Steph Curry : The ‘modest superstar’ oxymoron

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The name that most often comes to mind when Steph Curry is mentioned, at least for me, is “Eddie Haskell.”

Remember Eddie Haskell, the character from the “Leave it to Beaver” television show? Basically, Eddie was a slick bully and habitual liar. He would glad-hand the main characters’ parents, then turn fierce when the adults left the room.

Is there such a thing as modest, humble superstar? Let us not bury the lead: The answer is “No.”

Urban Dictionary
Urban Dictionary

During the Golden State Warriors’ chase for 72-plus wins, in 2015-16, an ESPN media talking head said of the team: “They’re focused, they’re humble.” Normally when someone says something untrue, we might put it into one of two categories: He is either a liar, or simply ignorant.

I don’t use “ignorant” the way that most of the world does.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stupid. The real meaning of that word ignorant is just that you don’t know. Maybe willfully.

Are the best athletes humble? The question itself is silly.

Duke University basketball team has held a similar spot in college sports for years. Except people love to hate Duke and they love the Golden State Warriors, for now. But there’s not much of a difference. It is simply big ego that is overlooked, largely because they can “back up the ego” and are entertaining.

That big ego is something which most of us claim we don’t like… except for the likeable exceptions. Curry and the Warriors have been that exception, at least through the 2016-17 season.

Which is puzzling, because Curry’s stare-downs belie the “humble” perception. Running back down the court as his long distance shot is still sailing toward the hoop because he’s so confident it will go in? That goes against the “modesty” that is a part of the Curry/GSW brand. Throwing mouthpieces because things have been easy for too long? Tripping opposing players as he did against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 playoffs? Not really the picture of meekness.

I’ll teach you how to stunt

Mostly people like him because he seems like a boy next door. Curry is cuddly-looking and holds his young daughter at post-game interviews. He is seen as a little guy underdog, except for the fact that his daddy was an NBA player who surely helped guide Steph into this career. There are some benefits to growing up like that.

Curry appears as a departure from the popular perception of NBA players. What is that perception? That American professional basketball players (or, to be direct: young black guys) are surly malcontents who don’t want to be coached. This is a flawed perception that has persisted for decades, and peaked during the Allen Iverson years. It is a perception that goes too far in one direction.

Simultaneously, the “good guy” perception of Curry travels too far the other way. Remember his comment about hoping the champagne smell would still be in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ visiting locker room, after the Warriors clinched the championship the previous season?

Remember he and his teammates dancing pregame, the following season, to a Drake song which celebrated murderers, carjackers and kidnappers? “Big Rings”. You think Curry understood the lyrics?

And then there was the squatting on the floor, during the 2017 Finals in Quicken Loans Arena. Curry tried to gloss that one over by saying it was an accident. But, like Draymond Green’s constant inseam-kicking, it’s difficult to believe that a pro athlete loses control over his body mid-game.

If you think there’s nothing wrong with overconfidence, or “stunting” as some might call it, when you have a lot of talent, then fine. But stop saying he’s humble and modest and even God-fearing. Can’t have it both ways. Even sports-idolizing heathens know that being arrogant is not Christ-like.

Is this nitpicking? It could be interpreted as nitpicking. Except the nits add up to a hill of dead bugs too large to sweep under the rug.

You can get with this AND that

Tim Tebow was and is perceived as “pushing God in our faces.” Sports talking head Bomani Jones used that phrase of Tebow, in a May 2016 podcast, when talking about Curry’s on- and off-court displays of pride.

Jones is saying that Curry does NOT push God in our faces. It’s merely a side dish to Curry’s family-and-team-and-faith brand, which makes it palatable to people who hate the Bible. Curry’s professed faith is therefore not an issue with that host, nor with most other sports fanatics. Simple logic tells us that Curry’s professed faith is lukewarm at best, and worthy of mockery.

No wonder unbelievers don’t respect Christians, who are right there doing all the same things. Like make an idol out of a talented athlete who only stands for Jesus when he’s writing chopped-up, out-of-context Bible verses on his sneakers.

CLEVELAND, OH – JUNE 16: Stephen Curry #30 and Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors celebrate with the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

It all points to a need to impress the world. That need is the opposite of humility. You cannot pursue status and competitive supremacy to the levels Curry’s attained without great ego and pride. You cannot get to that level without stepping over, or on, other people. College basketball coach Levelle Moton, who knows Curry at least in passing, called the sharpshooter “an assassin.” And assassins ain’t cuddly, brother.

All of the greats are prideful, you say? That drive to be the best to dominate the opponent is what makes them great? Then quit calling him sweet.

Doesn’t matter if he acts like a ‘nice guy’ to team employees or media. Most people don’t turn a switch like that. Honest people will acknowledge that an on-court persona is representative of who you are off-court, too. We see this when he turns snarky toward the president of the United States, or toward the Under Armour CEO. Trump’s September 2017 blasting of Curry was big news, though no one seems to remember Curry shot first by calling the president an ass. 

At least admit we don’t know which Curry is the real one. If both… if the switch can be turned at will… then, necessarily, he is not a humble, modest superstar. You know why not? Because he wants to beat you.

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