Recently, near the beginning of training camp, Stephen Curry sat down and addressed the media while sitting court-side in the Warriors’ practice facility. A reporter asked him a seemingly innocuous question, and Steph’s answer got me thinking.
Question: “How would compare the motivation, coming off of, you know, a year ago where people were detractors, saying you guys were lucky, or it was kind of a fluke run. And then this year, you’re actually coming off a year where you didn’t accomplish your goals. Was the motivation different this summer?”
Answer: [Steph grits his teeth, looks around] “Yeah, this is more ... real for us because we felt, you know, what we felt after Game 7 and all summer. We experienced that, it wasn’t something that was coming at us. So that’s—it’s better when you’re motivated from how you feel and what experiences you’ve had, versus how other people see your team and your journey and whatnot. So that’s, this is more real for us. Coming off a loss.”
You can watch his whole response right here:
Beyond his candid demeanor and refreshingly honest assessment of his own game and of his team’s position, Curry’s answer struck me in a number of ways.
For one, he’s right. Experience is the greatest professor of them all. You can’t teach disappointment, just as you can’t teach glory and pure joy. You can tell your kid not to run around, tell them that they’re gonna trip and fall and get hurt, but there’s no way they’re gonna listen to you until they’ve run headlong into the corner of a door and gotten a black eye. This analogy is also true for coming of age, figuring out how not to die as an adult, and making (relatively) sound decisions. [My mother sagely nods her head, reminiscing about my life between age 19 to 22...okay, let’s say 27].
The Warriors are no fluke. They are not some flash in the pan team, only destined to make it to a single Finals and eventually disband (taking a hard look at you, OKC Thunder. Lol at that Harden trade, you bunch of dumby dumb dumbs). The Warriors’ style of play—the freedom with which they approach floor spacing, outside shooting, and ball movement—has revolutionized the game. Long gone are the days of iso ball, action solely dominated by a big man in the post, and Kobe-stan-level arrogant solo heroics.
The Warriors have proven that chemistry, teamwork, and flow are the most important elements of play in this new NBA.
And yet, yes...
Man, I hate even typing these words.
Maybe I’ll go find some stupid gif or something instead so I don’t have to type the words.
Hold up, I’ll be right back.
Oh, this will do nicely.
Golf course critters have a reminder for Steph Curry
No matter where Stephen Curry looks, the 2016 NBA Finals still haunt him.Posted by SB Nation on Thursday, September 1, 2016
Yeah, so that happened. And, no, I don’t want to talk about it. But I do have to talk about it.
The Warriors’ sense of pride took a serious f’ing beating last summer. Yes, they went 73-9. Yes, Curry got injured in the playoffs. Yes, he returned and somehow lead them back from their own 3-1 hole in the Western Conference Finals against Durant’s OKC team. And, then, yes, they blew a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the first team in history to do so in the NBA finals.
Damn it all.
But, we know how the story goes. The team immediately rebounded by signing the most important free agent acquisition in team history. In the process they jettisoned Harrison Barnes (Ivan was happy) and Andrew Bogut (Ivan was sad). They’ve been through the fire. They have faced and continue to face a barrage of criticism from every imaginable corner.
I mean, come on. This isn’t even fair.
Lol, okay, I did laugh at that a little bit. But this whole “Warriors blew a ...” wait, no no no, I promised I wouldn’t and I won’t. The whole meme has taken on a life of its own. If aliens were to check in on our internetting habits right now, they’d figure it was a good time to attack because apparently our best fighters are currently crippled by insecurity and self doubt due to some ignominious defeat in the Finals (whatever those are). Aliens, if you are reading this, please do not attack us. I’m having too much fun down here and I’m not ready to be conscripted onto some hellish post-world battlefield. Noooooo thank you. Anyways, like I was saying, it’s the meme that won’t die.
But, getting back to my initial point: Beyond an annoying meme and a torrent of backlash following the Durant signing, Curry addressed something in his response that I found very true.
“It’s better when you’re motivated from how you feel and what experiences you’ve had, versus how other people see your team and your journey and whatnot. So that’s, this is more real for us. Coming off a loss.”
Experience vs. perception is a long running battle that each and every human being has encountered. People perceive you to be one thing, but your own experiences often paint a vastly different internal landscape. For example, y’all perceive me as a witty, talented sportswriter with untold riches and a wily sense of humor, but in reality I’ve been crushed by the unexpected onslaught of the end of my twenties, and have only very recently begun to make any sort of sane, rational decisions in regards to my health, well being, and financial longevity.
See how that works?
Perception and reality are almost always completely different animals. In the case of the Warriors, they began as a total underdog. They were the laughingstock of the league. [[Note: Longtime fans are still reeling in the surreality of the fact that the Warriors are good, and will continue to be good for some time. A championship? We’re talking about a championship?! (I’m saying this currently to myself in the Iverson voice) Yes, a championship.]] But, initially, the perception of the Warriors was that they were garbage (and they were). Then, Curry came along, and the perception was of a fun team with too many short guards. Then Monta got traded, Lacob got booed, and the perception was of a team that could potentially be good, but most definitely never would be. Then the team beat the Nuggets in the playoffs, and the perception was of an exciting, upwardsly-mobile franchise with no hope of a ring. Then, Mark Jackson got fired and Steve Kerr came in and —whoaaaaaaaaa what just happened?! They went on a tear, Kerr’s new offense ripped apart the league’s defenses, and the Warriors won a championship against a depleted Cavaliers squad. The perception outside of the Bay Area was then that they were either, a.) extremely lucky, or, b.) a fluke.
But the reality of the situation was that, at each and every moment in their journey, the team was something much deeper than any of our perceived notions. As Curry said, they’ve taken control of their own narrative. You can see the resolve in his eyes. No one outside that locker room knows the true nature of this Warriors team. How could we? We aren’t living and breathing their reality. Sure, we all felt pretty shitty after Game 7, but we definitely didn’t feel as shitty as any of the dudes who actually played or coached in that game. It’s not our journey to own, it’s theirs. It’s not our life to live, it’s theirs.
How our perception of this team—not just this specific team but their legacy within the fabric of the history of the NBA—gets framed this season will be interesting to observe. Will they continue to be the NBA’s villains? Also, how can Steph and Durant be villainous? They’re so darn polite (most of the time). What will be the narrative at season’s end? Will they win a ring? Will they blow another lead? Will people jump down their throats every time something bad happens on court?
Either way, I get the feeling that Steph and the rest of the team doesn’t care. Not even a little bit. They’re making their own narrative within the safe confines of that locker room. For us, all we can do is sit back, crack a drink, and watch the fireworks.