On Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 89-83, in a highly anticipated NBA Finals rematch. Other than the game itself, the biggest headline to come from it was a quote by Mark Jackson that has gotten widespread attention.
Jackson, the Warriors’ former coach, said he believed Curry was hurting the game to a degree. “Steph Curry’s great,” Jackson said. “Steph Curry is the MVP. He’s a champion. Understand what I’m saying when I say this: To a degree, he’s hurt the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he’s just a knockdown shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.”
Naturally, Jackson has gotten a lot of backlash from this quote, including from Andrew Bogut and even Curry himself. While he could have worded his remark a little bit better, his take was right on the money.
Jackson clearly is a huge fan of Curry’s game, and praises him lavishly every time he calls a Warriors game on ESPN. Him saying Curry has hurt the game is not an insult to Curry in the slightest, and he does not even use this quote to place the blame on Curry. Rather, his point is that many high school players view Curry as a shooter who makes ridiculous shots, but not much else, and try to emulate him. Even though nobody can do what Curry does, high school players want to shoot like Curry without putting in the work in other areas of their game in order to get to that level.
In addition to being a world-class shooter, Curry is also a top-three ball handler in the world, an amazing finisher at the rim, and an improving defender who is among the league leaders in steals per game. In other words, while he is known for his shooting, he is truly a great all-around basketball player. Part of the reason Curry is such a good shooter is because of his completeness overall – defenders have to respect his ability to drive to the hoop, and his handle is so damaging that he can create his own shot almost effortlessly. If Curry was “just a shooter”, he would still be a good NBA player, but would be a role player, a la Kyle Korver.
With high school kids looking to emulate Curry’s pull up shooting off the dribble without mastering basic ball handing drills first, they will undoubtedly become broken, ineffective players. This happened after Michael Jordan played too – kids wanted to take difficult fadeaways like Michael did, and the quality of play in the NBA in the late 90s and early 2000s suffered greatly as a result. If kids coming into the NBA in the next ten to fifteen years try to “shoot like Curry” without mastering other skills, you can bet the overall quality of play in the league will be worse.
There is no doubt that Curry is a transcendent player with world-class abilities and is spearheading the revolution of the NBA into the pace and space, three point shooting league that it is becoming. If he continues his current pace, he will go down as the best shooter in NBA history (maybe even setting the career record for most three pointers), will probably win more MVPs and titles, and will be a surefire Hall of Famer. There is nobody doubting Curry’s abilities and that his contributions to the game are overwhelmingly positive. With that all said, Jackson is absolutely correct in his assessment. Through no fault of his own, Curry is setting a precedent for many young kids that can damage the quality of play in the NBA in the future, and people calling out Jackson for his comments are absolutely wrong.