As Stephen Curry made his 90th straight 3-pointer after a recent practice in Chicago, he turned to assistant coach Bruce Fraser and delivered a premonition: He was going to get to 100.
“He knew he was going to get to 100,” Frasier said Saturday, a week after he witnessed Curry make 105 straight 3-pointers in a practice, breaking his previous record of 77.
“Which is crazy, because some people might look at that and say, ‘Oh no, I’m almost at 100, I hope I don’t blow it.’ Instead, Steph said, ‘I’m at 90, I’m going to get to 100.’”
This is an example of Curry’s supreme confidence shooting a basketball, and the mental fortitude it takes to power through regression to the mean and set records. Another example: Curry has made a franchise-record 76 foul shots in a row, a streak that dates back 21 months.
But why stop there? The NBA record for consecutive free throws made is 97, set by former Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Michael Williams (1993-94). Curry, the NBA’s all-time leader with a free-throw percentage of 90.7, has a rightful claim to that record. Entering Sunday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he’s just 21 makes away.
“If I was him, I would care about it,” Fraser said. “But if you start to care about it, you’re probably going to start thinking about it. You don’t want to be thinking about that. It’s one of those catch-22s, where the more you talk about it, the more chances you have to disrupt it.”
Curry’s steadiness at the line starts with his routine. He stands centered with the basket, his mouthguard sticking out vertically from the left side of his mouth. Then, he takes a deep breath, bounces the ball once with his right hand and, at that point, the muscle memory established by countless repetitions takes over.
It’s with that breath that he blocks out everything else that’s happened to that point in the game. For elite shooters such as Curry, the free-throw line provides some respite from the score, the previous foul and the trials of a rebuilding season.
“That’s habitual. That sort of centers you every time you get to that space,” Fraser said. “It’s the place that you can establish a real routine.”
Curry’s last missed foul shot in a regular-season game occurred in a win against Memphis on March 27, 2019, when he clanged the first of two attempts off the back of the rim at the end of the first quarter. He went on to make his next seven free-throw attempts in the game and finished the 2018-19 season by draining his final 26 tries.
Since then, Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn, Klay Thompson suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries and Curry himself missed most of the 2019-20 season recovering from a broken hand. Meanwhile, he hit all 26 of his free-throw attempts in 2019-20 and all 30 tries this season.
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His sixth free throw in a Dec. 27 win in Chicago gave Curry the franchise record, surpassing Rick Barry’s previous mark of 60 consecutive free throws (1976) and blowing by his personal best of 54 straight makes (April 12 to Oct. 29, 2017).
As he approaches the NBA record, Curry will field more and more questions from reporters, pressure will mount, and the slightest thought of the record while at the foul line could prompt him to miss and end his run.
“I try not to think about the streak,” Curry said. “But now I’m getting reminded about it after every game, so it’s kind of hard.”
But the notion of a record didn’t shake Curry after making 90 straight 3-pointers after that practice in Chicago, or when he got to 100. When he finally missed his 106th straight try, it wasn’t because of any distractions, according to Fraser, but more likely due to fatigue or a subtle hitch in his shot.
“You’re not dealing with a robot,” Fraser said. “That’s part of the excitement. He’s not going to miss one because he’s nervous about the record, he’s going to miss one because it’s human error.”
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