Former Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson caught the attention of many sports commentators and fans when he made a controversial statement concerning the reigning league MVP Steph Curry. During the Christmas Special, in which the Warriors played against Cleveland, Jackson made the following statement about Curry’s impact on young NBA fans around the country:
“Steph Curry’s great. Steph Curry’s the MVP. He’s a champion. Understand what I’m saying when I say this. He’s hurting the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game. People think that he’s just a knock down shooter.”
Strong words coming from Curry’s former coach.
USA Today’s Micah Peters wrote a great piece regarding those comments as well. You can read the full article here.
Peters believed that Jackson’s comments were essentially out of bounds. He insists that Curry is not hurting the game of basketball, but rather inspiring young players to develop 3-point shooting at a young age, which is a point that I do not disagree with.
Superstar players in the NBA have talents that inspire young fans to fantasize, and develop different attributes in their game all the time. Distance shooting is just one of the many things that have become popular thanks to Curry’s amazing talents.
With that being said, Jackson has a really big point that Peters is missing.
Jackson’s comments on Steph hurting the game did not come from a place of malice or distaste for Curry’s game as a basketball player. It was a statement based on the idea that Curry is such an amazing shooter (completely in a league of his own) that his fans are greatly inspired to imitate him, which is a form of admiration, of course.
The issue is that Jackson has the brilliant mind of a basketball coach. He is distinctly aware of the idea that Steph Curry’s unbelievable skills and abilities cannot be imitated or effectively recreated by almost any of his fans at such a young age. On top of that fact, Jackson takes the stance that many young fans believe that Curry is ONLY a knock down shooter.
This is actually one of the most important parts of Jackson’s argument.
To watch Steph Curry play basketball, and only see a knock down shooter is almost as ridiculous as having a delusion of grandeur with the conviction that one can travel at the speed of light; it isn’t impossible. Still, believing such a thing usually points to a lack of scientific understanding.
Curry’s shooting is amazing by itself, but it’s not like it has never been seen before in the NBA. There are many shooters before Curry that have shot from long distance with great accuracy, but none have done so while possessing his dribbling ability, quick release, and ability to shoot off the dribble so effectively. I am not a pessimistic person, but to believe that there is a person in the world that is doing what Curry is doing and doing it just as effectively as him is probably wishful thinking.
Jackson referring to kids running to the 3-point line believing that they can shoot like Curry is not a crime, and he does not blame Curry for his unreal talent. He is simply saying that his skills as a shooter are so remarkable that kids obsess over them when they should be improving themselves in other ways that will benefit them more effectively.
Peters then wrote something that I thought was indicative of exactly what Mark Jackson was trying to prove. In his article, he wrote:
“I can think of worse things than learning to shoot 3-pointers at a young age. It’s not like they’re trying to throw alley-oops to themselves off of the backboard when they can’t shoot a mid-range jumper or trying out And 1 mixtape tricks when they can’t even dribble with their left hand.”
I hate to break it to you Peters, but that is exactly what they are doing.
When Allen Iverson was in his prime, there was no shortage of young fans who attempted to emulate his ability to blow by defenders and finish tough lay-up shots through traffic. The sheer idea of it drove coaches across the country crazy, because it was these same kids that had issues dribbling with their left hands and making UN-contested lay-ups WITHOUT traffic.
Iverson was great because he had the amazing talent and ability to convert on these tough plays; he was not great because he attempted them.
The same can be said for Curry fans who can be spotted repeatedly taking 3-point shots without the ability to shoot lay-ups and mid-range jump-shots very effectively. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fans had similar reactions when they would play isolation basketball on the wing, and take shots that would drive coaches in schools and leagues across the world absolutely crazy.
If I had to interpret Jackson’s statement fairly, it would probably read something like this.
Curry’s ability as a basketball player is so unbelievable and mind-boggling that only an experienced matured basketball mind could ever comprehend what Curry is actually putting on display on a nightly basis and understand the amount of practice it would take to master such skills. Keeping all this in mind, the odds of another person having the time, discipline, and coaching available to him to effectively emulate Curry is unlikely, to say the least. As a basketball coach, it is my opinion that young fans of Curry are better served mastering the basics of basketball and understanding that NBA players may not be proper examples when attempting to hone one’s skills. This is not to say that young fans should not shoot 3-pointers at all, but they should recognize that Curry’s ability to shoot the basketball is not what makes him a league MVP and World Champion. It is the entirety of his game, including complete mastery of the basics of basketball, that make Curry the phenom that he has become. It isn’t Curry’s fault that fans want to emulate him at all, but that doesn’t mean that his impact on those fans is completely positive. For every great player, there is a fan that will believe that they can emulate that great player without going through any of the necessary training to achieve such a level of mastery.
And quite frankly, Jackson is right on the money with this one.