Almost all of the players I coach on my kid’s elementary school basketball team share two notable characteristics: they worship Golden State’s Steph Curry, and they all think nothing of heaving thirty-foot jumpers in any game situation. They toss them up with a teammate open under the basket; they launch them when they’re off-balanced and outmatched; they shoot when they’re up by ten and it’s still the first quarter. Fundamentals are always hard to teach to 4th and 5th graders, and they always will be, but this year, it’s worse than ever, and Steph’s ludicrous shooting is to blame, because these kids want to be like Curry — wouldn’t you?
The sinewy, 6'3" MVP and NBA champion from the 2014–2015 campaign has ratcheted his already insane game to epic proportions, leading the league in scoring and even the more important modern stat of “no-he-did-in’t” highlight moments — all readily available for my players to watch over and over in countless YouTube compilation videos like “Stephen Curry Team USA Offense Highlights (2014) — 3 Point GOD!” His supersmooth game is all the more palatable thanks to his good looks, better sportsmanship, goofy off-court personality, adorable daughter, lovely wife, and relatively normal physicality that defied modest NBA expectations. In short, the perfect role model for these kids.
And that’s the problem. Kids once wanted to emulate another role model. They wanted to “Be Like Mike.” The truth with that was that nobody — amateur or professional – could actually be like Mike. Not even close. The baggy shorts and all the requisite Bulls gear was about as close to Mike as we could get, because on the court, his legendary moves — aerial assaults; triple-clutch reverse layups; facials on 7-footers; one-handed rebounds or ball fakes; opposing shots stolen from the sky; big game buzzer beaters at any time – couldn’t be replicated. So no one even tried.
But Steph’s game is a different story, at least from the perception of my kids. It’s rooted on the ground, and in two of the game’s core tenets — shooting and dribbling — that are available to all. Maybe you can’t dunk, but everyone can shoot. That doesn’t mean they should.
Sorry, kids, but the 30-foot pull up jump shot will never be a part of your game. I can’t tell you how many times I see a 10-year-old fire one up before barely making it across mid-court. Kid hadn’t even looked at a teammate on the wing, or considered penetration and dish down low! What did we talk about at practice, where did all that go?! Oh yeah, that’s right, practice is all Steph-time too, because even there, all kids want to do is go for the half-court shots, or Hail Mary buzzer beaters, just like Steph. I see kids who can’t make layups or free throws heaving up 40-footers instead of passing to someone who has a prayer of making it.
These days, that dreaded “No!” moment every coach has happens dozens of times a quarter, and it’s not just from the kids rocking the Golden State Warriors jersey with the number 30 on the back. It’s from almost all of them. We have Steph and his superhuman range to thank — or blame — for that.
The dude’s ball handling magic isn’t helping matters either. The same kid who launches the prayer shot from inside half-court just got there by dribbling behind his back and between his legs three times on the way to this fantasy sweet spot, despite the fact that there was no defense being played.
Look — don’t get me wrong, I love Steph Curry, just like everyone else. It’s just that he’s making my job a real bitch. Hell, at this point, I’m even starting to miss Allen Iverson.