Arts Devo

The Curry movement in the history of the art of basketball

The master: Steph Curry.

The master: Steph Curry.

Photo by Keith Allison (via Flickr)

Art of Steph Today’s arts column is totally about sports. But Arts DEVO is going to argue that it’s about art, too—the masterful, once-in-a-generation art of Steph Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors. And as with Picasso, Tarantino, Babe Ruth, Kerouac and David Bowie before him, his work has the potential to change the perception of his art form forever.

Last season, Curry led his team to an NBA championship and was the league’s MVP. This season, he’s even better. Look at last Saturday (Feb. 26), for example. During just one game against the very formidable Oklahoma City Thunder, Curry surpassed his own record for 3-pointers made in a season (now at 288 as of press time), tied an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a game (12), and helped his team clinch a playoff spot by scoring more than 40 points for the third straight game and hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with less than one second remaining. Oh, and he took that shot 37 feet from the basket, about 15 feet behind the arc! Curry likely will be the MVP again, the Warriors are favored to win the championship again, and with a record of 54-5, his team has a decent chance of topping Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team’s 72-10 season.

In a story this week by Ian Levy on the stat-geek blog, he compared Curry’s record-obliterating 3-pointer pace—he’s projected to sink roughly 400 by season’s end, a 40 percent jump from his 286 record from last season—to an MLB player topping Barry Bonds’ 73-home-run record by smashing 102 in a single season.

Curry is literally a game-changer, but it’s more than just his spotting up and shooting ridiculously long-range shots, partly because those shots are no longer ridiculous for Curry. That 37-foot game winner was not a desperate heave. It was a well-practiced, in-rhythm, almost casual-looking, dead-eye jump shot. And with any shot from the half-court line to the basket now being a reasonable one, the whole game is changed, defenses are forced to spread out, and an entire half court of possibilities is opened up for his team of badass supporting characters. And then, when Curry adds to his exceedingly quick shooting motion (making 51.5 percent of his shots, 46.8 from three), an inherited arsenal of additional moves perfected by all the innovators who’ve come before him—Chris Paul’s hesitation dribble; Allen Iverson’s ankle-breaking crossover; the sleight-of-hand ball-handling of Pete Maravich; myriad always-open step-back and fadeaway jumpers—the result is a kind of improvisation that can take any form needed depending on what the defense provides. It’s poetry.

And this “art history” is happening right now; you can witness it, tonight even (March 3), when the Thunder come to Oakland to try and reclaim some dignity against Curry and his teammates and their zero losses at home this season.

This is not just a plea for you to watch sports. This is a friendly nudge to be a part of something special (as it says on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated: “This is a moment, everyone”). It’s a nudge I make from the informed position of someone who fell in love with the NBA at the dawn of the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird Los Angeles Lakers/Boston Celtics rivalry. That era was poetry in tight shorts, and it felt special to be a very tiny part of it. I’m a Sacramento Kings fan now, but I am more than happy to be a witness to Curry making his art, even if my guys, like the rest of the NBA, are little more than clay in his hands.

Celebration of life A memorial service for one-time local actor Erik Pedersen, who died Jan. 13, will be held Saturday, March 5, at the Blue Room Theatre. The gathering starts at 5 p.m., the memorial at 6 p.m., with a reception to follow.