100 days of hoops, hardwood

100 Days of Hoops: Day 30, LBJ and CP3 get burned in Chef Curry’s Kitchen

Steph Curry (30) celebrates as the clock ticks down on the Warriors’ 96-88 Game 7 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder during the Western Conference Finals in OAKLAND Calif., Monday, May 30, 2016. (Carlos Avilla Gonzales, The San Francisco Chronicle)

Bay Area News Group columnist Marcus Thompson’s book, titled Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry was released in April earlier this year. Golden is the first book to provide an all-access look at Curry and the team that has fueled Dub Nation. It is now #1 bestseller.

During a promotional appearance on Jason McIntyre’s The Big Lead, Thompson shared a tidbit that has made headlines and sparked debate among media members.  Thompson revealed that fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook have something in common.  They share unflattering feelings towards the Golden State Warriors’ two-time reigning MVP because of his miraculous rise.

“I think if you ask them and they’re being honest, they don’t like all the hype he gets, and they have to direct it that way. I think, out of all of them, if somebody doesn’t like Steph Curry, I think it’s probably Westbrook. He just shows no sign of … this ain’t really about Steph, it’s bigger. His seems to be, ‘I don’t like that dude.’ But LeBron and them, I think they will say, ‘Man, I like Steph. We can have a conversation.’ But there’s something that burns them about the fact that Steph is the one that is exalted and because of that they want to go at him and demean his hype. They want to take him down.”

Let’s take a look at James’ and Paul’s competitive jealousy individually.

(I’m going to skip Westbrook because let’s face it, he hates anyone who takes the court not wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey.  The only thing Westbrook should feel slighted for is Kevin Durant leaving OKC because he would rather have more fun and a better chance of winning a championship with Curry. Which he did.  It’s more Westbrook’s fault than Curry’s for Durant leaving town.  If anything, Westbrook should thank Curry because he no longer has to share the ball with anyone else. Westbrook has as many MVP trophies as Durant but is down 1-0 in the championship department.  (This coldest cold-blooded three might have opened Durant’s eyes.)


Exhibit A: LeBron James 

Photo Courtesy of SI.com

Through the course of basketball history, the NBA has had several players crowned as the face of the league, only to be leapfrogged by the next up-and-coming superstar.  Michael Jordan did it to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the late 1980’s.  Kobe Bryant took the mantle in the post-Jordan era.  James did it to Bryant in the late 2000’s.  And in the midst of his rise to the top, Curry did it to James.

James has met and surpassed expectations ever since he entered the league out of high school in 2003.  The ridiculous consistency James has demonstrated over the course of his career is unmatched.  It almost seems like we take him for granted, penalizing him for his sustained success on the court.  NBA fans are spoiled by his greatness.

Curry has captivated fans before he was even drafted.   His ability to make 3-pointers helped his Davidson Wildcats make a surprise run in the 2009 NCAA tournament.  He impressed so many that the following season King James had to see it live for himself.

This is a classic case of when your idols become your rivals for Curry.  He has had the top-selling jersey two years in a row.  He has become a fan favorite and has not received the same level of hate and criticism James has had to endure throughout the course of his career.  He is a media darling, the sole face of Under Armour basketball and has captivated the hearts of fans around the world who are now more impressed with making an off-balance, step-back 3-pointer than a rim-rattling, thunderous dunk.

However, James had something to say about the matter in last year’s Finals when the Warriors blew a 3-1 game lead to the Cavs.  James blocked Curry’s shot six times over the seven-game series.  In the process, James did something that we had never seen him do; he went out of his way to embarrass a fellow superstar.

Exhibit B; Chris Paul

Photo courtesy of SI.com

Before the Warriors went to back-to-back-to-back NBA Finals, broke the Bulls’ 1996 regular-season wins mark, Curry won back-to-back MVP awards, one of them being unanimous.  The Los Angeles Clippers were lauded as the next Western Conference darling.  The Clippers had finally stepped out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ shadow and, for the first time, they were being regarded as Los Angeles’ team.  But as quickly as they stepped out of the Lakers’ shadow they stepped into the Warriors’. With the Donald Sterling fiasco, injuries to key players at crucial times over the past few seasons, and the rise of the Warriors, the Clippers’ title chances dwindle with every day Chris Paul got older. He is now chasing a championship alongside James Harden in Houston.

Paul has long been considered the league’s best pure point guard and even referred to as a point god, but for how much longer?  Curry has surpassed him because of his exciting play, ridiculous entertainment value, team and individual accomplishments.  Paul knows first hand the kind of embarrassment Curry can dish out.  (Example one and two.)  Paul has many reasons to hold resentment towards Curry.  Curry and the Warriors leapfrogged the Clippers, Curry took the ‘best point guard’ title away from Paul and won a championship before him.  Nothing epitomizes their career trajectory better than their State Farm commercial together (the video is no longer available anywhere on the internet).  Thompson was on top of the irony, he pointed it out in his 2015 article.

Clearly Chris Paul didn’t see it as an omen, otherwise he probably wouldn’t have allowed for such an image. But the subtle prediction in the State Farm commercial wasn’t lost on Warriors fans.

Released in April 2014, the latest in the popular assist commercials featuring Chris Paul and his fictional twin Cliff ended with an appearance from Stephen Curry. The Pauls were heading down on an escalator. The Warriors’ point guard, with his fictional twin Sebastian, were ascending on that same escalator.

Prophecy fulfilled.

In both cases,  James and Paul feel slighted and robbed of something that was theirs.  Not because Curry is undeserving but because they didn’t see it coming.  Just like everyone else in the league.  In his defense, nothing was handed to Curry.  Before he was drafted, his mother Sonya Curry asked then-Suns’ general manager and current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr “do you think my son can make it in this league?”  Before he became a household name, he was plagued by ankle injuries that could have derailed his entire playing career. He was an under-recruited high school player who made a name for himself by going on a David-versus-Goliath run in the 2009 NCAA Tournament to becoming an MVP, a champion to becoming arguably the best shooter we may ever see, to getting his name dropped by the likes of Drake in his music.  It’s a classic case of when your younger brother finally beats you at one-on-one and you, as the older brother, don’t know how to act because the feeling is so foreign and unfamiliar.

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