Pickup basketball is a great indicator of who’s hot in the NBA at any given time, especially among the younger generations. In the 1990s, kids were screaming “Jordan!”, then “Kobe!”, then “LeBron!”, and now “Curry!” Flashy basketball always captures the attention of the youth and has been influencing future generations a great amount, especially in the last few years.
In 2015, there was an article blaming Steph Curry for “ruining basketball”, and the statement does hold some truth. Just because Curry is a phenomenal three-point shooter responsible for a list of crazy buzzer-beaters and impossible shots does not mean that the future of basketball is in jeopardy. Players will have fans, and some of these fans want to be just like their idols. Except instead of hitting the gym when courts are empty to practice their three-point shot a couple hundred times, they try to emulate their hero by throwing up a ridiculous shot. Full discretion here: I used to do this all the time but for some reason it goes in a decent amount.
This is what separates intelligent basketball from pickup basketball. At any competitive level, missing a shot sucks. There’s no way around it. Let’s call this concept basketball Darwinism: players will either become better shooters through practice, find a different role, or weed themselves out of the competitive basketball eventually. Somewhere out there, there is a kid that is going to beat Steph Curry’s record one day – but for every one of him there are thousands of kids throwing bricks from half court.
The emergence of Steph Curry as an insanely good three-point shooter has overshadowed the usual “Kobe!”, “LeBron!”, and “Jordan!” calls. I assume each of these players had their negative contribution to pickup basketball. Kobe had his contested jumpers, Jordan had his contested fadeaways, and Lebron had his 3-on-1 layups. Hell, even Rondo has his contribution of the backwards contested off-the-glass layup. Now, Curry has his 40-foot transition jumper.
Flashy basketball will always win the youth over even though fundamentals win games. Let me know the next time you hear a teenager scream, “Duncan!”, or “Gasol!”, or “Battier!”. Flashy basketball is limited to a realistic amount of talent and effort required. Lower the hoop a couple feet and you will have kids trying to dunk like Blake Griffin and LeBron James.
What most people don’t realize about flashy basketball is the tremendous amount of underlying talent required. At a minimum, you should be able to win games using your fundamental skill-set. Only when you have the confidence to win games should you step out of your fundamental comfort zone. If Curry threw up a transition contested three-pointer every play, the Warriors likely wouldn’t be as good as they are.
The obvious point here is that there’s a reason these guys are in the NBA: they are the best in literally the world at what they do. Naturally, they are going to have their impact on the basketball world outside of the NBA. It’s not a huge shocker that kids are trying to be just like them. The second that shot goes in they are their superhero, even if only for a little bit.
That’s what matters, not some 40-year-old guy writing an article on reddit of how his son’s high school basketball team is taking stupid shots. As long as these kids are developing a strong fundamental foundation capable of winning games and bringing out the best in their team as a unit, a few fun shots shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s when you somehow find yourself in the middle of a game in which every player is catch-and-release three-point shooting that makes you want to punt the basketball.
But hey, what can you do? Curry with the shot, boy.