Is Steph Curry hurting or helping?
The Golden State Warriors superstar has quickly become known for his surreal three-point shooting and his wizardry at the point.
Earning last season’s NBA title – beating LeBron James for said world championship – hasn’t hurt his case, either.
Back in the day, everyone longed to be “like Mike.” We also remember the celebrated Kobe Bryant era that is, profoundly, coming to a close this year. When I was in middle school, if you didn’t have that first pair of Kobes, you weren’t allowed to be a Lakers fan. They kicked you out of the club.
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Today, a new NBA role model has emerged in Curry. Everyone wants to be like him. At least they want to shoot like him, so much so that his former coach Mark Jackson said his greatness just might be “hurting” the game for young basketball players.
Disagree, I do.
As a high school sports reporter, I have seen the volume of three-point shots coincidentally rise over the last couple of years. I say, if you can shoot the 3, then hey, shoot the 3. Kids dedicate countless hours working on that long-ball form.
Some even model Curry in their workouts.
Can’t be like Mike? Chef like Steph?
Jordan Whitfield, a junior point guard at Millbrook High School, acknowledged he may not have the athletic ability of an NBA player.
But he said Curry changed his whole perspective.
“Stephen Curry, I can relate myself to him,” said Whitfield, who is shooting a team-best 47 percent from three-point range (35-of-75). “Shooting is a lost art in the game. I think you have to be able to shoot to get to the next level and definitely have to be able to score on the next level to be effective.”
Whitfield, though, doesn’t just “run up” to the arc. He practices. And he practices hard.
The 6-foot-1 guard has borrowed some of Curry’s ball-handling training, most notably the two-ball drill. Whitfield also said he changed his shot. Sure, it was to be like Curry, but he also found when he shoots above his head with a quick release – as opposed to shooting it from his hip like he used to – he’s more effective for his team.
“He’s been a great role (model) in my workout,” Whitfield said.
Speaking with Whitfield strengthened my belief that Curry is a great one for today’s players to emulate.
It happens like crazy, since I started this 20 years ago. It used to be Michael Jordan or Kobe. Everybody wanted to have the Michael Jordan or Kobe fade. Now, you know, things have changed. You’ve got a guy like Steph Curry, who’s shorter. More guys are involved in their ball-handling and their shooting.
Millbrook boys’ basketball coach Scott McInnes
In a way, I think they longed for someone like a Steph Curry. If you take a look back at some of his pre-draft reports, you’d find scouts noted he wasn’t a true point guard, his athleticism was average and he relied too heavily on the outside shot.
Curry is probably stronger than most human beings, but he doesn’t have a crazy, intimidating frame of a Michael Jordan, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, just to name a few. He’s not 6-7 or 6-8, he’s 6-3.
My brother, who still lives in Oakland, Calif., where I was born, ran into Curry on the BART a few months ago. They took a photo together, and Curry couldn’t have been more than a couple inches taller than my sub-6-foot brother.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be above average in height, a lot of your high school basketball players aren’t 6-7 or even 6-4.
They’re dang sure not going to have the build of an M.J.
“I’ve met Michael Jordan,” Millbrook boys’ basketball coach Scott McInnes said. “You shake his hand, I mean, there’s not many people who are as gifted athletically. He’s got huge hands and his presence is impressive.
“Some (high school players) have the same build (as Curry). That lets them think, ‘Hey, if I really work on my shooting and ball-handling, I could be the next Steph Curry.’ I think it’s really opened the door. As far as M.J., you know, he’s just M.J., one of the best athletes in the world. I think with Curry, everybody sees it as a chance to be the next Steph Curry – but he’s one in a couple million.”
But can they dream?
If a young basketball player, like a just-starting-AAU player, wants to be like Steph Curry, then so be it. Are you going to run around telling 8-year-olds they can’t be like Steph Curry? Can you really kill their dreams that early on?
We all know. Whitfield, his teammates and probably any other high school basketball player who chucks up the rock in hopes of emulating one of the greatest shooters ever all know: There is only one Steph Curry.
But what’s wrong with dreaming big? Sure, you won’t be the next Steph, but maybe you can work as hard as he does and make your high school basketball team.
You won’t be the next Steph, but maybe you can go to college on a scholarship; maybe you can become a basketball coach, or maybe you can call games on the radio.
You’ll never know until you try.
And many high school players dedicated to basketball understand the need for balance.
Heritage High School junior point guard Colton Reed made six consecutive 3-pointers in a win against Millbrook this season. He says he models his game after Curry, but he doesn’t focus solely on shooting.
“I watch a lot of Steph Curry,” Reed said. “I look up to him as a role model. I just love to shoot the ball, and I feel like he’s brought it back and it’s much more important. I think there should also be balance between the inside game, the post game and the outside. I don’t think it should all totally shift to (the outside).”
The Golden child Steph Curry hurting basketball? I think not.
Offering perspective to the evolution of this big, beautiful game?
That’s more like it.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan