Earlier this year in a post about Stephen Curry's best shots during the Golden State Warriors' playoff run, I wrote about the best advice a coach ever gave me: "Stop shooting like Reggie Miller."
I won't bother repeating that whole article here, but the TL;DR version is that I loved Reggie Miller so much and watched his game so closely that I started incorporating some of his shooting mechanics into my own shot.
Apparently Curry loved watching Miller too, according to a report by Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle about a new book about who top sports stars look up to — the difference, of course, was that Curry had insider access that I never had.
"...the Warriors’ point guard eventually got around to mentioning Reggie Miller.
"I loved watching him play the NBA on NBC," Curry told Lynn. "Coach (Mark) Jackson and him teaming up and playing the Bulls and playing the Knicks, I used to love that on Sunday afternoons. I just loved watching him play."
Curry met Miller in a Charlotte arena when he was 6 or 7, and he still thinks about how to be a role model for today’s youth.
This brings me to Mark Jackson's comments that Stephen Curry has "hurt the game".
Before I move forward, I think it's helpful to take the entirety of his comments into account before advancing any criticism of him or what he was trying to say — I was at Oracle Arena and didn't initially hear the whole thing, which meant I heard it in inflammatory bits and pieces. As far as I can tell — and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong — Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group is the only one to put the entire quote in print so let's start there.
As it turns out, Jackson wasn't really saying that Curry is bad for basketball as much as that young players need to understand the process that led to him achieving these results
, which is clearly to be an extraterrestrial.
"Steph Curry’s great," Jackson said. "Steph Curry’s the MVP. He’s a champion. Understand what I’m saying when I say this. To a degree, he’s hurt the game. And what I mean by that is I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he’s just a knock-down shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player."
"People are not looking at that. That didn’t filter down when we had Michael Jordan. It didn’t filter down when you saw Kobe Bryant’s incredible all-time great footwork. We don’t fall in love with the things that make ‘em great. We fall in the love with things that they do great."
Is some of the harsh reaction to these comments simply a knee-jerk reaction to Jackson and being tired of the weird comments he directs toward the Warriors? Sure. Have people focused too much on his poorly chosen phrase "he's hurt the game"? Yep. But even if we were to re-cast his statements in a less accusatory light, there's reason to disagree.
Ding Ding Ding https://t.co/Hc0oDKNEny— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) December 26, 2015
First, it's worth acknowledging that I've seen youth coaches — girls and boys — open practices with 3-point shooting drills to allow them that time to have fun in a semi-structured manner. Some do it as part of transition drills, others in more regimented ways. We can debate the efficacy of that, but the premise of his argument — that the first thing they do is run to the 3-point line is a problem — rests on contested ground.
Second, part of the reason I brought up that previous post of mine about Curry and Miller is because I actually wrote something similar to that second paragraph of Jackson's, but I made a distinction between Kobe, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and Curry based on my own conversations and work with "these kids".
Curry just ceased making sense some time ago. And it's the utter impossibility of what he does so effortlessly, so routinely that is really beginning to set him apart.
We could find dunk hoops to Be Like Mike (to the tune of a nice little corporate jingle). Kids could try to make passes like Magic, though I've often thought that the difficulty of his passes approached that of Curry's shooting. Everyone and they mama wanted to imitate Iverson's crossover. The combination of Kobe's fadeaway and ESPN highlights may have ruined youth leagues nationwide...But kids see Steph and are just like, Nah, I'll pass on that nonsense though.
Most of the time when I see kids sprinting onto a court and wildly throwing the ball toward the rim while yelling "CURRY!" they're joking around because even kids who don't know any better can acknowledge that Curry is a mostly, if not entirely, an unattainable standard. Obviously, I haven't seen the same kids Jackson is talking about or a large enough sample to definitively say this is The Truth (which is why we should generally refrain from making blanket statements about "these kids" on national television...a separate issue for another time), but I think that's an important point in nestled in there about how kids play.
And what's really wrong with kids stepping onto a basketball court just to joke around?
Youth development expert and coach Brian McCormick wrote about that earlier this year as well, referencing Curry specifically.
By "joking around", Curry expands his possibilities...Does this mean that everyone should spend their practice time joking around and throwing up whatever they want? Probably not. However, even with a skill as serious and regimented as shooting, some time for experimentation and exploration is a positive. It expands the possibilities and widens the potential skill executions of a player. The more that he can vary his technique to meet the constraints of the game, the more success he will have.
So, for example, that one time in high school when I caught a new kid practicing fadeaways and saying, "I don't need a jumper — I just work on my fadeaways."... yeah, that's silly. But some time spent on experimentation? Maybe not a problem; maybe even a good thing.
But third, Seth Partnow so thoroughly broke down the notion of things "hurting the game" that I'm going to drop his entire Twitter rant here.
The particular line of argument "hurting 'the game'" is problematic on about 17 levels.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
Not least of which is the notion that "the game" is some sort of quasi-deity which not only needs protecting...— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
...but also has these sanctified, credentialed acolytes who are the only one capable of discerning the true message of baseball.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
More than that, "hurting the game" is the worst type of yearning for an imagined past that wasn't nearly as great as depicted.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
And is an attempt to imbue "I don't like that" with a sort of moralistic, normative force which goes beyond a simple matter of taste.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
It's a mindless conservatism that's been employed by threatened members of the old guard to oppose everything from analytics to integration.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
And if there is a PERFECT avatar for all of those issues in human form, well, I give you Mark Jackson calling a game by the 28-1 Warriors.— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) December 26, 2015
And to his point about this simply being recycled conservatism and my point about kids doing this for forever, I think Brian McCormick's tweet from yesterday is also useful.
And 10 years ago, coaches complained kids only wanted to dunk & dribble (And1 Tapes) & wouldn't practice shooting. https://t.co/rq6VvcrYjV— Brian McCormick, PhD (@brianmccormick) December 26, 2015
Last, and to the point of McCormick's tweet, what I find most bizarre is that this same thing has been said for decades about the game's biggest stars and yet nobody seems to take note of the one common thread: increasing television broadcasts and the availability of sports media, which has created the sound byte society that led to this Twitter flare up and (perhaps more strangely) people getting really defensive about Jackson's statements to begin with.
Mark Jackson (circa '94): "Jordan is great. But Gatorade. Be Like Mike. Understand what I'm saying when I say this. He's hurting the game."— LOLKNBR (@LOLKNBR) December 26, 2015
I'm not going to spend time blaming ESPN for the problems in youth sports — others already have — but let's be honest: kids live in a highlight-driven society from ESPN highlights to 140 character thoughts to Vines yelling WHAT ARE THOSE! I did too, albeit to a much lesser extent with an emergent and print-driven internet (#TeamProdigy) — I LIVED for Sportscenter. And after you watch all those highlights, of course you want to imitate them.
It's part of being a kid.
That's why an elementary school friend of mine and I used to play the 5-4-3-2-1 game, where we established a scenario, picked a spot on the court, agreed on where the imaginary defenders were and ran the craziest ISO sets ever to try to win the game. That's why I smile when i see elementary school kids playing the same game that my friend and I thought we invented — everyone wants to imagine they're a hero and, for many kids, sports stars become that.
It's called imagination. And there's nothing wrong with kids living through and living out their imagination — it's why many of us, self included, enjoy sports. It's why I consider a Pizza Hut ad (seriously) one of my favorite basketball commercials of all-time, even though the kid pretty much imagined an ISO set through a
double triple team that could have come straight out of Jackson's playbook.
Most of our illustrious basketball careers will end with our imaginations. When we start to suggest that kids imagining they can shoot like Curry (or Miller), Be Like Mike, or break Mike's ankles like Iverson somehow hurts the game, we start to lose sight of the meaning that sports hold for kids and what makes childhood such a beautiful thing: that freedom to dream a little.
Curry did it. And he's not a bad guy for kids to model themselves after.
TL;DR: ""Is it time to start letting someone else do Warriors games? Fear The Sword's column:"
Mark Jackson was probably wrong about Steph but we should probably have him sit out the finals just to be sure.— FearTheSword (@FearTheSword) December 26, 2015