Whatever your opinion on the Golden State Warriors—whether you think they can eat shit, or believe that their haters should shut the fuck up, or [untangleable mess of puns], or you love them—it’s inarguable that they are good at basketball. That’s sort of a ridiculous premise to have to establish, but here we are.
Bernie Lincicome’s column yesterday on Steph Curry, the Warriors, and the plague of the three-pointer starts like this:
Let’s start with the truth. The 3-point shot was created for people who couldn’t play basketball. It was made for people who couldn’t grow tall enough, dribble well enough, drive hard enough or move fast enough.
Oh word? Lincicome’s operating theory here is that the three point shot is a “prop,” a ridiculous evolution of the game of basketball that rips the sport’s soul away from where it should be, which is under the rim.
Like other well-meaning props — instant replay, artificial turf and social media — it got out of hand, doing more harm than good, or as the French say “faire plus de mai de bien.”
I don’t know if the French really say that. In fact I know almost nothing of what the French say, but, like the 3-point shot, pretension is worth a little extra.
After that actually-sort-of-funny French joke and your requisite grousing about the teens and that damn Instantgram, Lincicome lays out the logic for why the three-pointer is bullshit. He says that other sports (which, it’s worth pointing out here, are different sports with different rules) don’t have a different point structure for the same action, so it’s ridiculous that the game would reward a shot from further out with more points:
To apply my best abductive logic, a shot from inches away should count less than one from far away. Hence, the layup would be merely a penny cluttering up the tip jar and the 3-pointer the $5 bill, the one the barista puts in to shame you.
A 500-foot home run counts the same as a 300-footer, though admittedly the gasps are louder. An 80-yard touchdown pass counts the same as a 1-yard quarterback sneak. A goal is a goal in hockey, no matter from how far away or how invisible.
A basket should count what a basket counts. If we start assigning greater value to the length of things, Pinocchio never would stop lying.
The three-pointer has been a part of basketball for almost 50 years. The extra point you can get for making a long distance shot is a crucial wrinkle in how basketball works spatially. If every shot was worth two points, the game would contract to a small radius around the hoop, and you’d lose all the tension of the inside-out game.
Lincicome’s problem is that the three-pointer is too easy. Anyone can do it, he says, so why even play the games if these unathletic runts can go stand there and fire away? Where’s the sport in that?
The 3-pointer has become as dull as the intentional walk, and any competent player in the NBA can make a 3. There is no special skill to it. Some are better than others just as some are taller than others or more agile than others. They do not get an extra reward for being so. This is nothing against those who do it well. The concern is how easy it has become and how it has altered the game.
Bernie, buddo, there are only seven players making over 42 percent of their threes this season. In fact, if he had thought about this a little more, he could have come to the opposite conclusion, and you can see him almost get there. Since the three-pointer is incentivized so much, players who are unequipped to take multiple threes a game are firing away.
If you accept the notion that the three-pointer’s role in today’s game is a problem, the reason why isn’t that it’s too easy, it’s that it’s too hard and those who would otherwise be inhabiting different niches in NBA offenses are instead spacing the floor.
Lincicome isn’t here for that, he’s here to put Steph in his place:
What started as a scratch became a rash, grew into a disease and is now an epidemic. Oh, let’s just say the name. Stephen Curry.
Basketball will survive the Age of Curry, just as it did the Age of Jordan, the Age of Wilt and the Age of Dr. J, except when you put them together like that, the Age of Curry is certainly the least enthralling, no matter the breathless accounts of yet 12 or 15 more 3-pointers in one night.
Now, he might be right here. You might find those other megastars more entertaining. I’m like 14 years old so I never watched any of those other guys play, but I have no problem with someone preferring Dr. J to Steph, aesthetically speaking. There are less post-up-centric offenses than there were 20 years ago, and if post play is your thing, you too would look at the NBA of 2016 and see the change.
The problem with Lincicome’s analysis is his conclusion that what Steph is doing this season requires no athleticism or skill. The numerical incentive to shoot more threes has certainly changed the NBA, he’s right about that, but it hasn’t made basketball any less difficult or intricate. Steph sliding between two defenders then hitting a spinning three might not be as impressive as Jordan dunking on a bunch of guys at once, but it’s still something only he can do.
If he stayed up to watch more Warriors games instead of strawmanning them in for “bottled water,” “metrics,” “pilates,” “curved TVs,” “the ATM,” “baristas shaming bad tippers,” and nerds, maybe he’d get it.
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