Like a piece of music or writing, there is a conventional structure by which basketball possessions produce shots. There is build-up in bringing the ball up the floor, some conflict in penetrating the defense and the climax and resolution of a shot attempt. Like a story. Or, call it a song, with a dribbling intro, some screens and passes for a verse, and a chorus in the form of a bucket.
The point is, there exists a narrative blueprint for making basketball. It offers a predictable, comfortable sense of pacing:
Stephen Curry wrecks all of this.
Collectively, the Warriors manipulate the standard possession construct as beautifully as any team in history. They set exotic screens, pass the ball like a hot potato and hit so, so many shots. A lot of planning, effort and finely tuned execution goes into making such beautiful art out of what is still identifiable as traditional basketball offense.
But for a few possessions each game, the Warriors forego their usual pacing. Steph hijacks the possession narrative and follows a framework of his own:
We've seen games and moments like this before -- some Gilbert Arenas shots and "L-TRAIN DEEP IN THE BRADLEY CENTER" come to mind -- but never, to my knowledge, a player who so regularly breaks every single rule of offensive construction.
As an opponent or an opposing fan, it's devastating. Your defense is built to counteract the familiar flow of a possession, but what the hell are you supposed to do with a guy who strikes while you're still setting up, often from ranges you don't even cover?
Steph Curry is 4-of-10 on 30+ ft shots. CLE, HOU, LAC, LAL, ATL, BOS, BRK, CHA, DAL, DEN, MIL, NOP, ORL, PHX, SAS, UTA and WAS are 4-of-119.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 3, 2015
And Curry's ability to buck the narrative doesn't just hurt opponents. NBA basketball is a show with a director, narrators and an audience, calibrated to capture the usual rhythms of the game. Steph exposes cracks in the whole apparatus. At home, we recognize the change of possession as a dead spot -- a brief opportunity to look down, check the time, sip our drinks and WAIT WHAT HOLY SHIT STEPH JUST SCORED!?
For the TV broadcast, it's a nightmare. The change of possession is when the announcers banter for a second and the camera people show you close-ups, or reactions from the bench and crowd. Look at the New Orleans broadcast cutting to Anthony Davis, then hurriedly cutting back to catch Steph mid-shot:
You can practically hear the director. "OK, let's hit camera 3 here-- WAIT WAIT NO CAMERA 1 CAMERA 1 DAMMIT."
The announcers are there to offer context and color to the spectacle, yet here's the Charlotte broadcast team just muttering in dismay:
This isn't a criticism. What the hell are you supposed to say about that?
Even in the arena itself, Curry screws up the presentation. There are built-in moments for the public address to play a few bars of music or stir up the crowd. Here, Time Warner Cable arena plays a familiar sound effect to ignite a "DE-FENSE" chant, but Steph's got the ball in the air before the second DUN DUN hits:
He sucks the life out of quirky arena promotions:
Talk about awful timing. Suns have promo where crowd gets free Carl's Jr if opp misses 2 FTs in a row. PA announces it WHILE Curry drills 3— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) November 28, 2015
Stephen Curry doesn't just excel at basketball. He affronts our customs for presenting and enjoying basketball. If Steph wrote a movie, the good guy would kill the bad guy in the opening credits. If he made an electronic dance jam, the beat would drop after two seconds and everyone at the rave would faint.
Steph dismantles the structure on which an entire production is built. He breaks every rule the rest of us are trained to follow and flourishes just the same. It's not fair.
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SB Nation presents: Stephen Curry is literally a video game