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Fundamentals over offense

Mark Jackson had a great insight during the Warriors/Cavaliers Christmas game matchup:

Steph Curry's great. Steph Curry is the MVP. He's a champion. Understand what I'm saying when I say this: To a degree, he's hurt the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he's just a knockdown shooter. That's not why he's the MVP. He's a complete basketball player.

His statement generated much controversy as every news headline blared: "Mark Jackson says Steph Curry has hurt the game of basketball". Jackson knew his statement would draw controversy. That's why he prefaced it by saying "understand what I'm saying when I say this".

I knew exactly what he meant when he made the statement. And I agree with it to an extent. I would disagree on placing the blame on Steph Curry. Every 5-10 years a transcendental player comes along that could be considered a bad influence to the game. I've been playing pickup basketball since the 90s, and I've seen it firsthand. In the late 90s you had the MJ showboats who would try to play like Mike (by putting up as many fade-away jumpers as they could muster). Then we had the Kobe era. These individuals would shoot as much as they could trying to channel their inner 81-point Kobe.

Offense is what draws the masses to basketball. The superstars tend to be offensively gifted. And great offense trumps great defense. But Marc Jackson was wrong in blaming only Steph Curry in this trend of kids focusing on three pointers instead of fundamentals. Curry has carried the torch. And likely a bit further than his predecessors.

In my earlier days of pickup basketball I was very offensive minded. If I didn't make a couple shots in a game, I'd be disappointed and wouldn't enjoy the game. As I got older, I had less time to practice, and naturally my shooting got worse. And then I had an idea. Instead of focusing on how many points I could score, I started thinking about the other ways I could impact the game and be challenged. For example I'd volunteer to guard the best offensive player on the opposing team. Just to see if I could slow them down a bit. I'd focus on rebounding or assists. What I found is by not focusing on offense, I was more selective with the shots I took, had more fun playing the game, and even had good offensive performances.

The risk that Jackson has recognized is that young players idolize Steph Curry for the wrong reasons. Sure his offense is incredible, but the game of basketball is not just about shooting long-range threes. These players are going to be in games where they try to emulate Curry, find little success, and struggle to develop their game.

24 Hour Fitness pickup basketball is a mecca of the kinds of players Marc Jackson is worried about. The ones that think they are next Curry/Kobe/MJ/etc. It's a terrible experience to play with a player like this. They don't pass the ball. They don't play defense. And they complain excessively. But occasionally, you'll get on a team where teammates set a pick for you, try extra-hard on defense or rebounding, or make the extra pass to a wide-open teammate. It makes the game more enjoyable for that person and the other players.

Curry is no more detrimental to the game than any other offensively gifted superstar. Stretching this idea beyond basketball, I believe many of us get caught up with "offense" and ignore the fundamentals. The fundamentals get less praise and less attention from the media because they lack the flash. But your teammates are going to notice, and appreciate your attention to the fundamentals. And that will make things a lot more rewarding and enjoyable for you.