There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t wake up being thankful for being a sports fan in North Carolina. This November, the SportsChannel8 team and a panel of peers from NC media will be counting down to Thanksgiving with the top 25 things we have to be thankful for in this great state.
Look, I don’t mean to brag or anything; I’m merely stating fact: three of the five best points guards in the entire world, including the top two (no matter which way you slice them), grew up in the state of North Carolina. Let us give thanks to the point gawds, and the remaining NBA superstars who happen to call NC home.
Let’s start with the reigning league MVP, the man currently rocking the championship belt, too: Steph Curry. The Baby Faced Assassin was born in Akron, Ohio (in the same hospital as LeBron James) while has father, the sweet-shooting Dell, spent the 1987-88 season playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but then divine intervention happened.
As you know, our great state was blessed with the Charlotte Hornets franchise in 1988; in the expansion draft (Miami and Charlotte), the Hornets selected the elder Curry No. 2 overall, which meant that he and his family would relocate to the Tar Heel State.
We all know the story of how Steph rose to prominence from lightly-recruit prospect out of Charlotte Christian to Davidson to NCAA Tournament hero to lottery pick. Instead, I want to talk about what I’m thankful for, which is what this man is doing right now, which is turning the basketball court into his own playpen.
Curry — as a follow up to his MVP campaign in 2014-15 — is currently leading the league in scoring (32.4 points), win shares, efficiency rating, and true shooting percentage. Curry has led the league in 3pt attempts the last three season, and he’s going to obliterate the league record for attempts from beyond the arc this season. Steph’s averaging 11 3pt attempts per game! Um, what? Like, that hurts my head, but I HOPE HE SHOOTS MORE LETS GO. He’s on pace to launch more than 800 threes this season! Oh, also, he’s hitting a comical 47.1% of them.
Perhaps even more impressive: A ridiculous 42.1% of his made 3s come unassisted. Seriously, you guys, this has never been done before in the history of basketball, and it’s so stupidly good that it’s almost laughable. He also shoots 72% at the rim — again, this is very, very good. There’s more green on this man’s shoot chart than on the grounds of the O.co Coliseum:
By the way, he’s fun as hell to watch, and even more frustrating to defend. There’s simply nothing quite like when the Dubs are playing at home, and Steph’s out there running around chucking and their crowd is collectively losing their minds. Basketball is fun, man.
Golden State is currently 8-0, and demolishing their opponents by an average of 17.6 points per 100 possessions, which, good god.
Curry may have the world in his hands at the moment, but for the past decade, the unquestioned Point Gawd of the NBA and international basketball has been the mayor of Winston-Salem, Chris Paul.
(Just…less NC on NC crime, please, boys.)
Since Isiah Thomas hung up his Asics 20+ years ago, there hasn’t been a better pure point guard to enter the NBA than this 6-foot general.
During Paul’s now 11-year career, which is sure to end in Springfield, he’s led the league in assists four times, steals six times, and in 2007-08, at the age of only 22 CP3 lead the league in win shares.
Paul’s an eight-time all-star, and has been named All-NBA seven times, including four first-team inductions. He’s also won two Olympic gold medals while playing for Coach K and Team USA, including a masterful performances in both gold medal games against Spain.
I saw Chris play for the first time ever at the 2001 Frank Spencer Tournament, while he was a junior at West Forsyth HS; he had an afro and wore slouch socks. Paul destroyed everyone and had the LJVM buzzing. By the next year, in the same tournament, he’d won an AAU national championship, become a national story, and was the No. 1 point guard recruit in America. I remember watching one team — North Forsyth HS — actually run a stall-ball offense to specifically keep it out of CP3’s hands.
I say all of that because Paul is one of the reasons I love basketball so goddamn much. I got to play pickup against him at the YMCA and in AAU practices; I got to watch him hoop at Wake Forest. It’s truly amazing to watch him garner Olympic medals and closeout playoff games. That dude, who hails from my hometown, is a one of the five best players on Earth. Sup, Hov?
Now, to the future — two words: John Wall. Outside of Russell Westbrook — who is the word Kowabunga is human form — there isn’t a more viscerally exciting player to watch than Wall, who comes to us by way of Raleigh.
Wall — a two-time all-star — is an absolute blur with the basketball, and watching him run the break in transition is electric; by a variety of accounts, Wall is the fastest end-to-end player in the league.
But to describe Wall in only physical attributes is totally misguided, and circumvents what truly makes him one of the best players in the world. He’s a master of the pick-and-roll; he understands angles and the geometry of the halfcourt set. Wall will come flying off a high ball screen from Marcin Gortat, take a few dribbles to his right and just when your defense thinks you’ve snuffed out this play, he’ll whip a pass crosscourt to Brad Beal for an open corner three so fast it’ll make your head spin. He’s up there with LeBron, CP3, and James Harden when it comes to this category of assist.
Wall leads the league in touches per game: 97.3 — three more touches than Kyle Lowry in second place. He leads the NBA in passes per game, and ranks second in points created by assists. And this is no hyperbole: Wall is quite possibly the greatest shot blocking point guard in the history of basketball. I mean, watch this in all of its glory.
Okay, lets close this sucker out; Stat Boi’s just about out of thankfulness for the day. But I’d be remiss to not mention David West. A two-time all-star (when he played in New Orleans with CP3), West turned down a $12.6 million player option for this season with Indiana, so he could instead sign a two-year deal for $3,050,846 — the veteran’s minimum, with the second year a player option. He essentially cost himself $11 million this season to go chase a title with the Spurs. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made this choice, because my god that’s so much effin money, but it’s still badass and I hope things work out for West.
Finally, it’s not just this group of established stars that we can be thankful for; there’s a rising class of young NC hoopers we can look forward to watching: T.J. Warren — growing into a star in the desert with the Suns, and Hassan Whiteside (wait until you see the contract he signs this offseason as an unrestricted FA) coming out of nowhere to turn into a great two-way center.
So on Turkey Day this year, when you’re between your second and third helping of mashed potatoes, make sure to smile. This state rules basketball on every level. Thank Chef Curry, because without him this food wouldn’t taste so damn good.