Stephen Curry is redefining NBA cool.
This is not about tattoos, or lack of same. That’s a discussion for a shallower crowd.
(That said, it’s not a bad thing that guys like Curry show kids that there’s more than one way to wear your skin.)
This is about playing the game with style, elegance and flair, with a quiet ferocity and a team-only mentality.
This is about having the most dramatic shot in basketball, Curry’s in-your-face rainbow. There’s no sound in basketball like the crowd at Oracle when Curry launches – the collective “aaAAAH!” of anticipation followed by explosive roar or sad moan.
There were more guys of this type in the old days, like Earl Monroe, Ice Gervin, Pete Maravich, Jerry West. They scored and passed with creativity and artistic instinct.
The game has swung to the beastie boys, blacksmiths who break down defenses by cracking into people. Even point guards look better suited to the carnival booth where you ring the bell with a mallet.
Kevin Durant is on the NBA’s All-Cool first team, too, but Durant is a freakishly gifted athlete, while Curry is doing paranormal things with a normal body.
And with dignity. Hooray for exuberance and emotion, but I’m a bit weary of the mean-face mugging for courtside cameras, guys popping their jerseys and saluting their own great shots.
As my wife said of Curry, “He’s passionate about what he’s doing, not about being Steph Curry.”
He’s the perfect guy for the All-Star Game. Even though it’s known as a one-on-one (or one-on-none) showcase, Curry will light up the game and his teammates with his passing, while also remembering that fans came to see him make it rain.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
That’s what the start of a royal NFL dynasty looks and feels like.
I’m not just talking about the Seattle Seahawks, though everything they did to dent, dominate and deconstruct Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday had dynastic overtones.
I’m talking about the NFC West, about all that it took for the Seahawks to get through that gauntlet, and, yes, about the 49ers, too.
The sure conclusion: The NFC West, the teams’ young quarterbacks and these gold-plated defenses are built to rule the NFL for a while.
Maybe for a long while.
Just ask Peyton Manning about trying to deal with the speed and strength of Seattle’s defense during this eventual 43-8 Seahawks stomping in East Rutherford, N.J.
After racing through the rest of the league, averaging an NFL-record 37.9 points in the regular season, Manning and the Broncos were blown to bits from the start in this one.
(Of course, the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick did far better in the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, at least until the fourth quarter.)
Or check with Denver’s defense, which struggled to stay with or tackle the Seahawks’ offensive stalwarts.
(But the 49ers defense — probably the second-best in the NFL — went toe-to-toe with Seattle in three monster matchups this season.)
It’s too facile to say that the NFC Championship game was the real Super Bowl, because you never know how the matchups will play out.
Denver was an ideal opponent for Seattle because the Seahawks’ incredible pass defense had everything necessary to erase Manning.
Plus, the 49ers lost superstar linebacker NaVorro Bowman and key offensive lineman Mike Iupati two weeks ago, and linebacker Patrick Willis and Frank Gore suffered lesser injuries.
It’s hard to know how the 49ers could have patched that together in the Super Bowl, if they had hypothetically gotten there.
But still …
Seattle survived the NFC West Challenge because it deserved to, and the team that won this division was by far the best in the universe.
Win the NFC West, conquer the NFL.
The 49ers had their chance to get a jump on the dynastic talk in last season’s Super Bowl but lost to Baltimore in the final seconds.
Kaepernick was probably a little too raw and the 49ers defense wasn’t quite running on all cylinders at the time.
Jump forward a year, and the 49ers were probably better this season than they were last season … but so was Seattle.
The 49ers might be even better next season — and you know what? So might Seattle, which is bursting with young stars.
And both teams keep getting better partly because they have each other to deal with and plot against.
Iron sharpens iron, as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has said, and the smartest, strongest teams force their rivals to get even stronger and smarter.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the division, Arizona won 10 games (and beat the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in December) and missed the playoffs, despite fielding one of the better defenses in the league.
And St. Louis started pulling it together later in the season, has a bunch of premium draft picks coming and probably won’t be a pushover itself in 2014.
So, this all definitely reminds me of another time and another set of title-worthy teams in a single division …
From Super Bowl XVII (Washington over Miami at the end of the 1982 season) to Super Bowl XXX (Dallas over Pittsburgh at the end of the 1995 season), an NFC East team made it to nine of the 14 Super Bowls.
And won eight.
The NFC East won 57 percent of the Super Bowls in that period — three by Dallas, three by Washington, and two by the New York Giants.
That was not a free-and-easy time to win titles, either — it came while the 49ers were winning four of their own Super Bowl championships.
But back then, the NFC East was run by Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and then Jimmy Johnson; and Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and maybe Jeff Fisher can be comparable to that.
The NFC West teams’ architecture has strong similarities to those NFC East clubs': great general managers putting together physical, ground-oriented offenses and aggressive, talent-stocked defenses.
As this Super Bowl proved again, it’s easier to keep a great defense going at top speed deep into the playoffs than it is a great offense.
–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News
Sacramento State junior guard Dylan Garrity called it surreal.
Hornets coach Brian Katz said it was amazing.
Longtime Sac State broadcaster Steve McElroy thought it was monumental.
Some diehards, as they filed out of Sac State’s gym Saturday night, said the Hornets’ shocking 78-75 overtime win against Big Sky Conference leader Weber State was the best game they had ever witnessed.
Garrity put the finishing touches on the topsy-turvy contest with his buzzer-beating 75-foot 3-point heave that hit nothing but net with no time left on the clock. It was the No. 1 play of the day on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” later Saturday evening, and it was one of Deadspin’s top stories Sunday.
“As a kid, you grow up dreaming of taking a three-quarters buzzer-beating shot against the best team in the conference,” Garrity said shortly after surviving a midcourt dogpile by teammates and fans. “It was the best shot I’ve ever hit, and that was the most surreal moment I have had in all my years of playing basketball.”
After the Wildcats’ Davion Berry made a 3-pointer from above the key to tie the score with 0.7 seconds left, Cody Demps alertly inbounded while the Weber State players retreated downcourt or stopped playing.
“I saw point-seven seconds on the clock and let it go and, honestly, I let God do the rest,” said Garrity, who had 13 points and four assists. “I had no idea if it was good or not. I couldn’t hear the buzzer because everything was so loud.”
The Hornets ended a 12-game, seven-year losing streak to Weber State and earned only their fifth win in 40 games against a school that has won a Big Sky-best 20 regular-season championships.
Sac State (8-11, 4-6) moved back into contention for one of the conference’s seven tournament berths. Weber State (11-7, 8-2) had a six-game winning streak snapped.
Garrity’s YouTube moment came after officials called three technicals in the final 15 seconds, including two against Weber State, in a game that had 17 ties and 18 lead changes and in which no team led by more than eight points.
Berry, who scored 29 points, put Weber State ahead for the last time, 72-71, by sinking two free throws with 15 seconds left. Just before that, he missed two technical foul shots after Katz was whistled for arguing Nick Hornsby’s reach-in foul on Berry.
On Sac State’s next possession, Garrity’s pass to Mikh McKinney was deflected and players from both teams scrambled for the loose ball. Berry ended up with the ball and called timeout with seven seconds to play, but Weber State was out of timeouts, resulting in an automatic technical. Wildcats coach Randy Rahe was called for a technical, too, for running onto the floor.
McKinney, who tied a career high with 30 points and had six assists, made all four technical foul shots to put Sac State ahead 75-72.
“I’ve never been a part of a game like that in my 38 years of coaching, as far as swings back and forth,” Katz said. “It appeared we had lost it, then they had lost it. When (Dylan) threw it up, I didn’t think it was going to go in.”
McElroy, who has called Sac State men’s basketball games for 17 seasons, said he doesn’t remember a bigger victory.
“We had a buzzer-beating (107-106) win against Idaho State in Pocatello in 2006 that made ESPN ‘SportsCenter,’ but this is the best ever,” McElroy said. “Just to beat the conference Goliath in this way is huge.”
–Bill Paterson, Sacramento Bee