With Stephen Curry, the image that most fans seem hell bent on holding within their mind’s eye is one of the fluid, picture perfect jump shot that has grazed our eyes and tortured opposing teams for the past four seasons.
Unfortunately, there has been one other scene that has played out more than any other with the Golden State Warriors‘ long distance marksman — one that draws quiet where the former would ecstatic celebration. Although he has proven to belong among the NBA‘s elite talents, a player that can become impossible to guard in the way few players can when he starts feeling it and taking shots from the parking lot, it is the questionable stability and long-term health of his ankles that will always peek into our minds with every grimace, yell, or slow bounce back.
Over the past four seasons, no other player has even come close to replicating the kind of long distance kamikaze upon the NBA that Curry has managed to achieve in that length of time. Over the first four seasons of their career, the kings of the three pointer in the NBA, Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, managed to scorch defenses to the extent of 497 and 421 threes each, respectively, while managing to stay on the court for the majority of their games. Remarkably, Curry has managed 644 three pointers, despite missing 66 games in that same length of time.
In other words, what we’re witnessing from Curry is essentially the equivalent of Kevin Durant missing nearly a season of games at the beginning of his career, yet averaging over 40 points a game on his journey towards Kareem Adbul-Jabbar‘s points scored record. Unfortunately, whereas Durant’s slow climb towards Abdul-Jabbar and the all-time scoring record is something that thus far hasn’t been greatly hampered by the bumps and bruises that go along with playing basketball against grown men for a living, Curry has not been as lucky.
With the left ankle sprain that occurred midway through the Warriors’ convincing victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, we are again left to wonder just how much more of these tweaks the ankles of Curry can take before the injuries not only become chronic, but something that begins to deteriorate the quality of his performance even when healthy. There is only so much injury that the body of an athlete can take before it just doesn’t bounce back, move, and feel the same.
We’ve seen it in the past decade alone with the explosive talents of such players as Tracy McGrady that we are really no different than an elastic band, stretched routinely, almost at will, with no thought of the consequences. In an ideal world, the band would always be stretched to just the point of effective use and no further, but all too often, we see the stretching to that breaking point — the point of injury in the case of athletics. With each injury, each visit to that highly stressful point on both the body and the band, the recovery seems to be a longer, more strenuous process, and sadly, a process that doesn’t seem to produce the same kind of results.
With the wondrous spectacle that Curry has been artist to over the past few seasons, this is the greatest fear that every fan of the game holds for his future. It is often found much simpler to project and predict the outcome down the line, a fascination that fails to escape the intriguing case of Curry and the all-time three point field goal record. That said, what is much tougher is to think rationally and objectively, and that’s something we must begin to take upon ourselves with this once in a generation shooting talent.
At what point do we label Curry not the commonly injured that will have years of lost games (similar to that of Chris Paul), and more into the one we placed upon Shaquille O’Neal or Andrew Bynum (players that were great when healthy, but were a wildcard each and every season, sometimes even every single game)?
With news that Curry is set to suit up on Friday when the Warriors take on the San Antonio Spurs, we’ve again narrowly escaped the gloom and dreadfulness of that decisions and bought a little time, a little optimism about what the future of his health holds.
The question is, if, or in the case of Curry, when, the next scare happens, will that day have come?