It takes about a second and a half from the moment Stephen Curry releases the basketball until it reaches the hoop more than 22 feet away, a flicker of time that somehow feels frozen for an expectant crowd, for his defenders and teammates, for television viewers and front office executives.
“Emotionally, he’ll take you on a journey,” said Bob Myers, the general manager of the Golden State Warriors. “And I’m not sure that exists for other players. It’s something to behold.”
For 13 N.B.A. seasons, Curry has been cluttering box scores for Golden State, and on Tuesday, he became the N.B.A.’s most prolific 3-point shooter in regular-season history when he sailed past Ray Allen’s career record. The record-tying and record-breaking shots came early in the first quarter of a game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, with Allen in attendance and the crowd buzzing every time Curry touched the ball.
At 33, Curry is assembling one of the best seasons of his career, and he has helped position Golden State atop the Western Conference as the team awaits the return of Klay Thompson.
In the process, Curry continues to refashion the 3-point line as his personal canvas, and with each week that passes, his record-setting total will grow: 2,974 career 3-pointers and counting. But beyond the gluttonous numbers is the artistry of an athlete capable of producing jolts of electricity whenever he lines up a long-distance jumper.
“You can feel the frenetic kind of energy that he generates,” said Bruce Fraser, one of Golden State’s assistants. “And when he really gets going, you can see the ball spinning a little faster coming out of his hands, and the arc of his shot — it’s almost like a meteor shower. It’s a storm in the sky. And I’ve never felt that from anyone else.”
Curry’s latest milestone comes as Golden State continues to stage its renaissance after having stumbled through the wilderness of two listless, injury-riddled seasons — struggles that made a one-time superpower appear mortal after five straight appearances in the N.B.A. finals, including three championship victories over LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
How much of a sensation has Curry become? After he made nine 3-pointers and scored 40 points in a lopsided victory last month, he was serenaded with “M.V.P.” chants — which was no big deal, except that Curry was in Cleveland.
“When 30 got going, he got going,” the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland told reporters, referring to Curry’s uniform number. “Nothing else you can really say.”
That is debatable. Over the course of a recent 15-minute telephone interview, Myers compared Curry to art by Rembrandt and Picasso, the Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr., and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Hyperbole from a member of the same organization? Perhaps. Then again, Allen Iverson has described Curry as one of his favorite players, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal routinely use the adjective “Stephortless,” and social media spirals toward chaos whenever Curry goes on one of his molten flurries.
Why? Because Curry does not merely shoot 3-pointers. No, he makes them with three defenders draped all over him like a cheap tablecloth. He beats buzzers and crushes hope. He drains 3s on the run and from the general vicinity of the food court. He smiles and dances and points and preens, turning each field-goal attempt into a telenovela.
“He’s a master at what he does,” said the Nets’ Kevin Durant, a former teammate.
Fred Kast, who spent 57 years as the Warriors’ official scorer before he retired last season, was the person responsible for documenting all of the 3-pointers that Curry made at home games. Kast, 82, took his job seriously, which meant that he tried hard to block out the emotion of the crowd whenever Curry started doing Curry things.
Now, as a fan watching the games from his couch, Kast has a bit of a different perspective. Because he can focus entirely on the action, his appreciation for Curry has only grown.
“You find it surprising when he does what most players do with far more frequency,” Kast said, “which is miss.”
Curry does have off nights. In a recent loss to the San Antonio Spurs, he shot 7 of 28 from the field and 5 of 17 from 3-point range. He showed up at practice the next day looking particularly determined, Fraser said. Curry concluded his workout the same way he always does: by attempting 100 3-pointers.
“He made 93 of them,” said Fraser, who feeds Curry the ball as he moves around the perimeter.
A friend recently asked Fraser how many passes he had thrown to Curry over the past eight seasons (without getting credited with any assists). Had it topped 100,000? At first, that total sounded absurd to Fraser, who joined Golden State before the start of the 2014-15 season, but then he crunched the numbers. As a part of his post-practice work, Curry typically takes between 300 to 500 jumpers. And there are morning shootarounds. And pregame warm-ups. The total, Fraser said, works out to nearly 200,000 passes — each season.
“So I’m at well over a million,” Fraser said.
At the same time, there is an Everyman aspect to Curry, said Rick Welts, who retired as the Golden State’s president after last season. Curry’s size — he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, which is almost Lilliputian by N.B.A. standards — makes him more identifiable to fans, Welts said. And while players like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo cram games with high-flying feats, Curry has elevated the humble jump shot into something special.
“I can’t relate to what it feels like when Giannis dunks a ball,” Welts said. “But I can go out in my driveway right now and at least get a sense of what it feels like when Steph makes that shot.”
Fellow 3-point shooters, past and present, say they take vicarious pleasure in Curry’s pyrotechnics. They know what it feels like to shed a defender, find the 3-point line and let the ball fly.
“It’s an adrenaline rush every time,” said Chelsie Schweers, 32, who set the record for career 3-pointers among Division III women’s players during her career at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. “There’s nothing like draining a step-back jumper. It’s my favorite thing on Earth.”
Schweers, who made 415 3-pointers at Christopher Newport while shooting 46.1 percent from deep, has considered Curry her favorite player since he was emerging as a mid-major college star down the road at Davidson. At 5-foot-7, Schweers said she could relate to Curry since they were both relatively undersized. And they both could shoot.
“He just brings so much joy,” said Schweers, who has spent the past 10 years playing overseas, most recently in Portugal.
In 2004, ahead of his senior year of high school, John Grotberg went on a recruiting visit to Davidson. But after he sustained a knee injury, Grotberg opted to go the Division III route and enrolled at Grinnell College in Iowa. It turned out for the best: Grotberg wound up making more 3-pointers than any men’s player in N.C.A.A. history, and the backcourt at Davidson would have been crowded.
“Steph was a year behind me,” Grotberg said.
Grotberg, 34, went on to play in Europe before he studied medicine at Yale, and is now a physician in St. Louis. Now more than ever, Grotberg said, he appreciates his tangential connection to Curry, citing the 3-point record that he still owns, he said, only because Curry left Davidson a year early for the N.B.A.
Grotberg continues to marvel, along with countless other basketball fans, at how Curry has transformed the game by stretching the court beyond comprehension. For a shooter, it is the stuff of dreams.
“You get into this repetition where your body knows what to do,” Grotberg said, “and all you need to do is find the space to do it.”
Curry has spent the past 13 seasons carving out that space. Now, on a stage of his own creation, he is there alone.