On Friday, former Golden State Warriors coach and current ABC/ESPN analyst Mark Jackson got NBA fans pretty riled up with the assertion that Steph Curry was actually hurting basketball by being so good at shooting:
“Understand what I’m saying when I say this. He’s hurting the game,” Jackson said. “And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game.”
Backlash to Jackson’s comments was pretty swift.
Mark Jackson isn't coaching for a reason. The mystery is why he's announcing
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) December 26, 2015
By Mark Jackson's logic, Allen Iverson was the worst thing ever to happen to this game.
— Adi Joseph (@AdiJoseph) December 26, 2015
After the game, Curry himself offered a retort to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears:
Curry chuckled at Jackson’s comments but also seemed confused by them.
“I have to talk to him,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t know what he means by that. If you can shoot, shoot. If you can’t, stop.”
So did a prominent Warriors teammate:
Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who also played under Jackson, didn’t appreciate his former coach’s remarks.
“Anything he says, you can take that with a grain of salt,” Bogut said. “And you can quote me on that.”
Of course it seems odd to suggest that the best player in the league, one who is so exhilarating to watch, could actually be hurting the game. However, as often happens on the internet, a contrarian viewpoint began to emerge.
Mark Jackson will get killed for saying that because he’s Mark Jackson but I’m not sure I want to see hoops evolve to just 3-point shots
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) December 26, 2015
Ppl are running out..@MarkJackson13 was complimenting Steph..basically telling kids to develop their entire game like Steph did…sheesh
— WARRIORMOM (@BabersGreen) December 26, 2015
Totally. Cosign. I am no Mark Jackson fan and what he said made all the sense in the world. https://t.co/aIyKguomGe
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) December 26, 2015
— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) December 26, 2015
React to @MarkJackson13's Steph comments is about not liking Mark/loving Steph. I've heard multiple HS/youth coaches make the same point.
— Ric Bucher (@RicBucher) December 26, 2015
So was Jackson crazy to suggest Curry was hurting the game, or is there something to his unconventional opinion?
Probably a little of both.
Curry is obviously great for basketball — he’s charismatic and personable off the court and exhilarating on it. He’s a marketable star who draws eyeballs to games and makes kids at home want to head to the park.
The problem: As with any special player, his skill set can’t be easily re-created. If just about anyone else in the world tries to play like Steph Curry, he/she will fail. Curry’s shooting range is unprecedented, the product of natural talent plus loads and loads of practice. His freedom to shoot from anywhere is hard-earned. Clearly, if every high schooler thinks pull-up jumpers five feet behind the line are acceptable, that is bad for the quality of play at that level. Curry’s inclination toward fast-break pull-ups and contested long-range jumpers is not a good example for children playing basketball.
That said, Curry is more than a brilliant shooter. He’s also a willing (and talented) passer who ranked in the top five in the NBA in assists each of the past season, and who quarterbacks a team built on selflessness and working the ball to the open man within a system. Those parts of Curry’s game should be emulated by everyone who picks up a basketball, especially any aspiring backcourt player.
This is where the discussion becomes more complex: Every great player has elements of his game no one should try at home. You don’t want high schoolers copying Kobe’s penchant for fadeaways or LeBron’s willingness to storm into traffic or Kevin Durant’s fearless shot selection. When you’re one of the best players in the world, you do things the average Joe shouldn’t. That’s part of the gig.
In the end, Mark Jackson’s comments received a lot of negative attention because he’s Mark Jackson, a popular punching bag who failed to make the Warriors (and Curry) as great as they’ve become under Steve Kerr and Luke Walton. If, say, Zach Lowe had said the same thing about Curry, you better believe the reaction would have been wildly different.
The sentiment that kids jacking tough threes isn’t good for development shouldn’t be controversial. That idea just happened to be phrased in a provocative way (“hurting the game”) and delivered by a guy a lot of people like to dislike.
Steph Curry isn’t “hurting the game,” and there’s no reason for him to change his style of play, which obviously works pretty darn well for him. That said, his skill set — like the skill set of almost every superstar player — doesn’t necessarily provide a good example for high school kids, which is all Jackson was trying to say.