Sports

70 Reasons To Love The Warriors


The Golden State Warriors Are Basketball's Beautiful Death

1. THE WARRIORS’ AVERAGE OF 13.1 MADE 3s PER GAME IS THE HIGHEST IN NBA HISTORY.

2. THE STREAKS.

From April 9 to Dec. 12 of last year, the Dubs won 28 straight, the longest streak in 44 years. And their 54-game home winning streak, which was snapped by the Celtics on April 1, is the longest in NBA history.

3. THE MVP CHANNELS HIS INNER SUN TZU.

“Basketball isn’t just a sport. It is an art, one that must be mastered to succeed.” — Steph Curry

4. DESPITE HIS ADDICTION, CURRY FIGHTS ON.

 

Let’s just come right out and say it: The best player in the world suffers from a previously unreported and crippling addiction. To popcorn. The ball boys in opposing arenas know to fill his locker with a stash of it. In New Orleans back in October, he received a massive satchel of the stuff before going out and scoring 53 points. Inspiration? Probably not, as a man who once lost minutes to Acie Law needs no extra motivation. After the 53-point explosion, Curry was informed that coach Keith Smart, who’d benched Curry for Law in the dark days of 2011, had offered congratulations. “Tell him I could feel Acie Law breathing down my neck,” Steph quipped.

5. CURRY IS LAPPING THE LEGENDS.

Steph is on pace to make 40 more 3s over this season and last (683) than Larry Bird did in his 13-year career (649). Curry has already hit more in that span than MJ did (581) in his 15 years.

6-8. SARCASM, BURGERS AND BREAKING BAD. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?!

Gruff and sardonic, Andrew Bogut isn’t a fan of political correctness and traffics in an especially off-color brand of humor. Once, Festus Ezeli, who’s Nigerian and Christian, couldn’t find his shoes. “Oh s—, bro,” Bogut said. “Boko Haram took all your s—!” Ezeli laughed at the wrongness of it all.

Once, to bring out the fire in Draymond Green, Leandro Barbosa lied about having eaten a burger from a local San Francisco spot that Green had recommended. Barbosa insisted that a burger joint closer to his house was far better. This enraged Green, who could see Barbosa was lying. “Now you back,” Barbosa told him. “That’s the Draymond I want to see! That’s the guy I want to see!”

Nicknamed the Black Falcon, Harrison Barnes is something of a millennial cliche. He professes a love of alt comedy and Game of Thrones and once wrote reviews of Breaking Bad.

9. IGGY IS A FUNNY DUDE.

 

Andre Iguodala thinks deeply about race, but he also revels in its awkward, comedic value. “It’s fun for me,” he says. Case in point: Last season in Dallas, Shaun Livingston was playing defense on Dirk Nowitzki when his hand connected with Nowitzki’s crotch; the crowd hurled boos in Livingston’s direction until the final buzzer. After the game, a media scrum had Livingston cornered as he frantically threw up his hands, trying to explain himself. Iguodala walked by and shouted into the scrum, “Look how they got the black man over there! You see? You see?!”

10. STEPH LEADS THE LEAGUE IN THE PASS BEFORE THE PASS.

One more stat Curry dominates: He tops the NBA in “hockey assists” per game (2.5), defined as passes that lead to an assist. Last season he ranked a more mortal second, at 1.8.

11. REALLY, NOW, STEPH’S STATS ARE JUST PATENTLY ABSURD.

Curry’s PER of 31.3 would be the best for a guard since Michael Jordan’s 1990-1991 season. Oh, just a quarter-century ago. And MJ in the Bulls’ 72-win season? He posted a 29.4 PER, a sizable gap from Curry’s current rate.

12. THE EVERYMAN HAS HURDLED THE DUNKMAN.

 

With $160 million in projected sales, Curry should surpass LeBron as the top seller of signature shoes this year, according to Morgan Stanley. In fact, he’s on pace to sell more than Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kobe Bryant combined.

13. IN TIMES OF EPIC DISAPPOINTMENT, THEY’RE STILL COOLER THAN YOU.

“I bet you thought we were going to be sad, huh?” — Draymond Green, after the Warriors’ Dec. 12 loss to Milwaukee that snapped the team’s 28-game regular-season winning streak.

14. CURRY HAS NAILED MORE 3s THAN ALL OF THE BUCKS COMBINED IN 2016. OR BETTER YET, SINCE THANKSGIVING.

15. THEY HAVE THE GREATEST NICKNAMES.

Luke Walton’s, for example, is “Little Wheats.” When asked why, Walton simply chuckles and says, “I don’t know.”

16. IF SUCH A THING AS “CLUTCH” ACTUALLY EXISTS, THEN STEPH CURRY IS THAT.

Curry is scoring 50.4 points per 48 minutes in fourth quarters this season, the highest rate since the league started tracking that stat in 1996. Behind him? Kobe Bryant in ’05-06 at 48.9, Kyrie Irving in ’12-13 at 46.1 and LeBron James in ’09-10 at 45.7.

17. THEY KNOW WHAT’S TRULY IMPORTANT IN LIFE.

Starters Barnes and Bogut have a pregame tradition: a long, relaxing trip to the john. The ritual voyage frequently makes the duo late to — or absent from — the pregame intros and national anthem. Go ahead, look for them! They’re not there!

18. YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW NIKE LOST STEPH.

Ever wonder how the most electric player in a generation slipped through the grasp of the most powerful sports apparel company in the world, and how Under Armour managed to pull off the marketing heist of the century? It included the worst endorsement pitch ever — Steph was called “Steph-ON” and Kevin Durant’s name was on the PowerPoint presentation — an undrafted inside man, a mountain of shoes and one highly influential toddler.

19. EVEN STEPH’S PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE GAME IS STRONG.

“I apologize for us being healthy, I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry, and we’ll rectify that situation this year.” — Steph Curry

20. THIS YEAR’S STEPH? SOOO WAY BETTER THAN MVP STEPH.

Curry is not only the MVP; he also might be the MIP: Curry has improved his player efficiency rating and scoring average by more than any reigning MVP in NBA history. In 1984-85, Larry Bird increased his scoring average by 4.5 points and his PER by 2.3 points, the highest increases at the time for a reigning MVP. Curry’s improvements: 6.1 and 3.3, respectively.

Steph’s stat line this year? Oh, just a ho-hum 29.9 points per game, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Luiz Maximiano

21-23. THE DUBS’ PLAYING STYLE IS LESS LINEUP OF DEATH, MORE PINEAPPLE CAKE.

Shaun Livingston, nicknamed Dot, short for Sdot, exudes wisdom and calm. When asked to provide the best analogy for his playing style, Livingston — a point guard who plays like a big man — calls it a “pineapple upside-down cake” because, he says, “It’s inverted.”

Nicknamed Swagzeli for his, uh, active social life, Festus Ezeli brims with confidence and bold fashion sense. Ezeli, who seems to have a Gronk-level affection for shirtlessness, once ended a pregame interview by saying, “Should I poop with my shirt on or off?” After a moment or two in which he received no answer, he responded, “Shirt off. Always shirt off.”

Ian Clark’s nickname is his real first name, just mispronounced as Yan. Why? Because Pacers center Ian Mahinmi’s first name is pronounced that way. Why did the Warriors decide to adopt that for Clark? Honestly, nobody on the team actually remembers.

24. THE WARRIORS DISCOVERED A CHEAT CODE TO BASKETBALL IN THE 2015 NBA FINALS.

 

Tied 1-1 in the 2015 NBA Finals, Steph Curry and the Warriors not only solved the riddle of the Cavaliers’ swarming defense, they ended one of the most enduring myths in basketball: that a team with no conventional big man, and one that uses the jump shot as its most lethal weapon, can’t win an NBA title.

25. THEY AWESOMELY OWNED DOC RIVERS’ BS.

In October, Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Zach Lowe: “You need luck in the West. Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs.” The Dubs responded with shade so vicious it could be called performance art.

“If they’re saying that, they aren’t the champs. It’s simple. Gregg Popovich didn’t say that. That’s one organization I really respect. And you haven’t heard anybody in their camp say that.” — Draymond Green

“I’ve actually got my [championship] ring fitted for my middle finger, so they can kiss that one.” — Andrew Bogut

“I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.” — Klay Thompson

26. THEY DEFEND THE HOMELAND.

 

The Warriors win 89 percent of all games, so they’re pretty darn good everywhere. But the secret of their home-court success is their home-court defense, which allows a ridiculous 5.3 fewer points at Oracle than away.

27. STEPH IS EVEN THE BEST AT PRACTICE.

Neurologists say that Steph’s historic shooting owes itself to his … intensive ballhandling practice? That’s right. By training his mind to process faster, Curry frees up brain space for locating the rim. Dan Chao, CEO of neuroscience firm Halo, says, “When some things become so innate, it opens up your cognitive ability to appreciate different aspects of the game.”

28. EVEN THE PRESIDENT JUST WANTS TO HANG WITH RILEY.

“I was hoping that Riley Curry would be here today to share the podium with me.” — President Barack Obama, addressing the Warriors during their February visit to the White House.

29. THE WARRIORS’ LINEUP OF DEATH LEADS ALL NBA LINEUPS IN ASSISTS PER 48 MINUTES AT A SICK 34.

30. LUKE WALTON IS LITERALLY THE BEST COACH EVER.

“Good job. Thanks for giving me another one.” — Steve Kerr, to interim coach Walton after a January win. The NBA credited Kerr with Walton’s 39-4 record.

31. THEY PLAY A DIFFERENT BRAND OF BALL ON THE PLANE.

According to SI, on a charter flight earlier in the year, rookie Kevon Looney fell asleep with his mouth open. Green, seizing the opportunity, swatted a fly into it. Looney doubts the veracity of this tale.

32. KLAY IS A BORE, BUT HE LOVES (SOME) EGGS.

 

Thompson is legendary among his Warriors teammates for his monofocus, caring passionately — perhaps obsessively — about only basketball, Xbox and his dog, Rocco. Food sometimes cracks that list. He is particularly fond of a specific omelet at the team hotel in Memphis. As Thompson exited FedExForum after a practice earlier this season, a Warriors assistant cracked, “Every step of the way, Klay is thinking, omelet, omelet, omelet.”

33. DELL STILL HOLDS SOMETHING OVER HIS SON.

The Dubs’ 3-point percentage this year is 41.8 percent, which is the highest team rate since the 1996-97 Hornets (led by Steph Curry’s father, Dell, who made 42.6 percent of his 3s that year). Darn it, Dad — you never let me win!

34. BEST OUTSIDE SHOOTER? BEST INSIDER SHOOTER!

The 6-foot-3 Curry isn’t just an elite shooter from distance. At 68.7 percent, he astonishingly leads the league in FG percentage on layups (minimum 150 attempts).

35. BOGUT MAKES FUN OF THE KARDASHIANS TOO!

36. EVEN THE WARRIORS THINK STEPH IS UNFAIR.

When players are fined for violating team policy, the money goes into a pot and a half-court shooting contest determines the victor. As for Mo Speights? He thinks Steph should be banned.

37. THEY WHISPER SWEET NOTHINGS.

 

Player development coach Bruce Fraser is the guy who works with Steph Curry on his shooting routine. After an article came out in December that called Fraser the “Curry whisperer,” Curry and other members of the Warriors whispered gibberish at Fraser for weeks.

38. STEPH IS ON A 103-HR PACE (LIKE, METAPHORICALLY).

Curry is on pace to hit 403 3s, a 41 percent increase from the record he set last season (286). That’s equivalent to hitting 103 home runs in baseball (41 percent more than Barry Bonds’ record 73 dingers) or a quarterback throwing 78 touchdowns.

39. A 6-3 POINT GUARD IS MORE POPULAR THAN LEBRON.

Curry has a higher average interest number on Google Trends than LeBron James this year, after trailing him the past two years. (James in 2014: 13; 2015: 16; 2016: 35.)

40. WE’RE NEVER REALLY SURE WHAT MO SPEIGHTS IS SAYING …

“[Curry] had them red, killer eyes, the eyes of a killer.” — Speights on a 40-point performance from Curry, which included eight 3s, in a win at Charlotte.

41. STEVE KERR HAS SUFFERED MORE THAN ANYONE KNOWS.

 

When Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced last October that he’d be taking a leave of absence, he said it was to recover from back surgery and hoped to be back by Oct. 27, the Warriors’ first game. He returned four months later, after an incredibly scary prognosis and suffering debilitating pain, which remains far more serious and career-threatening than anyone knew.

42. NO ONE EVER HAD THE HUEVOS TO DO THIS BEFORE.

In the year’s first preseason game, Curry launched a 3 and, with the ball still in the air, turned to high-five Andre Iguodala. Swish. On Jan. 9, he did it again — this time turning to talk smack to the Kings’ bench as the shot flew. Swish. On March 12 against the Suns, in the midst of turning a nine-point deficit into a seven-point win, he did this again. Swish. Seriously?!

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr spent the first four months of the season sidelined with horrible, career-threatening back pain. He’s back now, and his team is three wins away from setting the record in regular-season victories.Nick Laham

43-46. WARRIORS TWITTER IS LIT

47. HEY, THEY MAKE 2s TOO!

The Warriors’ effective FG percentage, which takes into account 2- and 3-pointers, is 56.3 percent, the highest rate in NBA history.

48. CURRY HAS PERFORMED AT SUCH AN ELITE LEVEL THIS SEASON THAT NBA 2K WAS FORCED TO REPROGRAM ITS SOFTWARE TO COMPENSATE.

49. NEO WASN’T THIS GOOD IN THE MATRIX.

Arguably the best fivesome in history — Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Iguodala and Green — not only leads the NBA in plus-minus (47.9), it leads in points per 100 possessions at 143.6 (13 points ahead of the next-best lineup) and tops the NBA in 3-point percentage at a preposterous 55.6 percent clip among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. These are video game stats. Actually, scratch that — we’d be pissed if someone performed that well in a video game against us.

50. CURRY’S RANGE IS LIMITLESS.

 

Alert: This is not a typo. Steph Curry is shooting 53.5 percent on shots between 28 feet and the half-court line (47 feet). The rest of the NBA: 20.5 percent. Curry has made as many deep 3s as 10 NBA teams combined.

51. AWW … HE STILL GETS CARDED!

Curry is so baby-faced that he got carded in 2014 … at a California Pizza Kitchen.

52. DRAYMOND GREEN, QUOTE MACHINE.

“And if I was 6-11, I’d be Anthony Davis.” — Green, responding to Kyrie Irving’s assertion that the Cavs would’ve won the NBA Finals if they’d been healthy.

53-55. GIGGLING SPEIGHTS IS THE BEST SPEIGHTS.

Big Mo loves to practice his post moves on 6-foot-3 Golden State player development coach Bruce Fraser. He’ll loudly yell, “Get yo’ little ass over here!” then repeatedly score on Fraser while giggling to himself. Speights has also been known to respond to reporters’ stranger questions with “You drunk, bro?”

With the exception of his 2013-14 season in Utah, Brandon Rush has been in Oakland since 2011 and is the originator of Golden State’s “Get what you neeeed” slogan for individual workouts. Unlike teammate Festus Ezeli, Rush does know all about his Jordans and claims to “have ’em all.”

Soft-spoken and religious, James Michael McAdoo reads Scripture to teammates when they desire some spiritual connection. And he’s agreeable enough to take his wife to a Garth Brooks concert because, you know, that’s her thing. Side note: Luke Walton also went to this concert. That’s right: Luke Walton … big Garth fan.

56. DRAYMOND GREEN WON’T BACK DOWN.

Green was a second-round pick with ho-hum potential. Once deemed too unskilled to be a wing and not big enough to be a big, three-and-a-half years later, he’s a consensus top-five player in the NBA, ahead of Kevin Durant, James Harden and others by the most respected measures. One other thing: He’s the most important player on the best team in basketball .

57. STEPH, RETURNING TO CLEVELAND ON JAN. 18, WAS KIND ENOUGH TO WISH THE ARENA WELL …

 

“Hopefully, it still smells a little bit like champagne.” — Curry

58. THEY ARE INDIVIDUALLY COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR ROLES IN LIFE.

In the modern NBA, role players are more and more important: 3-and-D guy, rim protector. So do the Dubs’ role players … know their roles? You bet. Exhibit A: Shaun Livingston. When a reporter apologized for not interviewing him enough, he responded, “Nah, you’re interviewing the right guys.”

59. THE TEAM THAT EATS TOGETHER … WINS TOGETHER!

 

When the Warriors have a road game followed by a day off, they spend the night in the city where they just played, then fly the following morning. That shift from NBA norms began last season on the advice of sleep specialists who determined that traveling the next day would leave the players better rested. So what they do with the extra time? They sit down for a meal together. “Instead of everyone going their separate ways, we have one spot we can go and just enjoy each other’s company,” Steph Curry says. “It just continues to build the camaraderie that you need to be successful from year to year.”

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60-62. ANDY VAREJAO CAN HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT … KIND OF.

New to the team, Andy Varejao doesn’t have the highest profile. Before a game in Minnesota, an autograph seeker yelled, “There’s Andrew Bogut!” The mob trundled over to Varejao, who signed autographs as an ersatz Australian. To be fair, Varejao was wearing a beanie, which covers his trademark hair. With a laugh, Varejao later lamented, “Back in Cleveland, they used to say, ‘There’s Sasha [Pavlovic]!'”

Boasting a mythic mix of competitive anger and gregarious humor, Draymond Green is a ballbuster of the highest order. He once ribbed Shaun Livingston before a playoff game as Livingston practiced 3s. “I had a dream last night! Crazy f—ing dream,” Green said. “I dreamt you actually made one in a real game!”

When Kevon Looney made his first basket on Jan. 27 — he has played just 21 minutes this season — the team’s lone rook beamed down the court. Says a team official: “Making a shot totally changes his mood.”

63. THEY ABHOR STUPID MISTAKES.

In a game at Oklahoma City on Feb. 27, the Warriors allowed an uncontested layup to Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson. TV cameras caught Warriors assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams nearly falling off his seat.

64. SPURS VS. WARRIORS: GREATEST (HYPOTHETICAL) SERIES. EVER.

 

Start the countdown to the Western Conference finals, when we (fingers crossed!) get to watch two historically great squads square off — maybe even seven times in a row (toes crossed!).

65. OAKLAND FANS ARE THE SADDEST FANS.

When the Warriors won it all last season, they broke a title drought of 26 years for the city of Oakland — second only to Cleveland’s then-51-year drought for cities with three or more pro sports teams. Good for them, right? Sure, until you consider that the Warriors have already purchased the site for a new arena across the bay in San Francisco, which they plan to move into in 2019 … and that the A’s flirted with fleeing to San Jose last year … and the Raiders, well, the ghost of Al Davis only knows where they’ll play in the future. And by “the future,” we mean a year from now. Oakland fans will have so very little so very soon. Allow them this brief moment of happiness.

66. STEPH … HE’S JUST LIKE US!

There are hints that Steph Curry is exceptional — his golf handicap is 0.8, he can deadlift 400 pounds and, of course, there’s that shooting and ballhandling. But to the naked eye, he’s not so unlike regular people. Height for the average NBA male: 5-foot-9. Steph? 6-foot 3. Average weight: 199.5 pounds. Steph: 190. Wingspan? The average U.S. male measures 71.4 inches, with Steph at 75.5.

67. HARRISON AND KLAY WOULD RATHER PLAY QUIDDITCH.

 

Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson got to visit Harry Potter Land (or whatever it’s called) on the road trip to Orlando. They did it because they’re big Harry Potter fans. Leandro Barbosa also went. When asked if Barbosa is a big Harry Potter fan, Barnes said, “Oh, he doesn’t know anything about it. He just wanted to ride some roller coasters.”

68. A PB&J A DAY KEEPS WARRIORS LOSSES AWAY.

 

Speaking of addiction (see No. 4), the team has its own: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No, seriously, the Dubs nearly staged a rebellion when trainers outlawed the sandwiches for not being healthy enough. Curry, who enjoys a PB&J before every game, and Luke Walton are thought to have led the mutiny. They, of course, got their way.

69. STEPH IS A MEMBER OF AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB.

You know that whole 40-50-90 thing? How difficult it used to be to eclipse 40 percent from 3, 50 percent from 2 and 90 percent from the line all in the same season? Steph’s 2015-2016: 45.6 percent, 56.1 percent, 90.4 percent, his second straight season as a member of this exclusive club.

From Steph to Brandon, Klay to Mo, the 2015-2016 regular season was the year of the Golden State Warriors. Nick Laham

70. STEPH CURRY IS PURE JOY!

Poor Andre Roberson. Through furious hard work, the 24-year-old had become the Thunder’s best wing defender, nightly hustling after a who’s who of high-scoring All-Stars all over the court. Typically he ends up looking good.

Until Saturday, Feb. 27, when Roberson played defense the way it has always been coached, and somehow became the crash-test dummy in Steph Curry’s Electric Highlight of the Year. Roberson’s crime: He didn’t see it coming. And by “it” we mean something that had never happened before.

With the clock running down in overtime and the game tied, Roberson was marking the Warriors’ MVP guard — the man who had already made 11 3-pointers that night alone, one off the NBA record. The man who earlier in the game had broken his own single-season record for 3s. The man who was casually bringing the ball up as the clock ticked off the game’s final six seconds.

Then, with almost three seconds left, before Curry had arrived at what would normally be considered a place to play offense, he rose and fired — precisely one dribble past half court, in line with the edge of the Thunder’s center-court logo. The NBA would later measure it as 37 feet from the hoop. That’s 13-plus feet behind the 23-foot, 9-inch 3-point line, which itself was once considered a difficult shot.

The sport of basketball was 1,490 months old as the ball sailed through the air. For 1,489 months, 29 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 54 seconds of that history, smart defenders let ’em have that dumb shot. But over these YouTube-melting six seconds, in this brave new NBA, there was no one to blame except the gods of basketball — or Roberson. Most chose Roberson. Coaches flapped their arms on the sidelines, Jeff Van Gundy tut-tutted on the telecast. How dare he set up in a defensive position a mere yard outside the 3-point line?

The Warriors are knocking on the door of 73 wins with a team loaded with everything: top-to-bottom organizational embrace of 3-pointers, the valuing of open shots, the most effective pick-and-rolls in the game, Draymond Green’s epic defense and sneaky punishing offense, and all the applied lessons of stat geekery. Must they also be cash-money from 3? As the epic game winner splashed through the net, Steph skipped, grinning to the far end of the court, and — before an audience of stunned Thunder fans — danced on what little was left of basketball conventional wisdom.

Funny things are happening at Harvard. Just ask Kathy Delaney-Smith, who has been head coach of the Crimson’s women’s team since 1982. In 34 years, she has seen a lot. But this year, she’s seeing things she has never seen before. She found one of her assistants and several players engrossed in YouTube for an hour, rewinding again and again, breaking down YouTube footage of a one-handed Steph ballhandling series that ended in a crazy tough shot. “I found myself thinking, ‘Well if you’ve got a spare hour, I know some things you could be working on instead,'” Delaney-Smith says.

The disease of Stephitis has spread far beyond the Ivy League. It’s so immensely tough to average four made 3-pointers a game over a full season that, just 11 years ago, not one high school boy in the whole country managed to do it, according to Max Preps. This season, 30 players did it.

On Twitter, in March, I asked if people had noticed players outside the NBA “doing Steph Curry things.” The replies were immediate and unanimous. Wrote Dan Shanoff: “I coach 4th-graders and all they want to do is shoot extra-long shots (and, when they make them, tap their heart and point up).” Eric Johnson supervises recess at Ashland Elementary in rural New Hampshire. After Curry’s big game winner over the Thunder, recess became all about making that shot. “What surprised me was that they never stopped shooting the shot … for 40 minutes. They each had to hit it. They talked about the game the whole time.”

Stephitis cannot be quarantined. LeBron James may have had his exhausted heart broken by Curry’s Warriors in last year’s NBA Finals, but LeBron’s 8-year-old son, Bryce, still wears No. 30 in honor of Steph.

It’s not all that unusual that, with tons of time on the shot clock, Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody recently used a fancy dribble combination into a step-back to score against Mississippi State in the second half. What’s a little strange is that he did so at least 8 feet beyond the 3-point line.

Stephitis exists in the NBA, too, of course. If it seems as if the entire Association is suddenly shooting from super-long range, it’s because everyone is. According to Basketball-Reference data, Steph is averaging more than one made shot from at least 27 feet per game; no other player can touch that. But wow are they trying. In 2009-10, NBA players attempted a grand total of 1,880 shots from 27 feet or longer (excluding end-of-quarter heaves). This season, they’re on track for 3,067.

There’s a delightful freedom to all of this, and two hard truths. The good news is that 3s, once viewed as “bad shots” by closed-minded coaches, have taken flight on the wings of advanced stats, and they are winning. Anyone with a pulse can feel the joy in that, and the excitement in watching super-talents explore the limits of their abilities. Eighty-footers, anyone?

The hard truth: The NBA has long been dominated by the toughest men, tested on win-or-go-home playground courts. Rich kids from the suburbs have mostly been ancillary in the league. Their advantages were things that used to matter less: lonely gyms, entire racks of balls to themselves, private shooting coaches and free time to dial in the form. Steph, son of Dell, was born into all that, like a Kennedy. And the more he succeeds, the more he inspires kids like him, the more an influx of 3-point shooters, like foreign players before them, will cut into the career prospects of those who earned NBA work through grit and toughness.

But the other hard truth comes with a solution: hardly anyone else can actually do that. Steph has made the 27-footer a good shot … for him. It’s still a bad shot for most everyone else on the planet. The gap can be filled only with work. It just happens to be work that anyone can attempt.

Millions of youngsters, with joy in the hearts and Steph on their minds, are surely on the way. Sheer odds predict some of them will also have qualities like Steph’s incredible handle, balance, hand-eye coordination and diligence. This goes some way to increasing skill and a long way to teaching love of the game.

“Youth basketball has a problem,” Delaney-Smith says. “Kids are pressured so much, and it has stopped being about fun and passion for the game. But now freshmen can’t leave the gym because it’s so fun. That’s passion, and that’s probably exactly how Steph learned to do those same things.”

A couple of weeks before Steph’s 37-foot game winner in Oklahoma City, the NBA convened an invite-only, off-the-record Tech Summit in a fancy Toronto hotel.

There were issues to address. Chiefly, research shows kids now spend more time than ever on screens and less time doing things like shooting hoops. This extracts worry from the warm hearts of parents and the cold, hard calculations of the league’s bottom line; in the past, the league has cited internal research that playing basketball when you’re young predicts a lifetime of NBA fandom. (One pillar of the NBA’s long-term China strategy is simply to get lots of people playing basketball — that they’ll become NBA fans follows naturally in time.) How, worried the finest brains in the game, could we get kids to prefer playing the game to noodling on their phones?

The answer could be Steph.

Because as much as there are big names in basketball who get people to watch it on a screen, or even to buy a ticket, there’s nobody like Steph to get kids excited to play. The very tall and strong have always had permission to imagine themselves as NBA champions. Steph’s every on-court action screams that scrawny little folks can play the game, too. “That’s kind of the new swag,” Shane Battier said on TrueHoop TV. “Not everyone can dunk, but everyone can pull up from 30 feet.”

Many titans of hoops — “the Jurassics,” they’re now called behind their backs — are wishing it would all just go away. Phil Jackson may be the best coach ever, and is the proud, highly paid top executive of one of the league’s most popular teams. But it was a year ago that he famously test-drove a Model T of a theory that 3-reliant teams couldn’t succeed in the playoffs.

In doing so, he popped the balloon of his own relevance. Since then, the Warriors rode 3s to a title over LeBron and are knocking on the door of Jackson’s own 72-win record, and the Knicks drafted Kristaps Porzingis, a big man known for abnormally deep shooting range.

To be fair to the Jurassics, it’s true: Most game-changing innovators aren’t actually innovative. For every White Chocolate or Vinsanity, there’s an old-timer harping that Bob Cousy used to make those moves or Darryl Dawkins used to dunk like that. The basketball gods have seen it all. The game doesn’t tilt on its axis every time the wind blows. Of course, that thinking is smart, until it’s not. Sometimes, the world really is changing. Curry is to hoops as armed drones are to war. The range. The unpredictability. The inescapability. He’s destroying defenses that don’t even know it is time to play defense.

And now that we know this exists, it’s difficult to imagine the future could possibly look anything like the past.

By By Henry Abbott, Micah Adams, Kevin Arnovitz, Jordan Brenner, Jeremias Engelmann, Tom Haberstroh, Ramona Shelburne, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Kurt Streeter and Josh Sokol
Illustrations by Mikey Burton


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