An underrated determinant in the absurdly subjective but always spirited debate of an athlete’s greatness is how he or she literally changed the way a sport is played. Being a world champion, earning astronomical statistics, and playing for [insert favorite team here] are important supporting factors in this classic sports argument.
However, influencing an athletic entity to rewrite the rules of a sport because of unmatched performance is perhaps the ultimate back handed compliment and a glaring sign of greatness. It essentially sends a message that a player is so good that it is inherently unfair for others to compete against him or her without an improvised rule adjustment.
Only a few athletes have ever joined this elite club. Let me name a few notable members: To start, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar convinced the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to temporarily eliminate the dunk with his athletic dominance. Similarly, Bob Gibson, with his impeccable 1968 season, led Major League Baseball (MLB) to lower the height of the pitching mound. But almost no athlete has literally changed their respective sport since the rise of commercialized sporting events.
After his basketball performance the past two seasons, and specifically this past week, Stephen Curry has emerged as the next “literal impact player” in sports. His lethal combination of near infinite range, supreme shooting confidence, and split-second release make him not only virtually impossible to guard, but also indicate his Darwinian nature of play. He has ignited the NBA’s three-point revolution and is slowly destroying classical facets of the game.
Fundamental basketball plays, like back-to-the-basket moves or getting to the rim, are on the fast track to becoming a lost art. Even youth players are no longer practicing the “Jordan” or “Kobe” fade-away jump-shots; rather, they’re giving their best “Curry” 30-footer impersonations. And they should be, due to a fact that is learned in elementary mathematics: Three is greater than two.
The implications of moving back the three-point line to stop Curry’s three-point revolution could create incentive for the next generation of players to practice scoring in the paint or knocking down a 15-foot jump shot. This possibility would ensure the existence of the next generation’s Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’Neal. However, it could also just be a temporal hindrance for great shooters, essentially becoming a platform for the Steph Curry 2.0.
In addition to his championship ring and scoring feats, the fact that Steph is raising the concern for a new rule change in the 21st century reveals his athletic greatness. The potential reality that even a rule change could not stop him perhaps signals that he has unlocked the key to the game of basketball. We can only wait and see.