The Warriors have been putting on a show this season. After hoisting a championship banner after the 2014–2015 season, Golden State started off this year’s campaign with 24 straight wins — the best start ever in NBA history. The reigning MVP Stephen Curry is in a league of his own. Throughout the season, Curry has been an unstoppable highlight reel of acrobatic lay-ups and deep three-pointers. Curry is so unreal, video games don’t even know how to replicate him without breaking the game.
Yet despite the thrill of this Warriors team, former NBA players have unjustly criticized the Warriors and undermined Curry’s basketball prowess.
Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson is one of the many critics. Robertson, who played in the ’60s and early ’70s, believes that the NBA’s defense is weak and poorly coached. In Robertson’s eyes, Curry’s success is a product of defensive erosion, not Curry’s outright skill.
“I just don’t think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball,” Robertson said. “They don’t know anything about defenses. They don’t know what people are doing on the court. [Curry] has shot well because of what’s going on in basketball today.”
Instead of recognizing Curry as a revolutionary player, Robertson gives Curry little credit for his outstanding play. Although Robertson may feel like shutting Curry down wouldn’t be difficult, the numbers don’t lie.
Curry has the ability to catch and shoot the ball in less than half a second, and his range extends well beyond 30 feet. This combination of skills is unprecedented. Even with “harder defense” and double teams, stopping Curry is nearly impossible.
Other ex-players, like former Chicago Bull Ron Harper, have taken jabs at the Warriors, accusing Curry of being easy to guard and proclaiming that the 1996 Bulls would sweep the Warriors in a series. Curry has brushed off these insults, dismissing them as annoying and unwarranted.
But not all ex-players disapprove of Curry. Former Pacers shooting guard Reggie Miller — one of the greatest sharpshooters of all time — has defended the Warriors and specifically Curry’s style.
“As old time guys and former players, we have to embrace change,” said Miller. “Change is good and we’ve got to embrace Steph and what he’s doing.”
Curry is at the forefront of a new wave of shooters. NBA players are taking more shots than ever from range and Curry has become the face of this style. But it is clear that many veterans are not ready to accept this change.
Retired players like Robertson see that the game they once cultivated is no longer the way the it was. Basketball is going in a new direction, away from the physical inside game that was once dominated by massive men and slashing forwards. Nowadays, a 6’3″ point guard can hijack the league, armed with dazzling handles and a deadly shot. This evolution is hard for ex-players to appreciate.
Regardless, those ex-players need to stop critiquing and recognize the talent of this team and its leader.