My 6-year-old daughter got her first taste of real basketball this summer. She played in the local league where the lowest grade range, because she’s young for her grade, wound up including some girls two years older than she is.
It’s all meant for fun and learning, with the referee there largely to instruct the kids, and it was enjoyable at times for her—though her favorite part was pregame practice when she didn't have to compete for the ball as the shortest, skinniest person on the court.
I tried not to take the whole thing too seriously. And then over the weekend, I flipped the TV over to NBA TV while having a bite to eat, just to see what was on, and it was a replay of last season's Feb. 27 Warriors-Knicks game.
It would soon dawn on me that the guy who was often the shortest, skinniest person on the court tore it up in that game.
My daughter walked into the room and watched some with me, and I explained a few of the most basic aspects as they pertained to her basketball games (being active on defense, paying attention for rebounds, etc.).
And then Stephen Curry started making some shots, as he usually does.
And no matter how adult men might be blown away by nasty dunks, it’s safe to say that little girls watching basketball as novices find the deep three-point shot to be by far the most exciting thing to track.
We didn’t even watch that much of the game in which Curry poured in 54 points, shooting 18-of-28 from the field and 11-of-13 from three-point range. It was a magical outing for Curry, who played the entire game on the second night of a back-to-back set (Golden State was at Indiana the previous night).
It was beautiful to watch 6'3" Curry’s dribble bursts and rainbow jumpers drop through the basket, and it was impossible not to be reminded of how much potential the guy has as an inspiration to anyone smaller or skinnier yet still trying to step up and make an impact.
It was an easy narrative for me to tell my daughter to look at how those much bigger guys all over the court couldn’t stop him—and how in sports, if you don’t have the size, you can still have the speed and skill.
With Curry, 25, playing through his chronic ankle problems and making those 272 three-pointers last season—a new NBA record—I even got to use him as a teaching point in that regard, being mentally strong. My kid recently played a game despite a twisted ankle she aggravated mid-game—leading her to hobble up and down the court, though I couldn’t help but notice she sure went full speed as soon as she got the ball.
I remember standing under the basket before a Lakers-Warriors game in late March, when Curry was questionable during pregame from an ankle sprain two days prior. (Curry did play that night, delivering 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.)
He felt just well enough to test the ankle out with a shooting routine an hour-plus before the game, and it was—let’s seek out just the right word here—actually soothing to watch the guy shoot, even with the injury.
When asked on Twitter not long ago for his best shooting advice, Curry responded, “Same form every time.” He practices what he preaches on that one. As I watched him on the Oracle Arena floor that night, I expected every shot to go in.
Curry is an outstanding golfer, and it’s undoubtedly the same thing there: A consistent stroke gives you consistent results—no matter how big, small, young or old.
Or coming off a screen or spotting up or pulling up in transition, as Curry shows.
If Dwight Howard was really after the ring, he would’ve forced a trade from the Lakers to the Warriors, with whom he did interview. Curry’s consistent pursuit of excellence and outside shooting would’ve been the perfect complement to Howard, who is soon going to find out just how much ego James Harden has in Houston.
Whereas Howard looks like the ultimate physical specimen, the doe-eyed Curry is easy to identify as the underdog with that rail-thin physique. The truth, of course, is that Curry has his own inherent advantages of the genetic sort—his father, Dell, having been a great NBA shooter, too.
And in the case of my kid, she will have to take what she can get in the inheritance game—and it’s worth noting her answer when I asked which team she liked better. She said she liked the Knicks—“the team in white”—because of a play that had just occurred wherein Golden State’s Draymond Green lagged behind all his teammates in a transition situation, which just felt wrong to her. We replayed it time and again. So maybe she’ll turn out to be not a baller but a sportswriter with a critical eye, huh?
Overall, though, Curry was the one for her to watch in the game—and to me, it was a pleasant summer reminder of why he’s a special part of the NBA’s future.
Yes, the tallest girl in our local league might’ve been more drawn to what Tyson Chandler did in the game with Golden State missing center Andrew Bogut (injury) and forward David Lee (suspension): Chandler had 28 rebounds for the Knicks. And the best player in the league would’ve learned a lot for the future in seeing Carmelo Anthony bully his way to the foul line 15 times.
Yes, young Goliaths need examples, too.
But you know how most of the stories go.
For my little girl, Stephen Curry told very, very well the one about the little engine that could.
Kevin Ding has been a sportswriter covering the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers for OCRegister.com since 1999. His column on Kobe Bryant and LeBron James was judged the No. 1 column of 2011 by the Pro Basketball Writers Association; his column on Jeremy Lin won second place in 2012.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinDing.