famous .V. infamous
"I am the alpha omega, black flag swinger
Fuck a driveway I'm in airplane hangers
Me and my gang poppin' champagne like players
For all of them days with no lights and no cable
No one can save you, my city's fatal
Make it up out of it how can they hate you?"
The Come Up
A lot of people forget that Steph Curry was, literally, an ankle out the door when it came to his NBA dreams. He hadn't quite evolved from just a baby face, to the baby faced assassin quite yet. A players' game tends to manifest itself around their body type. Curry, having at first glance the body of a fourteen year old, fed himself by misdirection and being super crafty and nimble in his movements. Combine that with the fact that he will most likely go down as the greatest shooter ever, you had a player that was very difficult to contain. Modern basketball glorifies the ankle breaks, the step backs, the isolation crossovers and any sort of flashy movement. So much is placed upon a players athleticism and make no mistake, leads to some seriously jaw-dropping highlights. Unfortunately, like in all sports the athlete pays a price from red lining their body. The pressure being applied to the individual player's tendons, ligaments and joints can be devastating especially when combined with the length of the NBA season, training, Olympics, FIBA competitions, etc. Curry ran into this problem. Hard.
Curry's career nearly ended in the 2011-2012 season, just his third season in the NBA. Essentially, as outlined in an amazing ESPN article written by Pablo S. Torre titled "How Stephen Curry got the best worst ankles in sports," Curry's ankle was riddled with scar tissue, bone spurs, chips of cartilage and inflammation. After suffering five different and eerily random ankle sprains within the span of only 26 games following his first ankle surgery, doctors were already looking at the reality that their last ditch effort to salvage his ankle would involve replacing it with a cadaver tendon. Yeah, fucked up. Luckily, it didn't come to this and they were able to remove all of the scar tissue. It seemed like his window was closing though. The disparity between what the mind craves and what the body can produce can be a cruel one. Sometimes you can look back and trace just where a simple choice, or happenstance, was that changed things. Like, really changed things.
In Torre's article, he goes on to show just how Curry reset his doomsday clock. It's really a testament to the new schools of thought when it comes to the body. Essentially, a man by the name of Keke Lyles had an eye on Curry's Achilles heel and a sneaking suspicion that he had the answer. Lyles was hired by the Golden State Warriors and promptly made changes. He began by developing Curry's hip, core, hamstring and glute strength; all in an effort to take pressure off of Curry's weakest parts while maintaining his style of play. It worked. To the point where 6-foot-3 and 190lb Curry has the second best deadlift on his team at over 400lb; second only to his 6-foot-11 and 265lb teammate Festus Ezeli. Curry was jettisoned from being the next Grant Hill of the league to all of a sudden rivaling the King.
This wasn't the sole reason that lead to the Warriors being one of the best teams in the history of the NBA. They, much to the dismay of the fans, traded Monta Ellis and acquired Andrew Bogut and at that very moment traded flash for defensive prowess. They nabbed Andre Iguodala. Made the series of signings such as Shaun Livingston, Barbosa and Speights. They drafted phenomenally when it came to Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes. The team was nurtured by a fantastic player's coach in Mark Jackson, which allowed for a hard-lined and systematic coach like Steve Kerr to take over and ramp up. They had some of the best assistant coaching staff, great ownership and an equally impressive front office. Furthermore, their resilient and inspirational fans that packed the Oracle Arena even when the team was hot garbage, continued to support their team all the way to the peak.
But it started in Akron.
As evident by the supreme amount of bandwagoners - people like Curry. He's semi-fresh off of an electrifying championship run. He was the undisputed front runner when it came to being the MVP of the league, twice. He's emerged as quite possibly the best shooter of all time. His draining of impossible looking threes has cemented himself on every ESPN highlight reel; part of his pre-game routine literally includes half-court shots. His heat checks? Curry catches heat differently than everyone else. We're talking solar flares versus campfires. There's a reason why GSW are such a dangerous team once they're ahead. His wife, Ayesha, stays in the public eye as the supportive yet blunt presidential wife who routinely posts pictures of the food she cooks for her man and occasionally throws twitter-shade at the random insta-ho that wants anything more than an autograph from Chef Curry. His daughter Riley quickly took over as the NBA's darling when it comes to post-game interviews. Move the fuck over child of Chris Paul. Drake raps about him on the regular, because what else can you rhyme with "hurry" while name dropping? And, he's a fucking Christian! A dope ass shoe deal with Under Armour was highlighted by him being rejected by Nike on the account of their unwillingness to add his biblical verse onto the shoe. Sure, shoe sales are down right now because of a less than interesting design and that whole supposed "choke" in the previous finals, but we're not quite there yet...
Curry is an underdog idol. His scouting report was probably one of the most accurate depictions of a player ever, yet he didn't come into the league with grandiose expectations. While the league was focused on the debate between Kobe and LeBron, he was figuring himself out on a confused and struggling Warriors team. When the Kevin Durants, Chris Pauls, Carmelo Anthonys, Amare Stoudemires and Blake Griffins of the league were fighting for the spot light, Curry was contemplating if his career was on the verge of wilting before ever blossoming. The contract that he signed with the Warriors is underwhelming to say the least for a player of his stature. Understandably so, considering the prior health concerns. I think this remains in the back of his head. I think it's why he stays guns blazing. He is probably worried when his borrowed time will run out. All of the worries aside, his championship season was a feel good story for the NBA and fans.
But upswings don't last forever. The media spins a fickle web. A record breaking season in team wins at 73-9 and a second straight MVP was overshadowed by being the first team to ever lose in the finals after being up 3-1. Enter Kevin Durant and the talks of collusion. Enter the questions of who is the alpha. Enter in questions of integrity, capability and heart. Sound familiar?
That picture above look familiar? Bring back any nostalgia? King James! The next MJ. The hometown hero. Came back and won it all for Cleveland, just like he promised. Here, lets try this one.
Yeah, I hated this guy too. Right down to his picnic themed button up, most likely hand picked to convey earnest agendas. Dick.
I remember watching the 2011 finals with my friends Luis, Edgar, Sandpit and Sandpits dog Chico. I think we were all going for the Mavericks, one because of Dirk's legendary run, but also because LeBron was simply public enemy number one. He was the villain, and he embraced it because this was the first time in his career where he was the bad guy - and if anyone has ever experienced this transition for themselves, then they know it doesn't go gracefully. I'm not trying to echo shades of the former fluff duo of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. LeBron lost in the finals because quite frankly, the Mavericks had an amazing shooting performance, elite zone defense and the Heat's lack of defined roles wilted under the very intense and direct spotlights. It was a David and Goliath moment for the masses. LeBron James told everyone to go back to their miserable lives. We, were unchanged. He, had some growing to do. And that son of a bitch did just that.
They say winning fixes everything and this was my first experience with that. LeBron either hired a Jedi to be in charge of his public relations, or had a find Jesus moment with himself - or both. He started speaking more, folksy, and played up his father-image. In reality, the most important thing was that he stopped trying to be the villain of the league. It's a problem that Kevin Durant is running into right now after his fleeing of OKC to one of the most legendary teams of all time, GSW. That's another story though. LeBron kept quiet, didn't complain, and simply strived to make that Miami team as well oiled of a machine as he could. The LeBron system was allowed to flourish with lots of wing defenders, shooters, a more than solid #2 in Wade, and Bosh who offered a very underrated and versatile game from his midrange shooting to his excellent defense on switches. When playoff time came, LeBron blacked out all of his social media. He wore headphones always before the game to block out all distractions. If he could have pulled that oversized headband down and covered his eyes, he probably would have considered it. He dominated by sticking to his game, and elevating his shooting when defenders sagged on him.
Dude was tired of shade being thrown his way, and his legacy in a sense had its back against the wall. The response? He won back to back championships. Dreams of a three-peat were blown out the window by the Spurs, who peaked at the right time and took full advantage of a team that was still hung over from the last two championships. The unfortunate thing about relying on vets to fill very specific, small but important roles on the court is that they'll never be as motivated the next year after winning the previous - let alone after logging the minutes of a very long season. Any team that uses LeBron's system has to constantly retool, as evident by a lot of the criticisms from the public as well as LeBron with the 2017 Cleveland roster.
You know what happened. LeBron made his epic return to Cleveland and made one hell of a run at a title, putting up astronomical numbers during the playoffs and finals after losing Kyrie and Love early on from injuries. We're talking a walking triple double a night at over 30 points a clip. Came close, but it wasn't enough. The Warriors met them again in the finals in what was one of the most anticipated rematches in a while. History was made after coming back after being down 3-1, and a promise was fulfilled to the city of Cleveland from the King. Cloud 9 could have probably gone and fucked itself with what James was probably feeling. That was some powerful and heavy shit to witness, and further cemented him as one of the top undisputed best of all time. They did it through pure toughness at that. They bullied the fuck out of the Warriors. People will say they got lucky from Bogut's injury, or that Iguodala and possibly Curry were playing hobbled, or that Draymond's suspension ruined it all. Let me tell ya': They had multiple opportunities to put that Cavs team away. They didn't. 3-1. Get over it.
So what do the Warriors do while everyone in Cleveland are swimming in champagne? They gut the intangibles that made up their bench and two of their starters despite only being one win away from a repeat. Talk about an overreaction. Many would say that it was worth it to land Kevin Durant, but haven't we seen over and over how top heavy teams tend to fail when the stars gotta' rest? When the stars can't always take every charge? Afford to spend a couple of their fouls to make a statement? I'm still leery as fuck over the acquisition of Durant. Barbosa, Speights, Bogut, Ezeli, and Barnes are all greater than the sum of their parts when it comes to a basketball system. If they do win this year though, then I'll eat my words. Not to echo a lot of these media assholes, but it seems like a move devoid of heart on both sides. But hey, winning changes everything.
Now, back to the main purpose of this article. The media. What did the media do instantly? Burned their Curry jerseys after having masturbated with them on during that entire legendary season. Hopefully once they're back on his dick, they can find the same rug to sweep the ashes under that they used for LeBron's. Curry is a choker. He's peaked. He needs to control his wife on twitter. He's overrated! He ain't hungry anymore. Talk about some fickle bitches. This ain't anything new though. Everyone always looking for the next dog pile to fling themselves on. It has to be a bitter pill to swallow though. I don't like hearing about when someone at work bitched about something as trivial as stacking glasses not being done the night before during my shift. I can't imagine having a bunch of analysts and keyboard warriors tearing me the fuck apart night in and night out. Durant's in the same boat as well. And honestly, I see shades of LeBron circa 2011. The regular season is easy to get stats in when you're as phenomenal of a talent as these players are. The playoffs though? The finals? Good luck dragging around that media inspired baggage. Not hating, just saying that I've seen this shit play out before. Sure makes for a good storyline though...
So what's the narrative been this season? Curry isn't the alpha anymore, Durant runs the team. LeBron is being a diva with his media outbursts about retooling the team. How much help does he need? Curry and Under Armour clash over Trump and lack of shoe sales. LeBron got his feelings hurt by Barkley on TNT, he's cracking. Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Cavs are imploding. The Warriors are imploding. The Warriors are meanwhile still sitting pretty on top of the western conference and we all know the Cavs have that playoff gear ready. Hopefully still, at least...they have looked kinda' lacksadaisical on defense as of late. But champs tend to be masterminds of the game.
I'm all about storylines. The character development, the valleys and the peaks. It's a day to day mental addiction of mine to try and break down the individual fibers that carry through our bodies the charge of something inspirational. Mitochondrial imaginations. It's why I was so intrigued by the idea that Curry and LeBron both share common enough patches of land. Think how monumentally slim the odds are that two individuals from a small city like Akron Ohio can grow into two of the biggest draws in NBA history, let alone rivals. Even more fascinating is watching the bipolar media throughout it all. Is there really that thin of a line separating fame and infamy? Are both players not just the sum of their individual accomplishments at the end of the day? Are both players not great? With these two, the accomplishments are so grandiose that I fail to see any reason for the back and forth negativity of both their careers. Competitive spirit is one thing, arbitrary click-bait headlines and false assumptions of the heart it takes to go from Akron to the NBA is another. Criticism is an essential aspect to life, but some of these mufucka's are just ridiculous in their attempts to drive these narratives. At the end of the day, they're just killing time for a dollar by filling graves of the living with rotten perspectives. Naysayers nitpicking on nests nurtured by the more nuanced "nicer" players; shades of a time with such vernacular...one that kept it's star players looking like just that. Without filling in the blanks to dictate a legacy that hasn't yet been built.