If you are a sports fan and you are currently paying any attention to events on Planet Earth, then you know that we are in the middle of The Stephen Curry Moment.
How long will this last? What is the meaning of this drama, with the elite priests of the sports-journalism world trying to figure out What It All Means? Why is his excellence causing a national debate involving some of the legends of the game? What does it mean when The New York Times runs a long feature under this headline:
It’s Stephen Curry’s Game Now
The Warriors’ butterfly with a jump shot, Curry is changing how we understand basketball
The Times concludes that Curry is transcending his sport and represents an evolutionary breakthrough along the lines of a Babe Ruth or a Wayne Gretzky. The giant photo with the piece captures Curry at the release point of his perfect jumper, with his eyes focused on the target and the most deadly right wrist in sports -- complete with its large tattoo in Hebrew -- in perfect position.
What Hebrew tattoo? Ah, there is the part of the mystery that the Times team has no interest in pursuing. The tattoo (his wife has the same one, and has been studying Hebrew for several years) is an excerpt of 1 Corinthians 13:8 that translates to “love never fails.” It's a statement about their faith, their marriage and their family. Here is the wider context in that New Testament passage:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. ... When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
So when Curry sinks a basket and points that right hand toward heaven, that's what's on his wrist. Isn't that a rather significant subject worthy of inclusion in a long, long piece on What The Stephen Curry Moment Is All About?
We (meaning GetReligion) have been here before, of course, back when Curry burst onto the national scene at Davidson College during March Madness. Remember the sneaker ego controversy? That was when the Associated Press reported:
On the red trim at the bottom of his shoes, Stephen Curry has written in black marker, "I can do all things."
Yes, yes he can.
And because of him, Davidson is marching on.
Was this a statement of Curry's confidence in himself? Actually, it was the opposite. As I wrote at the time:
So it is safe to say that this phrase on the bottom of Stephen Curry's sneaker is a reference to a verse in the New Testament, Philippians 4:13, which states: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
The connection to the tattoo is obvious. Some reporters get it. Many do not.
Recently, the faith question (and Curry's ability to speak openly about it) has even led to big changes in the shoes on his feet.
Writing at SBNation.com, scribe Bethlehem Shoals managed to ask some of the big questions that the Times team avoided:
There remains, however, the nagging issue of ego. It's naïve to think that Curry takes no special joy in drubbing opponents. But there's a lot of middle ground between being a nihilistic asshole and a humble sap. In fact, throughout all of the interrogation of Curry's attitude, there's been little suggestion that he's lacking humility. If anything, the dissonance between this part of his personality and these fleeting on-court moments is what makes them so salient.
Now, how do these moments of fierce competitiveness and even swagger mesh with Curry's outspoken, very conservative Christian faith? Read on:
His Atlanta shimmy wasn't just a cold-hearted gesture of a late-game assassin, it was also a celebration of the moment -- for himself, for his team, and for the benefit of former Warrior Kent Bazemore, a close friend who had a prime seat for Curry's moves. Per usual, there was never the slightest intimation that Curry was showing off or defiling the game. If anything, in the same way that his love of the game is infectious, the object here is something larger than his own ego. Curry's religiosity is well-documented and you could use his faith to bracket this entire discussion. The language of conviction, confidence, miracle-making, and even implied superiority can be traced back directly to not Curry, but to his belief in a higher power.
That swagger doesn't come from Steph, it simply flows through him. Granted, it's a stretch to extend this interpretation to staring down opposing benches or clumps of fans. But there's a reason why Curry, like so many players, gestures upward after a big shot. In the NBA, the line between self-aggrandizement and all praise due to the most high can be a fuzzy one. You could even say that, when Curry celebrates, he affirms his faith and understandably, this makes him happy. It's a hard concept for some of us to grasp -- that a moment of utter egoism could also be couched in gratitude -- but it's hardly a paradox. It's why athletes regularly thank Jesus after a big game.
So, in conclusion, what is The Meaning Of Stephen Curry?
Why attempt to answer that without making some references to the issues and the beliefs that Curry himself would be quick to address? Why avoid the obvious?