Curry Taking Shooting To New Level
By John Ventola
Golden State’s Stephen (Steph) Curry is, quite frankly, a sharp-shooter. He continues to put opponents away with cross over dribbles, and accurate shots from far away zones on the court. All the while, the baby faced “killer” chews away on his mouthpiece during stops in game action. His game is lethal to opponents, but a thing of beauty to basketball purists. Curry’s overall game showcases the best the sport has to offer.
Ever since Dr. James Naismith hung a couple of peach baskets up in a Springfield, Massachusetts gymnasium in 1891 and laid down his thirteen rules of basketball, there
have been sharpshooters. Folks with a special knack of putting the ball in the basket. Surely, the game has evolved (peach baskets had no hole in the bottom and someone had to retrieve the ball, a basketball replaced the first used soccer ball), as backboards, rims, nets, and numerous rule changes all made their appearances while the game flourished in the twentieth century. Today, the sport enjoys immense fan popularity, despite playing professional schedules that never seem to end.
Naismith created the sport and later started the University of Kansas program, but today’s version, which depends so much on speed, movement, and height, has gone through so many rule changes that the only thing that remains consistent with the doctor’s rendering is the shooting aspect. After all, the game he envisioned was about outscoring the opponent, and if you are straddled with players that cannot put the basketball in the basket, it is going to be a long game, and a longer season. Dribbling was not even in Naismith’s original version. Passing, defense, and shooting, but no dribbling.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) features many European stars in its league, while a number of Americans not quite able to make the NBA showcase their talents in Israel, Spain, and other countries. Wherever the game is played, defense and teamwork
are elements of a successful team, but make no mistake, offensive basketball is what brings fans to the arenas. And someone who can swish the nets is the main attraction.
Curry, now in his seventh professional season, is currently the game’s top shooting star. His accuracy and range are uncanny. He led the Warriors to the 2014-15 World Championship last season when Golden State waltzed through the grinding NBA playoffs to win sixteen games and only lose five. The Warriors defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to two to win the championship.
It marked the Warriors’ first championship since 1975 when high-scoring Rick Barry led the franchise. Curry was named the league’s MVP after he led the team in scoring, 23.8 ppg., while hitting 286 of 646 three-point shots (.443), and 308 of 337 free throws (.914).
Not resting on his laurels, Curry has averaged 30.8 ppg as the Warriors have won 28 of their first 29 games. A 24-game win streak to open the season fell short of the NBA record winning streak set by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971-72. He has hit an
unbelievable 134 of 301 three-point attempts (.445) this season while being “closely guarded”. His cat quick reflexes, changes of direction, and a phenomenal shooting release time, make the sport look easy for him. He facilitates teammates Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and others by hitting them with passes when they are in scoring position.
While Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Allen Iverson, and others all enjoyed considerable fame for their talents within the systems of their day, Michael Jordan led the way as far as putting the spotlight on shooting guards. Earvin Johnson scored in many different ways (the guy actually played center in a championship game once), but his guard play was more about pizzazz and showmanship than outside shooting. Kobe Bryant took the torch from Jordan, and most recently, Curry, and all around scorer Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, have put shooting accuracy by guards in the spotlight.
The success of a basketball player is not determined solely by his scoring average. There is a unique difference between being a scorer and a sharpshooter. LeBron James is an outstanding player, great at all aspects of the game, and capable of taking over any game with his scoring. However, he uses his movement, height, and
athleticism to position himself for a lot of mid-range or close in shots. Curry, on the other hand, depends on his speed, quickness, anticipation, and unbelievable shooting touch.
Curry gave an indication of his shooting accuracy when he led the NBA in free throw shooting in his second season, hitting an unbelievable 212 out of 227 attempts, for a .934 percentage. Curry led the league in three-point field goals in 2012-13, hitting 272 of 600 attempts for a .453 percentage, and then followed it up in 2013-14 by hitting 261 of 615 for an.424 average. He was better last year, and even better this season.
Last week on television, I saw the 6-ft 3-inch Curry pick up his dribble, give a head fake to get the defender in the air, shoot a three pointer from the left side of the top of the key, and immediately turn to run back up court, chewing on his plastic mouthpiece. He did not see if the ball went in—-he knew it went in. Sharpshooter, indeed![signoff}