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
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.