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Stars Of Other Sports Compare To Baseball's Best

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Barry Bonds stood head-and-shoulders over his competition.Kevin Rushforth, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0

By Rich Campbell

As baseball’s lockout-induced off-season lurches along, some fans fill the relative quiet by paying greater attention to other sports. Here in the Bay Area, topic Numero Uno has been Steph Curry’s pursuit and capture of the record for career three- pointers, reached in New York Wednesday night versus the Knicks.

Since this is a baseball outlet, I thought it would be fun this month to consider Curry’s achievement whilst looking at it in the context of a few baseball records and some personal favorites from other sports. The metric we’ll be considering is the distance – on a percentage basis – between the career record-holder and the player 10th on the list for that statistic. This approach allows for some comparison of the records and how far the pace-setter is from notable competition.

Let’s start with Curry’s 2,977 triples. Tenth on the NBA three-pointer list is Curry’s contemporary (and Oakland native) Damian Lillard with 2,114. Crunching the numbers, Curry has 41 per cent more threes than Lillard. Pretty darn impressive, but how does that margin stack up to some Bay Area baseball legends and their noteworthy accomplishments? Let’s start in Oakland, as that’s where Curry started his NBA career.

Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 career steals is thought to be one of the untouchable marks in sports. In 10th place for career steals sits Honus Wagner with 723. Rickey has a whopping 94 per cent more steals than Wagner.

Another career mark Henderson holds is runs scored with 2,295. In 10th place is Stan Musial with 1,949 runs. Here the margin is significantly thinner, with Henderson holding an 18 per cent advantage over Musial.

Just as Curry’s career took him from Oakland to San Francisco, let’s move across the Bay to look at two of Barry Bonds’ career marks. First up is his career home run mark at 762. In 10th place is Frank Robinson, who pounded 586 taters in his career. Bonds has a 31 per cent lead on Robinson.

How about walks? Bonds amassed 2,558 bases on balls (Rickey is second at 2,190, by the way). Frank Thomas resides in 10th place with 1,667 free passes, giving Bonds an impressive 51 per cent more than Thomas.

Switching to pitching, Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts dwarfs Greg Maddux’s 10th-place total of 3,371, with Ryan compiling 70 per cent more Ks than Maddux.

Cy Young’s 511 career wins mark will never be approached, as even winning 20 games a year for 25 years would fall short of his amazing record. In 10th place is Tim Keefe, who retired in 1893 with 342 wins, meaning Young has 49 per cent more than Keefe’s 10th place total.

Moving over the the NFL - and returning to the Bay Area theme - former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders great Jerry Rice holds the career mark for touchdowns at 208, well ahead of Jim Brown in 10th place with 126 scores. Rice scored 65 per cent more TDs than Brown did in his illustrious career.

We can wrap it up with a few NBA records, since that is Curry’s league. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career scoring leader with 38,387 points. In 10th place is another Lakers center, Shaquille O’Neal, with 28,596 points, meaning Kareem outscored Shaq by 34 per cent.

John Stockton owns a pair of NBA records associated with the point guard position: steals and assists. Stockton ended his remarkable career with 3,265 steals or 51 per cent more than Hakeem Olajuwon in 10th place. Stockton’s 15,806 assists is 76 per cent more than Gary Payton’s 10th place total.

Circling back to Curry, he is still in the midst of writing his career story. So while his 41 per cent lead in three-pointers does not yet measure up to the margins of Henderson’s steals, Bonds’ walks, Ryan’s strike outs, Young’s wins, Rice’s touchdowns or Stockton’s steals and assist marks, there is still time for Steph to pad his lead over the competition.

Rich Campbell is a marketing professor at Sonoma State University by day and A’s fan by night. He has previously been a sports business contributor at forbes.com and his academic writing has appeared in Sport Marketing Quarterly. Say “hi” to him on Twitter @RichCampbellPhD.

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