636 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Jameis Winston finished second in the latter category, with six.
Newton’s most dangerous big-play receiver, Ted Ginn, dropped 10.4 percent of passes thrown to him this season, one of the highest percentages in the league.
Before Newton, Elway might have been the prototype for a big, strong quarterback who could run. Elway was 6-3, 215 pounds and a strong straight-line runner. Newton is 6-5, 248 pounds.
Elway rushed for 3,407 yards and 33 touchdowns in 16 seasons. Newton has played five seasons. He has 3,207 yards and 43 touchdowns.
The sports world has never seen anything quite like Curry and Newton. It’s fitting that they can’t seem to get enough of watching each other.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On