NBA All Star Game will feature Stephen Curry

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The returns for fan voting in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game were just released.

The All-Star Game, half stupid pageantry and another quarter bore-fest, is nonetheless a rite of passage for NBA players clawing their way toward superstardom. This year a lot of the obvious choices made it, guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard.  All great players, but at this point they must look at the All Star game as a nuisance, some perfunctory holiday before the real work picks up again. These guys have no more starts in their eyes, and we the fans expect them there and feel no special something when we see them arbitrarily battle fellow super-men that happen to play for franchises on the other side of the Mississippi River.

But this year there was a new name that rang out, and it was a special one.

Stephen Curry (Wikipedia)
Stephen Curry (Wikipedia)

Stephen Curry.

I reject the notion of the “everyman” existing in the NBA. Journeymen, specialists, glue guys of no particular skill set, yes. The mythical Average Joe who battled his way onto a roster?  No. Even the worst NBA players can do most hardwood related things way better than you. We worship at the altar of Gods and Giants. These guys make impossible things look pedestrian with irritating ease. Stephen Curry is not an everyman-but if we squint-he almost could be. He’s certainly not a scrub. There here have been twin forces at work keeping Curry imprisoned on the margins of his own potential; Monta Ellis and an ankle made of glass.

With an exciting playoff run and a visually invigorating-almost throwback-style of play, Curry is smashing expectations with his comparatively tiny fists, one amazing long jumper at a time.

When Stephen Curry declared for the 2009 NBA Draft, you could almost hear the nation swallowing a yawn. Most of us looked at Curry with mild disinterest to something bordering on disdain. We had seen his type before. He was an undersized shooter, one of the most useless and zero-sum positions in the league. The world is not kind to players of that ilk that don’t pan out. In fact, it is noticeably cruel to gunners who happen to be a few inches shorter than they ought to be.

However, there were a select few who noticed Curry’s talents, including Bob Knight, who said Curry was “the best passer in college basketball”, which is no small compliment from a man who throws chairs at his players. But it was the world-weary maestro of “small-ball”, Don Nelson, who found the man he would make his sad boozy final stand with.

After Golden State selected him with the 7th pick, Curry reported to training camp and was immediately shoved into the cauldron of the Late Cohan Era (a historical analogue might be the War of the Roses in High Medieval England) Warriors. Monta wasted no time in hurling Curry under the nearest bus. They were too similar, too small, there was no way they could play together and win. No way. Monta may have been literally correct, but much of that was self-fulfilling prophecy. The clash between the two small guards seemed inevitable, considering their backgrounds.

Curry’s father played in the NBA for over a decade. Stephen grew up steeped in the game’s mythology and surrounded by its titans. To some, the take no prisoner bootstrap narrative of Monta Ellis was more relatable than the heroic and entitled rich boy out of Davidson. Monta was a legitimate Horatio Alger story that came to wreak nightly havoc on our expectations. Curry was quiet and boring and had the soft face and gangly arms of an 8th grader who wore headgear to bed.

Some of us waited to shout out our schadenfreude to the world when Curry inevitably crashed and burned. The first month of his rookie season delivered. His shot (his sole reason for being in the NBA at that point) abandoned him, he was a tentative mess on both sides of the ball, and his fellow rookie guards like Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans were running away with Rookie of the Year prognostications. Curry was a mess and possibly a bust.

But then something strange happened. We kind of realized all at once that Curry was really, really good at playing basketball.

The first time I watched Stephen Curry and knew for a mortal truth that he was a special player was a game Don Nelson sat out. The Warriors, with seven healthy bodies, skulked into Dallas and handed the mighty Mavericks a stunning defeat. The proverbial dagger was a Curry floater over Dirk in the closing minutes. It was like the Warriors had to remind the much superior Mavericks one last time of their most stunning humiliation, this time with the great soft-spoken hope at the helm. Curry never looked back.

Stephen Curry makes his first All-Star Game. About time. (Publicity photo)
Stephen Curry makes his first All-Star Game. About time. (Publicity photo)

We watch and love the game, but from such a mighty distance. There are some basketball players that are forever out of reach, even in our wildest reveries. Kobe’s meticulous quiet fury or the freakish evolutionary template of LeBron James are avatars we could never hope to emulate, not in a thousand years. We can’t even imagine initiating the smoking fuselage of a Russell Westbrook drive or becoming the soaring amalgamation of Hercules and a B-52 that is Dwight Howard. These things are impossibilities, abstractions within fever dreams.

But we could almost imagine becoming Stephen Curry. All we need is enough practice and pluck and prayers to the God Of The Ol’ College Try. His intangibles are his smarts, his cunning, and his viper smooth shooting stroke. Curry borders on scrawny, gets winded by the end of every game, and emits palpable frustration when he messes something up. He is as heart-on-his-sleeve as the rest of us, but it doesn’t seem cloying and annoying. When he triumphs, I feel like we’re all the better for it.

This won’t be his last All-Star game. One day it’ll become boring to see Steph Curry once again lighting it up in this glorified scrimmage. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it. One of us (but not really!) broke through the gates, and we’re all invited to watch him unleash hell on the Old Guard.