Guard Stephen Curry, who led the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA title in 40 years and then helped the defending champions get off to a record-setting start this season, has been named The Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year.

Curry’s record-setting shooting along with his dribbling and passing skills are changing the game. He has become the face of the NBA and the Warriors have become the NBA’s must-watch team.

“The way that I play has a lot of skill but is stuff that if you go to the YMCA or rec leagues or church leagues around the country, everybody wants to shoot, everybody wants to handle the ball, make creative passes and stuff like that,” the 6-foot-3 Curry said. “You can work on that stuff. Not everybody has the vertical, or the physical gifts to be able to go out and do a windmill dunk and stuff like that. I can’t even do it.”

The 27-year-old Curry was the runaway winner of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as league MVP for the 2014-15 season after he led the Warriors to the title, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors got off to a NBA-record 24-game winning streak to start this season before losing.

After two key late hoops by Curry, the Warriors outlasted the Cavaliers 89-83 in a Christmas Day rematch of the championship series. Golden State has the best record in the NBA at 28-1.

Curry finished first in a the AP vote by U.S. editors and news directors, with the results released Saturday. He joined LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only basketball players to win the honor in the 85 years of the award.

Curry beat out golfer Jordan Spieth, who won two majors, and American Pharoah, who became the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.

American Pharoah got three more first-place votes than Curry’s 24, but Curry appeared on 86 percent of the 82 ballots that ranked the top five candidates. More than one-third of the voters left American Pharoah off their list.

“That’s a real honor,” Curry said. “I’m appreciative of that acknowledgement because it’s across all different sports. … It’s pretty cool.”

Curry has improved his scoring from 23.8 points per game last season to 30.8 this year.

“The thing I would say about Steph, what makes him who he is, is that nobody has to challenge him to get to the next level because he does it on his own,” said coach Steve Kerr, who continues to recuperate from back surgery and is aiming to return to the bench by early January. “I didn’t think he could get that much better from last year but I do think he’s gotten considerably better, which is quite a feat when you’re the reigning MVP.”