The perception of dominance in the NBA has always had the implication of physically “imposing ones will”. Recently, the discussion is being brought to the forefront because of the shooting accuracy beyond the arch of one player.
What does dominant mean? Commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others. It never defines dominance, “has to physically impose ones will.” So, why does the sports world only deem physical dominance as the only form of dominance?
At the start of the NBA, the league was not based on skills or fundamentals. If you physically fit the stature of a 7-foot, 300- pound man, you assumed the position of being a front line player who was to shot block, clean up, score around the rim, etc. The fundamentals of shooting weren’t taught to big men. During the Shaquille O’Neal era, he was considered dominant because he was over 7 foot and was physically bigger than his opponent. He could physically impose his will on competitors. A scrawny 6’3, 190-pound point guard from Davidson College, is changing the way not only the NBA views dominance but the entire sports world.
Stephen Curry is now considered by many as the best basketball player in the world. I will repeat, “Steph Curry is now considered to be the best NBA player in the world.” Yes, everyone, LeBron James has been dethroned as the king by the wet shooting stroke of Chef Curry. Steph Curry is one of the most dynamic and versatile offensive players the NBA has ever seen, but it wasn’t always that way.
Curry graduated from high school with one basketball scholarship and after his success at the collegiate level, he was still undervalued. Curry received a scholarship from Davidson College during his senior season. That would be the only scholarship he would receive despite his father, 20 years earlier ending his Hall Fame Career at Virginia Tech. Fast forward to his 7th season in the league and he is putting up numbers that even Michael Jordan wasn’t able to accomplish.
Curry is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arch and 52 percent from the field. Just to put that into perspective, Curry typically takes 21 shots a game, and makes at least 11 of those shots . Curry is currently leading the league in three-pointers made at 102 with 222 attempts on the season (at the time of this writing) and could miss his next 55 three-point attempts and still be first in the league in 3-point field goal percentage. (2nd place Damien Lillard at 35 percent)
Curry’s diversity on offense has drew, similarities to Michael Jordan posing the comparison of Jordan to Curry. I think we all know who has the better overall body of work with six rings etc. but this is some food for thought. There is a general consensus among basketball fans that Michael Jordan was “the best all-around player to ever play the game” but the NBA world bases that statement solely on his offensive shooting ability and ability to dominant in the clutch (Jordan was also an excellent defensive player but isn’t recognized for it in comparisons). Curry, in some aspects, has embodied that same dominance in the clutch, which possess the question why can’t dominance be defined as a skill based judgment? Sure, if you are physically bigger then you opponent your ability to over shadow you opponent is greater, but what if your opponent’s skills are at the level of Steph Curry. At the end of the day fans and media personal compare “ The Great’s” based on a stat line. So, should it matter how that player reaches that stat line, especially if their name is used in company of Magic Johnson or even Michael Jordan?
The manner in which Curry became the most dominant offensive juggernaut in the NBA has earned him the nickname “the quiet assassin”. That sounds to me to be deadly… but why is that not considered to the pinnacle of dominance? Dominance is rooted from the word strength but has always been seen as physical strength, but strength comes in many facets. Curry is changing the perception of strength, showing strength doesn’t always have to come in a physical facet. It can come through skills.
NBA legend and Warriors training assistant spoke highly of the reining MVP. “He maybe as skilled a player as we’ve ever had in this game.” That sounds pretty dominant to me… especially considering the winner of the game is determined by who has the most points at the end of regulation.
Looking forward, is basketball moving toward a more skilled game or do guys just not play defense anymore? The simple answer, is it’s a little bit of both, but through analyzation there are certain aspects of the game that are different. The physicality of the game has changed because of the regulations regarding fouls and the offensive skill set of all five players on the floor has expanded. The big man in the 70’s did not step out and shoot threes like Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, or rookie Kristaps Porzingis. They typically shot no further than 15 ft. from the basket, now we have “ stretch fours” (Power Forward) or “Stretch fives” (Centers) that have guard skills. That just wasn’t praised during the earlier days of the league.