the chosen one vs. the inferior one (part 4)

Where do I begin? Wardell Stephen Curry. Or as Drake, and those who follow Drake, like to call him, “Chef” Curry — with the pot, boy! Yeah, that guy, the video game of the National Basketball Association, and the undersized guard who dominated the college basketball world back in March of 2008. This guy right here (Katt Williams voice):

The player who in his own words,

“Wasn’t recruited by the big schools because of my size. You look at me, I probably looked like I was twelve, thirteen years old.”

Being the underdog is a funny thing. I remember back in high school, our football team went on a historic run to win the school’s first state title. Projected to finish 5–5 by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the underdogs fought back, and our team finished the regular season 8–2. We went on to claim our first state title with a 13–2 record and lifted a banner that will hang in that gym forever.

I remember reading those projections in the newspaper one morning before school with my dad and glancing over to give him that look. You know the one I’m talking about, the “it’s time to show everyone in this city what we are all about” look. Considering I did not participate in any of the games, or even play on the football team, I’d like to finally take full credit for that state title run. Without that early morning newspaper read and the backing of the student section, who really knows what might have happened?

P.S. — It’s been nine years, so I think it was about time I took some credit for that win. Just sayin’

Anyway, winning as the underdog was a pretty surreal feeling, and when I watch someone like Steph Curry play basketball, he is the ultimate one. The son of former 16-year NBA Veteran, Dell Curry, Steph wasn’t highly touted out of high school. His face hadn’t graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 17 and he sure as hell wasn’t playing his high school games on ESPN. Before writing this article, I neglected to recall a few key elements in my lifetime. It has been awhile since my senior year of high school (not thatlong, you guys), and I hadn’t thought back on the year 2008 in quite some time. Somehow, it has been eight years since then, and my mind started to race.

Hadn’t I met Steph Curry somewhere before? No, that wasn’t it. Did I see him play at Davidson? Nope. I couldn’t remember ever doing that, as that would have been a really tough memory to forget. As I started to reminisce, I asked myself another question. Wasn’t I down in Charlotte in 2008 watching the NCAA Tournament games? Yes, that was it, and it all finally came rushing back to me. Growing up with my dad, I quickly learned that he was someone who knew a lot of people in this world. I’ve always admired that characteristic about him, and our family has been fortunate to meet some pretty amazing people along the way.

So, his best friend from high school is an eye doctor down in Charlotte and has invited us to several NCAA Tournament games throughout the years. In 2005, we saw my North Carolina Tar Heels play their first and second round games down there, and in 2008, we had the opportunity to catch them again in the Elite Eight. The night before we were slated to watch my Tar Heels whoop up on the boys from Louisville, we went to meet up with my dad’s buddy and some friends at a local bar.

If you’re a diehard NCAA guy and live for March Madness like myself, there is nothing like heading to a local bar to watch the games. Fans rock their school colors, beer flows like wine, and beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Okay, that last part might have been a direct quote from Lloyd Christmas, but I think you know where I’m heading here.

Either way, it’s pandemonium baby (Dick Vitale voice)! Upon arrival, there was something magical in the air this time around. A little school right up the street was playing that evening, and their fans were in full-throttle force the second we opened that front door.

“Holy shit!”

I exclaimed to my dad and brother as we headed to the back of the bar to meet up with the crew.

The scene was crazy; it was difficult to get a word in, but we managed to order some appetizers and sit down to enjoy the evening ahead. Sitting there, the story of Stephen Curry started to come alive right in front of my eyes. Another one of my dad’s friends — Rest in Peace — legitimately knew every single person in the Charlotte area. The guy was loved and adored by everyone and he always seemed to take a liking towards me as well. He was a really special guy, and it’s enjoyable speaking to adults who don’t treat you like a dumbass little kid all the time.

He spoke to me like a real person and I always admired that about him. So, as we are sitting there, he begins to tell me stories of the days he hung around Dell Curry and how special of a player he had been. Before going into too much detail, however, he paused, and began to talk about another basketball player that he knew. This time, he didn’t hold back. Steph Curry, Dell’s son, was the best basketball player he’d ever seen in his entire life, and it wasn’t even close.

“You mean that Steph Curry? I asked. The one on TV playing for Davidson right now?”

“Oh yeah. Don replied. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I couldn’t believe it. Here’s a grown man talking to me about a skinny, 20 year-old kid that is the best basketball play he’s ever watched — in his entire life! Whoa. It threw me off a bit at first. I’ve never seen an adult so excited talking about a player, and I knew right then and there, that the rest of the world would soon learn. He just kept telling me to keep my eyes on the TV all night long, so I followed suit and did exactly as I was told. Then, this happened:

Whoa again. Who in the h-e-double hockey sticks is this guy? Sorry, my mom used to say that all the time, and it will be forever engrained in my brain.

Anyway, Curry’s performance was pure and utter domination, folks. Three-point swishes, reverse layups in traffic, pump fakes, bank shot fadeways; what else could you ask for? This was must-watch TV and my dad, brother and I were located in the heart of it all right up the street from little ol’ Davidson College. Being there for that moment was special then, and it is to this day; sharing it with my brother and my dad was just the icing on the cake.

So, after leaving the bar that night, we drove around Davidson’s campus and walked around to see what kind of excitement was going on around town. Many of the students had attended the Wisconsin game that evening, but there were still some left — celebrating, drinking, playing music, drinking, and high-fiving all up and down High Street. I wish I had the scene on video, but I’m not quite sure it would do it justice. Plus, this was before smartphones were tiny video cameras that everyone carried around with their heads buried in, or in their pockets. Although, the latter is pretty rare these days.

At the time, I don’t remember talking about Steph Curry and asking the dreaded,

“Will he be any good in the NBA?” question.

I didn’t give a damn. He was doing things on the court I had never seen before, and his approach to his jump shot was just pure swag, man. He seemed competitive and driven, yet simulataneously loose and fun-loving; choosing to let the game come to him and hit the shots that he needed to make for his team to win. Thinking back to my early days watching LeBron in high school, their games played off one another pretty well, actually. As a 6’4” skinny freshman with patches required to cover his tattoos, young LeBron was a specimen. He saw the floor like no one I had watched play, and each pass was so crisp and so unexpected, that it took the crowd by storm each and every single time down the floor.

LeBron picked his spots, set up his teammates and did things no high school athlete could even touch. With Curry, sure, he was no specimen, but his game sure as hell was. The way he handled the ball, finished layups in transition and swished the ball into the hoop, all while holding that pretty follow-through; it was basketball magic. Gryffindor, Gandalf; you know, that kind of magic. Wow, that was nerdy.

However, something about the two was just so contrasting. They were both out there putting on a show, but the way that Curry played seemed to stretch far beyond the sport of basketball itself. It was tantalizing. A skinny 6'3" point guard (there’s no way he’s that tall), out there shooting off the dribble, the drive, off screens; you name it, and he was doing it.

Like any true underdog, Curry ran into his fair share of troubles entering the league. Written off by several scouts and expected to end up as a role player by many, Curry’s ankles began to fall apart. Before his rookie season contract was up in 2012, Curry experiences five ankle sprains in only 26 games of play (http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/14750602/how-golden-state-warriors-stephen-curry-got-best-worst-ankles-sports). In college, Curry didn’t have these same troubles, but somewhere along the way, his ankle became a serious issue, and the whispers began. Now, as I’m writing this, Curry might be sitting out tonight’s game with an ankle sprain that occurred in the first half of this game below. Do you remember this one?

Ah, yes, the underdog himself; tying the NBA record for threes made in a game, while hitting the game-winning shot from 30-something feet beyond the hoop. Oh yeah, and he broke his own single-season three-point record with that shot — with 25 games left to go at the time. Yikes.

But what does it all mean? This Chosen One vs The Inferior One chatter? When I watch highlights like the one above, I might have to reconsider the nickname and give it a possible adjustment…

The (Once) Inferior One

Yeah, that’s more like it; The Once-Inferior One. It has a good ring to it.

Although we live in a fast-paced world and it’s difficult to remember what I had for breakfast yesterday — actually, that’s a terrible example because I never forget food.

Let’s try that again, although we live in a fast-paced world and it’s difficult to remember what I did two nights ago, there is one NBA Finals I will never forget, and that is The 2015 NBA Finals. Remember when The Chosen One helped shift the landscape of the NBA back to Cleveland, while The Inferior One and his teammates won the Western Conference to set up the ultimate showdown? It was the heralded “King James” vs the skinny, but cocky “Chef” Curry. Shit, it was perfect. It lived up to its billing, plus some, and I’m hoping NBA fans get the opportunity to see it again this year.

Because, when I went back and watched the highlights of that Finals again , I realized one important thing, and one important thing only: the NBA would never be the same again.

To Be Continued...