An immediate clarification, Curry is the NBA’s current best player. Although talent wise Lillard has yet to reach his peak, he is unlikely to ever match or come within shooting distance of the insurmountably impressive accomplishments of Stephen Curry. Curry has cemented himself as an all-time legend and has countless blank pages left in his pristine storybook NBA career.
A further reiteration- I love Curry. I loved him on Davidson when he carried an otherwise laughable roster to the elite eight where they came up 2 points short to the eventual tournament champion Kansas Jayhawks. No NBA analyst or expert, including me, could have ever predicted his rise to superstardom. He deserves every ounce of the praise and incessant media coverage framing him as the league MVP and the best shooter of all-time.
Now, with this knowledge foundation built, I got a bone to pick. Despite my aforementioned affection, appreciation, and aspiration to be like Curry on the basketball court, part of me despises him. Fans and media minds are blinded by his dazzles and glamorous play on the court, but are clueless to detrimental aspects of his demeanor that coast under the radar.
The first reason to dislike Stephen Curry is his negative influence on youth sports. He is ruining the integrity and framework of elementary, middle, and high school level ball. At first glance you might raise a brow and question how such a prominently composed and well-liked public athlete could be hurting the game. Hilariously, what makes him good on the court is the kryptonite for kids adapting their games to star play.
When kids conform their play styles after their role models and idols, they are likely to embrace a player that is dominant in a traditional or exciting way. Young guards that watch CP3, Penny Hardaway, and Iverson learn explosiveness, court vision, ball handing moves and other assistive skills for in-game performance; big men who study Hakeem, Shaq, or KG build a set of palpably visible tools in regards to footwork, floor spacing, post moves, and an expansive array of other helpful lessons to help their respective teams.
The difference with Curry is that he is making these kids believe it’s genuinely acceptable if you huck from anywhere. Players don’t have the desire to build a variable skill set like they did 10 years ago. They want to be like Curry. Obviously coaches have a level of control over this, but coach influence only goes so far when there isn’t a fundamental foundation to build upon. Everyone has seen the scoff-able YouTube vids of high school teams shooting 0 for 37482 from the 3-point line. I first hand have coached and scouted games where bigs step out beyond the arch and hail up an air ball while their bench belts out STEPH! Its not a good look and it is part of the reason legends like Kobe are mocking the current AAU system.
While a counter argument may arise that Curry isn’t scared of driving to the hoop or drawing a foul, that isn’t the type of player he is molding himself as. Additionally, his play style inside of the 3-point stripe is even more difficult to replicate at a young age. The amount of sky he puts under the ball on floaters and finger rolls, the angles and degree he makes swooping layups, it’s all beyond preposterous. The necessary level of talent to complete these moves isn’t something that 10-15 year-olds should be messing with. It’s like Jeremy Barefoot trying to use the same rehab routine for his ACL recovery that Adrian Peterson used before putting up a bonkers record-breaking season.
Another reason I have a hindered level of respect for the shooting star is how perfectly accommodating his coach and current roster is to his success. I am confident that if you switched Curry with nearly any superstar in the last decade, the Warriors would be an improved team. This isn’t a popular opinion. The replaceability of Curry is nearly impossible for what his talent set brings to the table, but the replaceability of him purely as a superstar on a GOAT supporting roster is rather high. I’m saying you switch him with Durant, LeBron, Westbrook, CP3, Kawhi or going back further to KG, JKidd, or even further to the likes of MJ and Gary Payton, the Warriors improve as a team. Saying this after they set the record for most wins in a regular season may seem unusual, but my argument is the swap of Curry with these players would result in the decline of their respective teams. Payton’s Sonics, KGs T-Wolves, the Thunder, the Clippers, they’d all have less efficient teams in terms of performance. The main reason for this is defense, which brings me to my next area of dispute.
Look at all those names that I listed. Look at every name in commonly chosen top players ever. Bird. Russell. Shaq. Kobe. Hakeem. Kareem. Moses. Jordan. All of these greats are prolifically ELITE defenders. I personally want Curry to finish his career in the discussion of one of the best players to ever play the game. Unfortunately that’s impossible. He’s bad at defense. He’s a lightweight. Yes, he has quick feet and hands, resulting in steals and passing lane deflections, but he could never guard up a position, or be worth a damn if a stronger backcourt player decided to body him down low. Did you see what Marcus Smart did in the first round on Paul Millsap? Gary Payton could have done that. JKidd and CP3 would have forced some turnovers. Put Curry on Millsap and Paul cooks him deep fried KFC chicken style.
All players that have stake on the GOAT list have had numerous seasons where they were in contention for 1st Team All Defense, if not the DPOY. Curry will never be one of those players. I still think the best shooter of all time deserves a spot in the top 20, especially given his contribution to a championship team and record-setting roster. So maybe he doesn’t need defense.
To the second chapter
Now the jeans is $800, shoes is $350,
Coppers is getting mad, Fed tryna stick me
Left arm is bent, white T is crispy
And if I get locked, your baby mama gon miss me
But imma stay free, she can hug me and kiss me
I backhand bitches, stunnas flying like frisbees
These are words written and rapped by none other than Dame DOLLA aka Damian Lillard. The Blazer is a prominent figure in rap and fashion culture. His lyrics have since transitioned to focus on ongoing issues revolving around race culture and the dominance of prejudice involved with law enforcement and black youth, all while mocking his naysayers and disbelievers.
The man is a boss. Imagine if Steph Curry was harder, swaggier, a little more inconsistent, and could yammo. That’s Lillard. You don’t piss him off in a game. He scowls. He stares down. He’s brash.
Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard. Crazy middle name. His presence on Twitter and visibility through hip-hop culture is comparable to Shaq in the 90s (if Twitter was a thing then). He dripped 40 buckets on the Warriors for a game three victory (their lone win in the series). He broadcasts proudly about his games and life in his self-created, now infamous 4-bar Friday. If you don’t know about 4-bar Friday you must live under a rock because it is the biggest Instagram sensation spawned off NBA players to date. Even Steph has dished out respect to Lillard in his Friday linguistics.
It’s difficult to put these two superstars on to the same stage, especially since their now clinched matchup saw Curry sitting with a leg injury. I understand a win against the Warriors means less without Steph on the court, but it is a statement nonetheless. The Blazers were never going to beat the Warriors. But their performances in nearly every game prove their legitimacy and the frivolousness of their leader.
Lillard’s putrid Blazer supporting cast lobbied behind the star all the way to a 5th seed in the competitive western conference, a feat no one could have predicted. In fact, experts often picked the Blazers to finish near the top of the lottery as they lost 4 of their 5 starters this past offseason. Not only did Dame tell those haters to shut up, but he also willed his team to become one of the 9 NBA franchises to snag a win from the record-setting Warriors all season (Lillard had 51 in that win, and Curry played). A good measure for comparison- if next year Steph lost the other four Warriors starters to hypothetical free agency and trade departures, would they’re 2017/18 NBA season be comparative to what the Blazers did this year? Sure, Curry is the MVP, but the rest of the Blazer team that stepped up was essentially all replacement level players. If the Warriors dealt with a similar scenario I don’t doubt that they would still be in playoff contention, I just don’t see them impressing the way that the Trailblazers did. Lillard is responsible for the resiliency of this team. He loved being kicked under the rug by analysts and reporters.
Lillard loves doubt. He might be one of the most motivated players in the league. It drives him. He’s had a chip on his shoulder since he’s came into the league, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be smoothed out any time soon. Despite being a two time All-Star and competing in EVERY event in last years Saturday night festivities, Dame wasn’t selected to the All-Star roster this year (only player in history to participate in dunk contest, three-point, and skills challenge in same year). After getting snubbed out of a nomination, Lillard went off against his competition this season, averaging 40 points and 7 assists in games against Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, and Steph (All Star electees) in the Blazer games following the All Star break. He even released a song titled They Sleep discussing how truly wrong his doubters will soon realize they are. Before the break he was notching 24 a game. In the 15 games after All-Star break, Lillard posted 11 30-point performances and averaged 34 a contest. He channels doubt, mocks it, and then spits in its face.
His brashness on the court translates into aggressive defense. As previously mentioned, I have issues with Curry on the defensive end. When watching Lillard play, I don’t feel as nervous. He is more athletic and can stay in front of his man, even if they are a bit larger than him. He shares Curry’s knack for steals and creating loose balls with quick hands and footwork, but is better at recovering off screens (both on ball and off ball), jumping out on shooters, and stopping transition movement. His leaping ability paired with his timing makes him one of the better shot-blocking guards in the league, and his IQ allows him to sag to the hoop in defensive sets that often result in rebounds or poke always from offensive boards. I would essentially describe Curry as a sleek and stealthy undersized defender while Lillard is more athletic and less rough around the edges.
In addition to his rap career, Dame has sponsorship deals with organizations including Statefarm (baby Hooper), Foot Locker, JBL, and most importantly Adidas. He has his share of chilling commercial spots highlighting himself, his sneaker, and him spilling Spaghetti-Os on mama DeAndre Jordan’s floor/ dropping dimes on his teddy bear.
—–Completely random tangent. As I type this I’m watching some classic games. Currently Oscar Robertson and Kareem’s Bucks are taking on Earl the Pearl and Unseld’s Bullets. They are legitimate trash. Putrid basketball. If your grandfather ever tries to say the game isn’t as good as it was back in my day, tell him I said that Oscar Robertson would struggle start for a 2016 NBA team. They’re all fat alcoholic slugs that huffed cigs at halftime. Forget Steph and Dame, if you tossed Goran Dragic in the NBA in the ’70s, he would be a top 10 player all time. No one could dribble with their off hand. When players drove to the hoop the film seems to slow to .5 speed. Top players now would annihilate the game back then, regardless of which rules governed them. Maybe my next piece will discuss player talent by decade—-
Back to DAME Dolla. This debate is especially relevant because of the western conference semi final playoff matchup. The Blazers were fighting a long lost battle, and each game was only evidence of their pride and strive to improve, not of their likelihood to make it to the next round. The Warriors built crucial chemistry on the court without Curry, which will help them further on the championship road if he continues to be plagued with injuries or has foul trouble late in games (They just lost to OKC in game 1, Curry seemed to be hindered by his injury, especially with off-ball movement). Dame and CJ McCollum have cemented themselves as the second most exciting backcourt in the NBA behind Curry and Klay, and will be an attractive landing sport for big men free agents this coming offseason (they were close to snagging Kanter the previous offseason). Terry Stotts was snubbed coach of the year honors to Kerr, as if you look at value over a replacement level coach, the Warriors would dip a couple wins while the Blazers could have plummeted to the top of the lottery where critics acclaimed they’d be anyway.
Moving forward Curry will finish his career with more rings, more MVPs (just snagged his second), and more money from endorsement deals than Dame, but don’t sleep on Lillard’s hunt for superstardom and becoming one of the premier players in the league. I will be forever perplexed and scrutinize the unbelievable accomplishments and highlights put out by Curry, but I will forever rep DAME Dolla’s Weber State purple and white to respect one of the realist to ever play the game.
I had a vivid dream last night that depicted the 2020 NBA finals; the Trailblazers vs. Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics won the series, Portland won game 4 behind Lillard’s 65 points from 16 three pointers and 2 posterizations over future Celtic Boogie Cousins. It was a game I’ll never forget- and perhaps another topic for further blog elaboration in the coming weeks.
With that being said Damian Lillard is formally inducted into the Swoosh Hall of Fame; an elite grouping of prominent athletes and superstars who’s accolades and endeavors leaves me thirsty for more. The Swoosh HoF is a premier collection of only the most polarizing and illustrious of stars. Lillard will be inducted as the first member of this revolutionary group and will be joined by a select few in the coming years. Congratulations Dame, you can expect your medal and confirmation slip in the mail in the coming weeks.