(Reuters) - Stephen Curry on Tuesday scaled heights never reached by NBA greats such as Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James when he became the first unanimous winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
A day after returning from injury to playoff action with an explosive performance for the Golden State Warriors, Curry swept all 131 first-place votes to earn the game’s highest individual honor for a second straight season.
He joined Johnson, Jordan and Steve Nash as the only guards to win the honor in consecutive campaigns, having dazzled NBA fans during the regular season with one astonishing display of shot-making after another.
Already established as one of the league’s greatest ever three-point shooters, Curry led the NBA in scoring with an average of 30.1 points and a record 402 three-point baskets as he led the Warriors to an unprecedented 73-9 mark.
The 28-year-old shot a career-high 50.4 percent from the field and achieved a free throw percentage of 90.8 while averaging 6.7 assists and a career-high 5.4 rebounds in 79 games.
Curry became just the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 30 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals in a season, following Rick Barry (1974-75), Jordan (three times) and Dwyane Wade (2008-09).
A pivotal figure for the Warriors as they clinched the NBA championship last season, Curry earned a total of 1,310 points in balloting for the 2015-16 MVP award.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (634) was second, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (631).
Curry’s 2015-16 season is by no means done as he bids to lead the Warriors to a successful defense of their NBA title.
Having played in only two of Golden State’s first eight playoff games after being sidelined by an ankle injury and then a sprained knee, the inspirational point guard returned to action with devastating effect on Monday.
After a successful warmup, he came off the bench and poured in 40 points to lift the Warriors to a 132-125 overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers and a commanding 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semi-final.
”I don’t think anyone could have predicted the explosion,“ Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Curry, who scored an NBA-record 17 points in overtime. ”That was crazy.
“The guy had played one basketball game in three weeks.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue