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NBA

Just Steph Curry, Calmly Being Impossible

Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

I just keep watching this, over and over:

That’s Steph Curry, smoothly draining all 13 shots in a practice drill that has him working his way out from the top of the lane to midcourt and then back again. There are no rhythm dribbles before any shot; he does not shuffle his feet into position or spin the ball to line up the grip; he simply shoots, makes, steps to the next spot, catches the next pass, and shoots. There are no odd banks off the glass, none of even the smallest of fortuitous bounces; no balls judder their way buh-buh-bum through the basket or do the toilet-bowl swirl on the way down; each shot drops cleanly over the exact front of the hoop and either gently grazes the back of the rim or touches nothing but the net. Curry punctuates this at the end by lofting a one-footed floater on a ludicrous parabolic arc from the free-throw line, as though throwing it over a squared-up brontosaurus; of course it goes in, and as cleanly as any of the others.

All of this amid a protracted shooting slump in his actual NBA games, the deepest, longest, and most alarming of Steph’s career; hilariously, Sunday night, the same night the above video was recorded, he shot 3-for-10 on three-pointers, 11-for-25 overall, in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The 37.6 percent he’s shooting from beyond the three-point line this season is miles off his career 43-percent figure. The five measly games he played in the 2019-20 campaign notwithstanding, that 37.6 percent stands to fall far below the worst figure (41.1 in 2016-17, preposterous accuracy for any high-volume three-point shooter not named Steph Curry) he ever posted across a season before this.

No, as you can see, the man’s shot is not broken; he does not have the yips; he is still good enough at this to make me feel as though I simply must scream. Videos not so different from this captivated pretty much the whole internet all throughout those delirious years in the middle of the last decade, when Steph’s feats of shooting wrenched the sport of basketball into new and at times almost unrecognizable shapes and brought a dynasty to one of its very most woeful of professional outfits. It’s nice to be reminded.

I am a sucker for this type of thing, the odd glimpse of professional athletes casually practicing sports stuff at levels of skill and fine athletic coordination that seem as though they could not possibly be found in the same species of creature as me. A simple clip from the end of last week, of three Barcelona soccer guys juggling a ball among themselves, supplied me with hours of the same weird, tart, delightful mix of giddy awe and, somehow, like, grinning rage?—Goddammit, look at how damn cool this is, how fun it looks, how can this be possible, they’re being more chill about this than I am about walking across the room—that I get from the above video. Steph’s great for this feeling, as those who’ve seen him, live or on video, doing a shooting drill, or warming up by dribbling two basketballs or whatever, might attest. The small, calm, practiced adjustments to his shooting form and release in that video up there, as he gets farther out toward midcourt—the release point coming down, his body tilting backward to draw more power and arc from his chest and shoulders, the slight rotation to the left to get his right arm forward and tip more energy to that side—and how those adjustments fade out again on his way back in.

He isn’t thinking about it. He isn’t going “OK, now, remember you have to shoot it a little differently at 45 feet than you shoot it at 23.” The angles and timing of these little adjustments are not, I’d wager, written down or diagrammed anywhere where Steph Curry has ever studied them. His body knows how to do this, because he’s done it a billion times, because he loves doing it, because he’s Steph Curry and he is better at this than anyone else who ever has done it. If I were Steph Curry I would love it too.

How fun it would be to be that good at anything, to know your own body’s capacities and its relationship to the physics of the world outside it that well. If I were as good at dicing onions as Steph Curry is at shooting basketballs, it’s all I would ever do. Vaporized onion juice would burn the eyeballs out of my head before I considered stopping. Nobody would ask why I kept chopping all of those onions! They would simply observe how well I did it, and that would be answer enough.