In what may be the biggest MRI in modern-day sports history, the fate of the proverbial free basketball world lies in the results of a hopeful negative result on Steph Curry’s right knee.
Not since Joe Montana suffered a career-threatening back injury in 1986, has the Bay Area sports world come to a collective halt.
But after Curry injuring his right knee thanks to a wet spot left on the hardwood, causing him to slip and bend his right knee during the defending champion Golden State Warriors 121-94 blowout win over the Houston Rockets to take a 3-1 series lead, the Warriors quest for basketball immortality took a sharp and dramatic turn.
In what has been nothing short of a charmed season, Curry has basically made the NBA record book his personal Etch-A-Sketch in inscribing his name all over it en route to making 400 three-pointers, averaging 30.1 points per game, shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from three-point range and 90.8 percent from the free-throw line.
It is an inevitable and forgone conclusion that he will win his second NBA Most Valuable Player award in a unanimous landslide, but for all of his accolades, the NBA’s new Golden Boy and his storybook season may now be all for naught. If Monday’s MRI comes back with a sprained MCL* for Curry, then he is looking at being out a minimum of four to six weeks, depending on the grade of it.
If it comes back that it is torn, then Curry is done for the entire postseason. While Golden State can easily dispatch of the Rockets, thanks to Curry’s fragility, the seemingly invincible 73-win Warriors now have the new look of vulnerability that many couldn’t have ever foreseen.
(*UPDATE: According to media reports, Curry has a Grade 1 MCL sprain, and is expected to miss 1-2 weeks.)
For all of their seemingly non-stop hype and the borderline-nauseating fawning by the media, the Golden State Warriors are the equivalent of rock stars when they visit opposing gyms—and are cheered and revered by both rival and home fans alike. You have Curry as the league’s new face, the cool and collected Klay Thompson as the cold assassin shooting guard channeling his Scottie Pippen opposite of Curry’s modern-day MJ and you have the brash, outspoken and somewhat arrogant Draymond Green being the quiet and invisible glue that holds everything together in being a consistent triple-double threat every night, and Dubs is the team we love to hate, and hate to love at the same time.
A case could be made that they are America’s REAL team—and not the Dallas Cowboys—as they are on a proverbial pedestal that rivals the beloved three-time World Cup champion U.S. Women’s National Team. Yes, as much as some fans hate them for being the media darlings and seeing non-stop Curry highlights, we all tune in to watch, read, tweet, see and most of all—HATE—on them.
In this writer’s mind, the reason why Steph Curry is so genuinely beloved is that he is the anti-thesis of fellow Akron native, LeBron James. He didn’t jump straight from high school to the NBA and help usher in the current AAU-type of playground hoops that is today’s league.
At 6’3 and 198, he is not as big, physical or intimidating as LBJ, as he is slight and seemingly average-looking. Nor is he the proverbial alpha dog of the league, even though a case COULD be made.
Instead, he went to college, he paid his dues in suffering various ankle and foot injuries early in his career, and unlike James, he didn’t alienate his hometown fans in defecting to another superstar’s team to win chase rings. That to me is why so many love—and want to see—Curry win another ring at the expense of James.
To send a proverbial message that staying with your team and building something is more important than teaming up with superstar pals.
In being the new face of the NBA, Curry is everything that James and the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” ain’t in playing a beautiful, entertaining and high-scoring brand of basketball. In all of my years as a fan and a writer, has a player such as Curry single-handily change the game and take the art of long-range shooting to the levels I have seen.
I have seen many great shooters in the late Drazen Petrovic, Peja Stojakovic, Ray Allen, Larry Bird and Reggie Miller, but none of them had the range, dribbling skills and innocent baby face that Curry has. Fans want to root for someone who they can relate to, few can relate to James, but many can relate to Curry as he is slight of build, unassuming in terms of looks and modest in speaking. While injuries happen and are part of the game, Curry and the Warriors will garner little sympathy from those who felt that last year’s title came at the expense of them.
Do you think the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers feel sorry for Curry and the somewhat self-entitled Warriors right now?
No. Would they relish the chance of besting Curry at full strength? Yes, and that is the real tragedy of it all.
If Curry is out for the rest of the post-season, fans will be robbed of some truly great playoff matchups, and the proverbial team that does dethrone the Warriors will be robbed of the distinction of beating Curry ON the court and fully healthy. Not to channel my inner homer for a second, but I still maintain that Golden State had the most fortuitous path to a NBA title in recent memory, and I will also maintain that if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had been fully healthy, that Cleveland would have won it’s first NBA title.
While we will never know what could have been, it says a lot of LBJ in single-handily carrying a depleted bunch of proverbial bench-warmers to the Finals and taking the the Warriors to six games. Sadly, even though I’m not a fan of Golden State, even I felt a little saddened by the news of Curry’s injury. As it robbed everyone of a chance to find out if they can actually beat Dubs with Curry. Also it makes the whole Cleveland sans Love-Irving argument from last year moot if both teams somehow meet up again in June.
The pain of never knowing is almost more brutal that the one currently in Curry’s Golden Knee. Great teams are able to overcome injuries and press forward, and perhaps due to me growing up in the more physical 80-90’s era of ruffians, today’s softer, social-media obsessed era of touchscreen fans want everything instantly in a pretty, eye-appealing package, which is what Dubs is.
And Curry is the key component of that beauty.
The LAST thing smartphone-obsessed Millennials want is another Spurs-Cavs snoozer of a NBA Finals rematch. Boring.
As a life-long Cavs fan, I think I speak for all when I say that I want another crack at Curry at full strength. While beating the Warriors in a Finals rematch would be epic. It just won’t be the same without perhaps the greatest shooter of our time watching from the sidelines.