Someday it will happen. The collective beast that is NBA fans will rear its ugly head and deem Stephen Curry no longer worthy of its unqualified praise. But which reason will we fabricate this time?
The uncynical truth is that even the worst NBA player is 100 times more athletic than you and me. Yet that doesn’t stop us from systemically tearing down every player’s mythology — the same mythology we often spend years constructing and tending to.
Name any player, and I’ll give you a dent in his legacy.
Kobe’s too selfish, an inflexible tyrant and, in Brian Phillips’ perfect words, the Analytics Antichrist.
LeBron’s an easy one. He took a shortcut to winning by escaping to Miami to play with his friends.
Chris Paul can’t win when it matters.
Kevin Durant isn’t aggressive enough and may no longer even be the best player on his team. Oh, and he’s got bad feet.
Derrick Rose’s knees.
A lot of these criticisms are unfair, and that’s exactly the point. We don’t adhere to any sense of justice when we collective decide a player is one thing or another. Very few great players escape this degree of treatment, and the ones who do — Tim Duncan, for example — do so sharing the burden of failure and ecstasy of success.a
All of it, really, is an in-the-moment attempt to prevent current stars from ever potentially eclipsing Michael Jordan. To me, that’s what it’s all about. Jordan’s the ruler by which all great players are judged, and none measure up.
(And even Jordan doesn’t really measure up. Most people just ignore his lame-ass stint with the Wizards because it complicates the image of Jordan as the GOAT.)
With that in mind, I’m interested to see what we decide is Stephen Curry’s downfall. Right now, it’s nearly impossible to find any fault with his on-court game. His ankles appear healthy, he’s arguably the greatest pure shooter the game has ever seen, and he’s a champion.b
But inevitably, something will go wrong for Curry. The Warriors are not going to skate to the next five titles. He’ll experience some adversity, and how he deals with it will go along way toward defining him and his mythology. Jordan had baseball. Kobe had Smush. We may be in the midst of experience LeBron’s such moment.
Maybe it will be an off-court issue. Maybe, like Tebow, he’ll get a little more emboldened with his role as public figure and become more forthright with his religious views. He already wears Psalms in his shoes.
Maybe his ankles will flare up again, and we’ll wonder — Damn, what would’ve happened if Curry could’ve stayed healthy.
There simply aren’t many feasible options right now, and that’s why I’m interested in seeing how his public persona will continue to be shaped. Right now, he’s untouchable with no signs of slowing down.
Which obstacles will we arbitrarily hurl in his way?