clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bret Bielema wanted Arkansas players to be more Steph Curry, less LeBron. Wait, what?

Never change, big man.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC's spring meetings began Tuesday in Florida, and so we will have a new round of cra-a-a-z-y quotes to know and love by week's end. Fortunately for everyone in existence, Bret Bielema decided to lead off with a head-scratching basketball metaphor on Tuesday.

"I told our guys [last year during the NBA Finals] here at Arkansas we need to be a little bit Curry and a little less LeBron," Bielema said Tuesday at the SEC Spring Meetings. "We've got to be a little bit more about the team and working together and the chemistry."

Bielema made the remark while going off a tangent when asked whether Baylor coach Art Briles' firing will serve as a wake-up call for coaches to hold players more accountable for claims of sexual violence. Bielema used the anecdote as an example of ways he says he teaches Arkansas players.

"I listed all the guys that got drafted ahead of [Curry] that weren't even in the league anymore, and I think about it a lot because I knew that [Arkansas] players were engaged in basketball," Bielema said. "I don't know anything about basketball. I probably shouldn't even be commenting on it, but I knew the story of Curry. I think we use outside stuff like that all the time that helps us build our program in the way we want."

On one hand, Bielema probably couldn't have picked two better basketball players to use when discussing being a team player, given that two-time defending MVP Curry has led the Warriors to unforeseen heights in the NBA, and that James will play in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals for the Cavaliers.

On the other: (deep sigh)

LeBron has taken some criticism for being selfish, but much of that relates not to anything he did on the court, but to his decisions to leave Cleveland for Miami and then return to Ohio. The criticism of LeBron as a player rather than a figure over his career, though, often relates to him being unselfish, passing up big shots in searches for the best one and arguably shrinking at moments when he was expected to do Herculean things. He's averaged 6.4 assists per game for his career, is climbing the NBA's all-time ranks in the category and is widely renowned as one of the best facilitators of this century on the court.

(It's possible that Bielema was referring to LeBron's subtweeting spree earlier this year, sure, but giving a guy who jokes about not watching basketball credit for knowing minutiae of the game seems like a bit much.)

Curry, meanwhile, is a fine team player and a point guard who has averaged 5.9 or more assists per game in every year of his career, but has only transformed into a transcendent player by getting more selfish. Curry has raised his shots-per-game average over each of the last four years, and it ballooned from 18.5 attempts per game in 2014-15 to 21.3 — a number LeBron has topped just thrice in his career — in 2015-16. His brilliance often lies in his ability to create for himself, rather than for teammates, by splashing down threes after wicked crossovers.

That "selfishness" only made Curry the best player on the best regular-season team in NBA history, one that is favored to win a second straight title.

And LeBron's "selfishness" in heading to Miami? It netted him two championships with the Heat. Plus, his most selfish spate of play arguably came in last year's Finals, when he averaged an otherworldly 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the absence of the injured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and briefly held the upper hand on a vastly superior Warriors team, indicating that all the whining about LeBron not being capable of or wanting to do superhuman things maybe misses the point that it's not his best means of winning.

Bielema could have had a really good point there! He could also have made a pretty neat point about the multiple forms of greatness in athletics! Instead, he probably made a totally incoherent one.

It seems possible that coaches spouting drive-time-show-ready aphorisms and metaphors about teamwork may be making stuff up as they go, validity be damned. Huh!