For the second consecutive year, Sport Illustrated's Richard Deitsch has put together a panel of media types to select who they think will be "the most fascinating sports person" of the coming year. Each participant was allowed to define "fascinating" in whatever way they liked, which meant that some people, "...not only whiffed (Jon Gruden?) but whiffed badly (Brian Wilson?)" in the words of Keith Olbermann.
More justifiably, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and controversial Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston have dominated this list for two years now, one of the more fascinating picks was ESPN's Kevin Negandhi selecting Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry:
...I'm watching this Warriors-Grizzlies game and I can't get my eyes off Steph Curry.
There's a certain refreshing aura about Curry's demeanor. He enjoys playing basketball, and it feels free. No weight hanging on his back or cloud hovering over him. He's entering his prime and it's coinciding with the timing of a special season in the Bay Area. But unlike other NBA stars, the unforgiving microscope is not focusing on him -- yet. The pressure has yet to be turned up a notch to championship/MVP expectations on a nightly basis. They will be this spring if Golden State keeps winning. I'm intrigued to see how Curry handles that kind of MVP dissection on and off the court, when big shots matter for superstars. Maybe I'm a victim of the moment with Golden State, but if Curry leads the Warriors to a deep spring run, we are certain to see something special.
This whole thing really comes down to how you define "fascinating", as evidenced by the fact that Negandhi was somehow inspired to write that during Curry's ugly 1-for-10 3-point shooting performance in Memphis.
But normally, there are certainly few players more captivating than Curry - non-basketball fans can marvel at the way he freely navigates the court, forgiving the moments when the turnovers pile up off of
careless carefree passes. Die-hard fans can probably acknowledge, or at least argue, something similar to what Sherman Alexie once said about Ray Allen: "...in this city lived a human being who was better at their thing than any human who ever lived. He lived here, he played here."
And it's really hard to get more fascinating than the best of all of civilization.
Yet as much a treasure as Curry is to watch, the reason he sort of feels out of place on that list is that the other selectees are mostly people who have managed to transcend their sport for some reason - whether as a regular candidate for the Worst Persons of the World or a real American hero - or on the cusp of doing so. In contrast, the most controversial things Curry has done in his career are publicly professing his love of the CoCo (KRISPIES only, please!) and having fragile ankles. To Negandhi's point that he hasn't been trapped under the microscope yet, it's hard to see imagine that even happening -- he's not exactly the type of guy who's going to go out and make TMZ's headlines, which we all know can really catapult an athlete into superstardom.
And that's perfectly fine: I'd be plenty fascinated by Curry's civilization-best shooting leading the Warriors to a championship (at some point).