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Steph Curry's Off-The-Charts Shooting Game Breaks 'NBA 2K'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Golden State Warriors are trying to break the NBA record for wins in a single season. Meanwhile, the Warrior's star, Stephen Curry, is pretty much breaking the NBA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Curry way downtown - bang, oh, what a shot from Curry with six-tenths of a second remaining.

(CHEERING)

SHAPIRO: That's Curry making a game-winning three-pointer against Oklahoma City on Saturday, and he took that shot 38 feet away from the net. John Fontanella is a retired physics professor from the Naval Academy, and he wrote the book "The Physics Of Basketball." Welcome to the show.

JOHN FONTANELLA: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That single shot we just heard is pretty remarkable on its own. But Curry has been making these kinds of shots all the time. How extraordinary is this?

FONTANELLA: Oh, he's really amazing - friend of mine says that's revolutionary. I really think it's probably more evolutionary, but he's a very impressive young man.

SHAPIRO: Why do you see him as an evolutionary figure rather than a revolutionary one?

FONTANELLA: Because there's nothing really new that he's doing. It's that he's doing it better. What he does has its origins back in the '50s with something called the set shot. The classic jumpshot - the ball is released from the top of your head. Well, he's just eliminated that step. The real starting point is at the chest, and it just goes there, straight from the chest to the basket.

SHAPIRO: And that lets him make the shot a lot faster than other players used to.

FONTANELLA: Exactly. He is much, much - he's the quickest release that I've ever seen.

SHAPIRO: Steph Curry is so good that he's created havoc for the makers of some video games. Mike Wang is gameplay director of "NBA 2K." It's a game that prides itself on being realistic.

MIKE WANG: You know, in real life, you've got to take good shots. You've got to take high-quality shots. You got to be open. You know, with Steph, he's, like - he could throw those things out the window and go off the dribble, (unintelligible) for 10 seconds, shoot in double teams with two guys draped all over him and still hit the shot. So that's something that we need to go back to the drawing board and see if we can get that back into our game.

SHAPIRO: Well, yeah. I was going to ask what does this mean for you now that he's rewriting the rulebooks in real life.

WANG: Well, it's going to spend some time. It's - he's - kept throwing a wrench into the system. You know, we had a lot of rules and things in our game that kind of make it so that we balance the game out.

SHAPIRO: If you change the virtual Steph Curry to be more like the real Steph Curry, isn't everybody playing your game just going to want to be the Warriors?

WANG: You know, it's not a bad choice, though (laughter), you know? Everyone wants to be the Warriors already. And why would you not want to be the best? I mean, they're, you know, on pace to be the most winningest team in the league history. I think it's going to happen regardless.

SHAPIRO: You have, obviously, a professional stake in this. This is your job. But I assume you also have a personal interest in basketball. What was it like for you watching that shot on Saturday?

WANG: Oh, it was amazing. I was sitting at home with my wife. And you know, I was - I think it was at one point when they were down toward the end, we were both like, you know, it's not over yet. You know, it's awesome watching the Warriors. You never know what you're going to get, especially from Steph. He can shoot from anywhere. He can shoot the shots that no one expects to go in, and he hits them with - on a regular basis, and that's just exciting for the league and exciting for us as fans.

SHAPIRO: That was Mike Wang, gameplay director of NBA 2K. We also heard from John Fontanella, author of "The Physics of Basketball." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.