Before I get too involved with this piece , I must first let it be known that I am a dark, African American male. However, the generational color complex that exists between light skin and dark skinned people has zero bearing on what I’m about to say regardling Stephen Curry, the current darling of the National Basketball Association. Although his presence on the biggest stage in the NBA might have come as a surprise for some, it’s merely an illusion. Well, either that or you just don’t watch that much basketball. He has commercials, a multi million dollar shoe deal, and is the most visible father in the league today but one thing he is not, nor has he ever been, is the underdog. Even though he’s been in the NBA for 8 years, his coming out party as one of the most valuable players in the league didn’t happen until a couple of seasons ago. Ever since then the man who’s been given it all has been reported on as just the opposite.
As a close follower of professional basketball, I’ve seen Wardell Stephen Curry II coming for some time now, and at no time have I ever looked at him as someone who’s had to fight against all odds for his hoop dreams.
For starters, Steph has what we sports enthusiast like to call a basketball pedigree.
Born to NBA long range legend, Wardell “Dell” Curry, Steph has been used to having every possible resource available. Drafted in 1986 by the Utah Jazz, Dell’s pro career began two years before Steph was born, making basketball a birthright. Steph has always had the decision to pursue other things and even though he didn’t, the power to choose is a blessing not afforded to everyone. Thus, ever since he could walk he’s been around the game at a professional level. He’s seen the sort of work ethic it takes to even get to the NBA, much less stick around as a league veteran.
Growing up rich doesn’t hurt your chances at life either and the term “money is no option” sure as hell can help tremendously with skill development. Steph was able to have a full basketball court at home to put extra hours in after the litany of camps he was able to attend since a kid, outside of the countless amount of time he spent on courts learning from professionals. He was able to parlay that into a full scholarship to Davidson University and sure that’s not powerhouse like Duke or Kentucky, but it’s still division IA, the highest level of college athletics.
After 3 successful years that garnered all sorts or NCAA records, accolades and awards, he progressed further into the family business when he was seleced 7th overall by Golden State in the 2009 NBA draft. So where the hell has this idea that he’s taken the long road or was overlooked come from?
No, he was’t heavily scouted coming out of high school, but he still got a free ride to a D-1 school. No he wasn’t picked first overall, but 7th is pretty fucking good considering it’s out of a possible 60 eligible players. His first few seasons were plagued by injury due to the fragile nature of his ankles, but he’s bounced back and has been a staple of basketball efficiency. The range on his jump shot is unbelievable, and it literally perverts the geometry of the floor. He’s the reining, back to back MVP of the NBA and is on the verge of his second straight championship tonight at game 6 of The Finals.
So what is it that makes people feel so attached to this guy? Why rally behind the man who’s had a head start before he even got to the track.?
On a surface level, it seems most of Steph’s appeal comes from his bewildering level of relatability to many people. With the average height in the league being around 6’7, Curry’s size, or lack thereof gives people the false optics of a little guy clashing with giants. As if somehow the biblical character David wards off 5 different Goliaths everytime he scores a floater in the paint or a 3 pointer skillfully heaved at half-court. Although a closer look at Steph’s size as it relates to average height shows the little guy isn’t so little at all. At 6’4, Curry is 6 inches above the average height for a male born in the U.S, which tops at 5’10. Sure, he looks extremely smaller on television, but then again everybody does. However, the fact that is does look smaller on TV lends itself to him being more relatable because of the skill he has at shooting the ball. He’s not a high flyer, nor is he ever the strongest or fastest on the floor and that’s endearing to a constituency of people who’s god given normalcy prevents them from ever being able to truly relate to a beastly specimen like Lebron James. Sure people love him, but theres no way to connect to a man who’s 6’8, 270 pounds and as quick as Usain Bolt on the hardwood.
“I would like to think that Steph Curry’s apparent marketability has nothing to do with it, but if I made that false assumption, that would be as silly as me thinking that Beyoncé is the top woman in music because she actually sings better than Jill Scott or Jennifer Hudson…I mean who cannot notice the media’s clear favorability to Stephen Curry? He’s of fair complexion … and his eyes are a pretty cool color, too.”- , Tay Jordan, TheBlackJuice.com.
Lastly, although I’ve mentioned that skin color plays zero part in how I assess or connect to Steph Curry, that doen’t mean it doesn’t apply to other people. Especially corporate sponsors. Sure, we can act like Steph being lighter than a paper bag with green eyes is the look of the average top tier NBA player, but we know that’s a bold face lie. Steph’s hue makes him as universal as they come regarding endorsements, as he appeals to black and white lovers of the game. The way he plays is always described as methodical and scientific which is a far cry from the strength and brutality of the game of years past. In fact, his complexion provides him a protection from the same levels of scrutiny that befalls his darker comrades. If he has a bad game, we wonder if he was somehow previously hurt and matters of effort never comes into consideration. Where as darker players, “didn’t have the heart” or shrink when the lights shine brightest and things don’t go their way. What makes him different ? How is he somehow exempt
Let’s call it what it is, Steph is non threatening as hell and there’s nothing wrong with that. However if you think his skin color doesn’t play a part in anything, you’re sadly mistaken. Here’s how NBA players look at it, for better or worse.
“I thought he was white…He was this yellow kid, right? I’m just being real now, right? Where I come from, in the hood, we don’t see that. We don’t see the light-skinned guys around. It was all guys like me.”-Kevin Durant
But wait, there’s more:
“That light-skinned dude…I never seen anything like this in my life. I was a certified serial killer. But this dude has it all.”-Allen Iverson
Granted, skin color isn’t everything but it damn sure counts for something in the eyes of many, whether you want to believe it or not. I mean shit, it’s literally the first thing you see. Nevertheless, thats just the icing on the cake made of the false underdog narritive that’s followed Steph around for the last few years.
I, for one, still can’t wrap my mind around the concept of how hard things have been for him. This isn’t from a place of hate or animus, as he is truly the greatest shooter in the history of professional basketball. The mastery of his skill should be celebrated, but he’s where he is for a reason. His journey might not have had as many valleys, but the peaks he’s seen throughout his life is a great testimony in itself that we can’t all have the same story.
He set out on a road that was paved in gold and ended up in Golden State and at the end of the day, whats wrong with that?