SHOOT TO THRILL

The Golden State War­riors’ star play­maker re­minds us that re­gard­less of the stakes, you should try to hold onto the joy of play­ing a game

Men's Health (Australia) - - Inspiration - Steph Curry Ben Jhoty is deputy edi­tor of Men’s Health.

As a hoops fan for 30 odd years I’ve of­ten found my­self on de­serted sub­ur­ban courts work­ing on my game. Be­tween throw­ing up wonky jump-shots and try­ing to tighten a sloppy han­dle, I’ve some­times paused to con­tem­plate the feats of the ab­surdly pro­por­tioned, supremely ath­letic play­ers of the NBA, and con­cluded, with some sad­ness, that they’re play­ing a dif­fer­ent game to me. Not so with Steph Curry.

Drafted no.7 in the 2009 draft, the slightly-built and ini­tially in­jury-plagued point guard was un­der­es­ti­mated from the start. His boy­ish fea­tures didn’t help. Fans like my­self were in­clined to dis­miss him be­cause he was too much like us. Later, when his ca­reer took off, his rel­a­tive or­di­nar­i­ness in­spired us.

The fa­mous 1990s Ga­torade com­mer­cial en­cour­aged fans to ‘be like Mike’. It was as­pi­ra­tional, though patently im­pos­si­ble – no one be­fore or since has ap­proached Jor­dan’s stand­ing on the court. But with all his flaws and a game that doesn’t rely on freak­ish ath­leti­cism, well, we can kid our­selves that we can be like Curry.

In do­ing so we yet again un­der­es­ti­mate and di­min­ish his ac­com­plish­ments. At the mid­point of his ca­reer, the War­riors star is al­ready re­garded as the great­est shooter in his­tory. But where most of the game’s great marks­men have re­lied on be­ing fed the ball in their pre­ferred spots, Curry drib­bles around de­fend­ers like a lat­ter-day Glo­be­trot­ter. In do­ing so he can cre­ate his own shot and - here’s where he truly stands alone - knock it down from any­where in­side the half court. This near-cos­mic range has pro­duced a unique form of of­fen­sive alchemy that’s pow­ered the War­riors to two ti­tles in three years and fun­da­men­tally changed the way the game is played.

If this was all Curry was, it would be enough for me but where Jor­dan and Kobe sought to hu­mil­i­ate op­po­nents, Curry’s game is pow­ered, in his own words, by a sense of “joy” – oc­ca­sion­ally to his detri­ment. In the clos­ing mo­ments of game 7 of the 2016 fi­nals he at­tempted a be­hind-the-back pass that went astray. He was widely panned for it but the thing with Curry is that he re­fuses to let the stage or the stakes change the way he plays.

It’s an at­ti­tude that res­onates on and off the court. If you don’t shoot you don’t score. And if you treat sport as more than a game, you don’t per­mit your­self to ex­pe­ri­ence the joy it can bring.

Shoot­ing star: Curry launches threes from outer space.

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