It was getting past 11 Saturday night, late for a codger looking at an early Sunday wake-up and a beat-the-traffic run to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
I really should get to sleep, I told myself.
But Golden State and Oklahoma City were in overtime, and Steph Curry had a few more minutes to do something else that would unhinge my jaw. To turn that off would be akin to leaving for the bathroom before Timothy Miller hit the last few notes of “God Bless America” during a Braves seventh-inning stretch. It’s just not done.
Sure enough, Curry came through, hitting a ridiculous 3 from another area code to beat the Thunder, his 12th of the night after coming back from a twisted ankle. A loud “Whoooooah!” rang out through the quiet, darkened house (the TV was on mute), my wife threw me an icy glance for startling her, and all was right in the world.
There it is, that’s the magic, that’s the rarest commodity in sport: The performer who compels you to watch no matter what, the one who creates an insatiable appetite for his singular skill and then feeds it almost without fail.
The most intriguing athlete of our time is generously listed as 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. He does not look as if he can bench press much more than a tabby kitten. He doesn’t glower. He doesn’t gloat. He doesn’t rule his realm by dint of sheer physical superiority or intimidation. Steph Curry’s superstardom just kind of envelopes you, like a morning fog.
Oscar the Grouch – known to many of a certain age as Oscar Robertson, on the short list of the best to ever ball – isn’t convinced. He recently pooh-poohed Curry. Said he basically was the product of a league that has forgotten how to play defense, diminishing Curry’s astounding numbers by placing them in a context of ineptitude.
Sorry, Big O, that is not an argument you can win. Curry’s combination of shooting skill (Dell raised the best ever at that), ball-handling ability, instinct and yes, passing wizardry makes him a talent that transcends eras. Even in your day, Oscar, Curry would be hard guard.
The fact that Curry is the perfect player for his time – when the 3-point shot has become paramount – does not mean he couldn’t be a perfectly serviceable star at any time. Those who want to put him down as a 21st Century fluke just come off sounding fossilized (and that’s coming from a proud troglodyte).
Curry already has broken his own record for 3s in a season, with 24 games left to play. He left Kyle Korver’s record of 127 straight games with at least one 3 in the dust last week. And made it look so routine. As his coach Steve Kerr said, “I don’t know that the record is that significant because it’s so simple for him.”
Curry spices sport like no one else at the moment. He is appointment viewing. It is the Hawks privilege to play against him and the rest of the Warriors in Oakland Tuesday. You miss that at risk of foregoing something that will make you go “Whoooooah!” in the stillness of your own home.