Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “all these things have happened, and probably they will happen again” but I don’t think he meant within the span of two minutes.
With fewer than 180 seconds to go in the third against Memphis Wednesday, Steph Curry, the guy who decides what music to play for the Golden State Warriors and how fast and how loud and whether he’s going to do a solo or just hit the button on some EDM, did a pair of things that maybe have happened before and may or may not happen again.
• With the Warriors clinging to a third-quarter lead, he took the ball up dribble-stepped, went behind the back near halfcourt and took two paces over the line as in a game of Mother May I? and scored on a 30-foot layup despite being shoved from behind by Grizzlies point guard Russ Smith. The ball launched triumphantly into the stale arena stratosphere, orbited around the scoreboard a pair of times and was cast aflame NBA Jams-style as it re-entered earth’s atmosphere. It was the kind of play you see from a CYO matchup filmed on a dad’s shaky phone that finds its way to seven-figure heights on YouTube. Steph was just some kid gleefully tossing the ball toward the basket and backpedaling toward the bench as if his thoughts were more on halftime snack or the post-game Lego bribe he’d cash in for making the three-pointer. The ball banked in as it should have and Steph did that thing most NBA athletes aren’t currently coached up on. He shrugged and smiled and wagged his head around like a Labrador who just did something very very right. And then he picked up nimbly like Michael Flatley in three-quarter-tops to shimmy back on defense. That was with 2:26 left in the quarter.
• Then, before anyone could take a sip of Sprite and text ‘did u see that ☺️‘, there was the sweetest revenge on Smith who was watching the clock just a breath away from expiring to quarter four. Steph, with 1.9 seconds to create, stole Smith’s lazy pass and darted around two human pylons as if he was conducting his own set of drills. Instead of taking it in all the way to watch the backboard frame light up Operation-nose red, he pulled up and did something that looked like a trick shot for a movie where a kid gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make one from half-court: Ball thrown up. Different ball placed near basket. More a punt than a shot. The hang-time meter would have clocked in north of five seconds. And the ball didn’t find its way to the bottom of the net until well after the 18,000-plus at FexEx forum had started queuing for fourth-quarter foam.
The sell-out crowd, giddy moments earlier with the notion of stopping the Warriors’ early season march, cooled off faster than 2 a.m. nacho cheese.
It was here in Memphis just six months ago that Curry and the Warriors, losers of two straight, fell into a 2-1 deficit in a best of seven during the Western Conference semis. Team leaders instead of FaceTiming and hitting the rack decided to sneak out for a little late-night barbecue at Blues City Cafe on Beale Street. Nobody bothered to ask if a Tom Cruise stunt double was spotted doing back handsprings with a local miniature street performer, but I’m assuming that happened too.
The Warriors went on to win back-to-back-to-back games to close out the series and advance to Houston en route to Cleveland and the hoisting of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Curry credits the moment Sunday curfew was broken with reignting his heat. He found it sprinkled atop his 2 a.m. Catfish.
The Warriors on the road now seem like a version of a Whole Foods coming to town. Your hopes and dreams for local anonymity replaced by a $30 salad bar trip and moms in the express line whose butts you shouldn’t be looking at with such intent. When the Warriors come to town, the rest of the NBA-loving lower 48 sees them how the rest of America sees the clip-on manbun. Are they a fad or fiction…or the real thing? Go ahead Steph, do it again.
Prove to us you are real.
And then he does.
And then the Warriors suddenly turn into that shiny-browed intern who somehow became your boss’s boss within the span of five years and is now the guy who recently bought a Tesla. And because he just dropped $160k on a car that no longer needs gas, he’s got enough presumed planetary good will to be whatever kind of jerk-off. And that somehow directly affects you, irks you…even though it has nothing to do with you.
Steph Curry plays like Judd Apatow discovered a shoe box full of VHS And-1 Mixtapes and decided to make a movie about it. The next-gen Professor in full bloom. No moves that sick should come with a plot.
But now they do. They happen on a nightly basis. Then they happen again less than a minute and a half later.