By Jack Yungblut, Columnist
In the final seconds of the Feb. 27 game between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Stephen Curry hit a 3-pointer from more than nine feet behind the line to clinch a 121-118 overtime victory for his Warriors.
The basket not only clinched a key Western Conference win for the Warriors, but also broke the NBA single-season mark for 3-pointers (286) and tied the mark for most 3-pointers in a game (12).
This game was just part of a four-game stretch in which Curry averaged over 48 points per game and shot over 61 percent from behind the arc. The reigning league MVP has not looked back after dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers in last season’s NBA finals.
But not everyone is impressed.
His record-breaking performance followed a week of intense criticism by NBA legends, including Oscar Robertson, who believe that Curry’s stats are merely a product of the times. Robertson, along with other legends, seems to think his records come from sloppy defense, strict rules and poor coaching, not incredible skill.
Obviously, the NBA has changed since Robertson’s glory days of the 1970s.
His team, the Cincinnati Royals, no longer exist. The 3-point line was not introduced until five years after Robertson’s retirement. The Converse shoes that were worn by Oscar and his fellow All-Stars are now the shoes of choice for hipsters and sorority girls across the country.
Oscar Robertson was a great player — one of the greatest of all time. But I would like to see him play in today’s era of small forwards who rival linebackers in girth and have the finesse of players half their size.
Sure, Robertson may have been able to put his hands on the man he was defending, and he certainly got his fair share of bumps and bruises, but would he want to make a living in today’s era of constant Tweets and news updates?
Charles Barkley is another notable name that has slighted Curry and his accomplishments. Something tells me the “Round Mound of Rebound” would struggle dealing with today’s athletic big men.
What makes the accomplishments of Barkley and Robertson so much better than the accomplishments of today’s players? Did the league not evolve in the decade that passed between their careers? A 3-point shot by a short shorts-wearing Larry Bird in the 80s is still worth just as much as one made by a baggy-clothed Curry today.
We should not fault Curry for adapting to the NBA he was drafted into. We should, however, admire the once-in-a-lifetime player he has become.
When George Mikan entered the league in the 1940s, he was such a dominant force that rules were changed to accommodate his overpowered opponents. Because of Mikan, defensive goaltending was outlawed, the shot clock was introduced and the lane was doubled in size.
Despite changing how the game was played forever, we don’t chalk Mikan’s statistics up to him being “too big” for his time. We celebrate him and what he has done for basketball. Mikan is a member of both the NBA Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame and was named one of the greatest players of the first half of the 20th century.
Maybe the solution to the problem is to extend the 3-point line a few feet. I doubt this would stop Curry’s dominance, though. His shot against the Thunder was a 32-footer.
Curry’s critics can bring him down all they want. What they can’t deny is his 30 points per game and incredible ball handling ability. When he eventually joins Robertson and Barkley in the Hall of Fame, something tells me he won’t be in a separate wing designated for players that were a product of the times.