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  • Writer's pictureDr. Tré Watkins

I Hate Steph Curry

Sports, it's often said, serve as the great equalizer. It’s where class, color, and creed do not count for a single point.  In between these lines, all that matters is your work ethic, your willingness to scratch and claw for that extra yard or rebound to earn a victory.

If only this were true. 

In an article written for ESPN’s The Undefeated, Brando Starkey argues that two-time MVP Stephen Curry has a bevy of haters because he resembles a “normal person.”  The article, which relies primarily on anecdotes from local Bay Area podcasters, makes the case that Curry, whose father was an accomplished NBA player and mother a standout collegiate track star, doesn't get the credit he deserves because he doesn’t fit the prototypical elite athlete physique and his stardom came out of nowhere.  This. Is. Laughable.

First, can we please have a permanent moratorium on the Steph Curry pity party committee and associates? The idea that the only player in the league’s history to win a unanimous MVP award doesn’t get the respect he deserves is absolutely prosperous.

The 2015-2016 year was supposed to be a victory lap for the Golden State Warriors, after dethroning “The King” LeBron James en route to the city’s first Larry O-B trophy in ‘’14-15, Steph and Co, followed that up by breaking the record of Michael Jordan-led Bulls by winning the most regular-season games in NBA history. As mentioned, Curry was voted the unanimous MVP for his other-worldly regular season, in which he averaged 30 points per game and broke his 3-point shooting record. 

But what happened during those playoffs? After rolling through a hapless Houston Rockets and outmatched Portland Trailblazers, the Golden Boys found their backs against the wall, facing a 3-1 deficit to Russell Westbrook, (eventual teammate) Kevin Durant, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Down a couple of games? That’s no problem. Our MVP will save the day, right? No, fellow Splash Brother Klay Thomson brought the Warriors back from the dead, going off for 41 points on the road in Game 6 to eventually lead their team to consecutive NBA finals appearances. 

As much as Warriors fans love to forget that in ‘14-‘15, the Cavaliers were missing two of their all-stars, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, optimism for a repeat championship was full steam ahead (trust me, I lived in the area during the time). Unfortunately for all those who claim Yay Area status (looking at you, San Jose), the region, and the leagues, Golden Son went on to have the worst NBA finals performance for any MVP in NBA history.

But bringing that up would be hate, right? 

I don’t like the Warriors, and it is not because Steph Curry looks like a regular dude. And full disclosure, my allegiance lies with LeBron James, and I will fight to the metaphorical death that he is the greatest player of all time.  However, first and foremost, I am an athlete and a social scientist, and having some semblance of objectiveness, even in situations where I may be triggered, is something I pride myself on striving to achieve.  

Curry is the most excellent shooter of all time. Anyone who would argue against that does not deserve the mental bandwidth it would take to form a proper argument. He’s also a cocky a-hole that has benefited from the advantages of having an elite athletic pedigree and one of the best-run front offices in all of the sports.  These things matter.

Sports are more than just an extracurricular activity for Black kids. For many, they are an opportunity for upward social mobility or, stated differently, a way out of the hood. Even for middle-class Black kids like myself, who have had access to specific social and cultural advantages, athletes and entertainers are the most widely promoted (and accepted) representations of success that are visible to us.  

In a society that simultaneously promotes “unity” despite record levels of social inequality, privilege matters, and sports is no different. Curry supporters like to frame his story as representative of the average American male, and that just isn’t true. Identity politics are a helluva drug, and none is more powerful than the lie Americans tell themselves about themselves: winners work hard and are deserving of success, while losers don’t.

Things have taken a sudden turn in Warrior Land. After reeling off 3 out of 4 championships thanks to Curry, Thompson, and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, the Warriors, snake-bitten by injuries, lost in their bid to be 3-time Champs to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors.  A simultaneous shift was happening during this year’s NBA draft.  Instead of hearing the story of the inner city Black kid raised by a single mother whose athletic ability pulled him and his family out of poverty, we saw generational talents like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant giving daps to Commissioner Adam Silver flanked by their FAMILIES.  

Yes, the racial wealth gap continues to grow, and Black people in urban (and suburban) areas are still reeling from years of de jure and de facto racist policies. The athletes who are making it to the league are more developed and more talented than ever before.  Kids don’t get discovered playing at the local YMCA anymore. The conveyor belt of “amateur” and professional athletics begins unnervingly early, as children are identified for their athletic abilities and ushered into a world of traveling AAU teams and corporate sponsorships.  Elite development costs elite dollars, and the families who have the time and resources are the ones whose kids are our new favorite talking points.

Steph Curry is exceptional in the sense that thanks to the hard work of his parents, he and his younger brother Seth were able to benefit from these privileges and live out their wildest dreams. To suggest that he receives a disproportionate amount of hate due to this is ridiculous.  One can argue that Curry doesn’t receive nearly as much national criticism as stars such as LeBron, KD, or even James Harden because he doesn’t exhibit their physical superiority (or tattoos or shine tone, but that is another story). 

Nobody wanted the Warriors to lose this year more than me.  But my seven-year-old son, raised primarily in the Bay Area, loves Steph so much that he wanted to name his little brother Curry (we gave him the middle name.) As I watched my fellow Aztec alum, Kawhi Leonard, singlehandedly dismantle the Warriors dynasty in six games (which I predicted), I also watched Curry, without the assistance of his fellow All-NBA teammates, shoulder the bulk of responsibility for his team and give everything he had in a noble defeat.  

This was a great teaching moment for my son, as I explained that hard work doesn’t always end in the desired results. However, watching how Steph responds to adversity and defeat can be a motivational tool and an opportunity to improve oneself for future endeavors.  I told him he should be proud of how hard his hero played and that I was happy my boys had a sports idol they could admire.

But like I said, Curry exhibits jerky behaviors, as do most blue-chip athletes. He shimmies after he hits 3-pointers and smirks during press conferences at “silly” questions. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” and for the crown prince of golden bridges, you’ll all have to buck up and take the criticism hand in hand with the accolades. 


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