The best advice I ever got from a coach was probably, "Stop shooting like Reggie Miller."
It was 10th grade and I had just been pulled up to varsity at my little prep school. And, similar to what my dad told me early in the season, since I wasn't playing much I spent quite a bit of time practicing my shot. But for some reason, I had subconsciously decided to sort of flick my wrists together after my release just like Miller did.
Maybe there was some logic to it. He was pretty good at shooting. He shut Spike Lee, Madison Square Garden and most of New York up a few times. And he was reppin' skinny dudes worldwide (a group I was once among) hard. I had his jersey, basketball cards, posters — I've never met a bigger Reggie Miller fan than I was.
But his shooting form did me no favors, for a number of reasons we don't need to get into. Nevertheless, I thought or imagined that I could shoot like Reggie — it felt like it was within the realm of possibility in that I was physically capable of executing that motion. I dropped that motion and eventually led a couple of teams to intramural championship games in college.
I keep going back to my admiration of Miller when I think of the hordes of kids, apparently nationwide now, who admire Stephen Curry. In talking to kids I work with — whose imaginations off run wild in directions I can barely comprehend — there's an acknowledgement that it's a complete waste of time to try to imitate Curry. As in, even after being provided with multiple images of what he does, kids are fairly certain that they simply cannot propel a basketball toward a circle 10 feet high from any distance in the way Curry does. And nobody in their right mind would say, Buck up, kid! With years of practice, you too can dribble around the entire opposing roster turn around and throw the ball in the basket.
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. And you too can brick free throws like Shaq.
But kids see Steph and are just like, Nah, I'll pass on that nonsense though.
That, to me, is what initially made me agree with Andy Liu's assessment of Curry's shot last night in Game 6 against the Memphis Grizzlies as, "...the Shot of the Year, eclipsing what happened in New Orleans when Stephen Curry nailed the game-tying three while getting bombarded by three Pelicans." He elaborated:
The craziest part wasn't that the ball went in. It was that Curry shot it like it was going to singe the nets upon impact. It wasn't so much a heave than a light flick of the wrist, something he admitted to practicing every single day. That's why it looked so easy, so smooth, and so Stephen Curry.
For most of us, shooting takes effort. Life forms from the planet that Curry is from are spawned with the natural instinct to put round objects through elevated rings with ease – I'd love to know the purpose of that adaptation.
The funny thing is that the shot I was left thinking about was the one late in the fourth quarter that left Hubie Brown saying that it looked like Curry was going over to the sideline to hand someone the ball.
I was watching the game at O.co and people didn't really even lose it at that point — there was just a gasp of total disbelief (which might have included a sigh of, "How did I get conned into a baseball game at the same time as Game 6?"). Like Hubie, I think this was the Is this real life? moment before the real Is this real life? moment of officially advancing to the Western Conference Finals (*pinches self*... yes, the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS are in the Western Conference Finals).
Warriors (@LetsGoWarriors) May 16, 2015
But anyway, I think Andy's comment kicked off a fun debate in the comments: as Penultimate Warrior described, the stakes weren't quite as high for last night's shot.
The one against the Pels will be forever tattoed in everybody’s mind. Warriors were down and could have lost the game. And it was heavily guarded. This one could be attributed by some as luck. Not us of course. But the former is a truly a clutch shot.
Ah, the old clutchness vs. supernatural phenomenon conundrum.
Those are all pretty amazing Curry highlights, which I might describe as The Shot, The Play, and The Absurd (the one I pointed out).
However, just one game prior to this one, Andy pointed out another huge moment from Game 5 at Oracle, which I'll just quote at length.
Curry grabbed the rebound at midcourt, shoved off Udrih, took Zach Randolph for a merry-go-ride on the left side, spun the ball between his legs, rocking into rhythm and dancing the entire while.
Then Oracle Arena caved into itself. Not because of the shot, because it was gorgeous, succinct, and everything worthy of your favorite soliloquy. But because Stephen Curry knew the moment, snatched it from everyone in the entire area and released it from his chest, screaming into the roaring abyss, waving his arms repeatedly, not so much asking for the people to cheer but for them to stand in the moment with him.
It was the loudest I've ever heard Oracle in that moment and the most emphatic and wild Stephen Curry has ever acted in the seasons I've watched and covered him.
Let's call that The Moment.
To add to what Andy said, so often with these Curry highlights — the ones addressed above and countless others — we're left shaking our heads while he just sort of nonchalantly shuffles, skips or walks away down court. That moment in Game 5 was sort of one of the very few times when he not only enjoys the moment, but also actually acknowledges just how insane that shot, that quarter, this series, this storybook season has been and takes a moment to authentically celebrate with us instead of going through all of the stilted, predictable pomp and circumstance that comes with a ceremony.
If you don't take some time to enjoy these moments as they're happening, you might as well quit watching basketball because it's not going to get a whole lot better than this.
Anyway, AJC3317 suggested we need a poll to determine which of these moments were best. I've offered some non-committal thoughts along with those of others. Below is a poll for you to vote on.