How Stephen Curry weaponized joy on All-Star Sunday 2021
Was that the most fun All-Star game of all time?
Stephen Curry just took over All-Star Sunday with his unique alchemy of devastating play and jaw dropping charisma, leading Team LeBron to an emphatic 170-150 victory, amirite?
Okay so full disclosure: I wasn’t even gonna watch the All-Star game. Covid-19 concerns had eliminated the usual norms of a lavish All-Star weekend. Those concerns had muted the enthusiasm for several players, including Space Jam 2 star LeBron James.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (the two-headed monster leading the East’s #1 seed) were eliminated from the showcase because of pandemic protocols. The league was also stuffing the three-point shootout and slam dunk competition into the night of the main showcase without seemingly any regard for the average human’s attention span.
It was sounding like a mess. And on top of that, members of Dub Nation were well aware Curry’s game hadn’t translated fully into the All-Star games the way we see him do on a nightly basis here in the Bay. Outside of a stellar 2016 performance, the best highlight Dub Nation could usually hope for was a cool alley-oop or him cartoonishly playing dead while some monster tried to posterize him.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look at his previous All-Star games. Outside of “Unanimous Steph” and “First Year With KD Steph”, this dude was nonchalantly throwing up bricks at a Westbrookian pace. Per Basketball-Reference:
So, I figured I’d show proper respect to Curry by watching him perform in the 3PT shootout and then flick back to HBO Max and continue binging Boardwalk Empire.
Little did I know Curry was about to put his stamp on the evening in the same way he put his stamp on this era: weaponizing joy.
Curry stole the show in the 3PT shootout
Side note: if you folks didn’t know, Utah Jazz fans/players have been on terror alert level Red this entire season despite their team being the #1 seed in the West, due to a perceived lack of respect from other fan bases/teams/the league. If you comb through Jazz Reddit you’ll quickly pick up the sense that many of these fans are looking for vengeance after being emotionally buried underground for decades.
So imagine how they felt when they sent not one but TWO Jazzmen (Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley) to the 3PT shootout in the hopes of bringing home any sense of validation before they hit the playoffs. Conley even made the final round, setting up for a showdown with the greatest shooter of all time: Wardell Stephen Curry II.
And for the first time since Kevin Durant left the Dubs, Dub Nation was momentarily repossessed by the golden aura of invincibility. Did people actually DOUBT whether Curry could do what his daddy raised him to do: drill deep bombs under pressure? He was born for this.
Here’s the best gif form I could imagine of Dub Nation guffawing at the brilliance of Curry and the destruction of his foes.
Of course right as Curry received his trophy, sideline reporter Allie LaForce grabbed the mic and reminded Curry that this was only the second time he’s won the event over his long career (why they always gotta hate lmao).
Curry’s competitive verve radiated through Team LeBron
After that epic performance, there was no way I was going to miss the ASG itself. Two things did give me reason to worry he might turn in a dud:
His rhythm/energy level could have been thrown off by incinerating the shootout and would leave him out of wack during the game.
He was teamed with the rivals whose dreams he had ruined for years.
We hear all the time about how the league wants revenge on Curry and Warriors for their dynastic dominance. Looking at the Team LeBron roster, there were four players he had personally eliminated from the playoffs, including LeBron James himself. We’ve seen the unselfish Curry’s offense go quiet in stretches with his own Warriors team; it wasn’t out of the question he’d be frozen out by the men whose dreams he ruined and OMG I’m sounding like one of those paranoid Jazz fans.
But Curry soon quelled any of those ridiculous fears, starting with his hilarious stanning of James’ world famous pregame ritual.
Curry kept the fun building from there, pushing the pace with a relentless giddiness, like a third grader racing his classmates to the swings during a park field trip. He ratcheted up the creativity with a look-away corner bomb he popularized, but with a special twist. Remember when James shocked the world with his own imitation of Curry’s insane no look three-pointer?
Curry upped the ante by mimicking James’ imitation!!!!
Lillard’s amused facial expression was the perfect combo of respect and burning competitive vibes any of us could have asked for in that moment.
That shot opened the floodgates for Team LeBron, who began taking turns bombing away in the spirit of Curry. Antetokounmpo, the muscle bound giant best known for hammering dunks, suddenly wanted to show off his deep range.
Remember back in the days when guys celebrated dunks like that? Last night, dunks almost felt like a failure; everybody wanted to hit from deep and celebrate wildly.
I mean, guys have been aimlessly jacking three-pointers in All-Star games for a long time. But last night I believe Curry’s teammates were wildly attempting triples in the hopes of catching HIS wave. They wanted to feel what it was like to join in on the deep range feeding frenzy they had witnessed/fallen victim to in the past.
DEEP SPLASH FEEDING FRENZY ACTIVATED
Okay at this point it’s time I’m going to stop ranting on how amazing it was and just show you some clips.
When Curry, CP3, and Dame caught alley oops in succession, I knew the game had been broken. The crazy thing is Warriors fans have witnessed these kinds of barrages during the championship years; how amazing was it to see that infectious joy bringing the best out of an All-Star team?
So, of course Curry didn’t get the MVP
Curry finished with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting (8-of-16 from deep), numbers that didn’t stand out beyond the hellfire Antetokoumpo and Lillard unleashed.
So when Antetokoumpo was deservedly awarded the All-Star game MVP trophy, it felt like a microcosm of Curry’s career. His deadly floor spacing and unselfish, non-ball dominant style allow for others to flourish in spectacular ways. But his zest for unselfish play and soul snatching theatrics hasn’t translated into Finals/All-Star MVP’s, the accolades that traditionally great stars snag. But the Curry way does translate to W’s and excitement, which Team LeBron thoroughly enjoyed last night.
LeBron James @KingJamesFinally got to share the floor with @StephenCurry30! Well overdue and I loved every single second!! #GreatestShooterOfAllTime #ChangedHowTheGameIsPlayedByHimselfAlone #RespectBeyondWords #JustSomeKidsBornInAKRON🤴🏾
When former Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Curry had ruined the game, I’m sure he was concerned about the 3PT fetish destroying classic basketball logic and strategy. And when I watch some of these trash teams jacking up triples unashamedly, I feel where Coach Jackson’s coming from. But I don’t believe he considered just tantalizing it is to play free and win like Curry does.
At an All-Star event that appeared doomed from the outset by Covid fears and lackluster superstar buy in, Curry’s joyful dominance made it the most fun NBA night of the season.