We’ve had quite the run of stupid in basketball commentating circles lately. Charles Barkley has been–wait for it–Charles Barkley with his remarks about how the old Bulls would “kill” the current Warriors. That comment came not too long on the heels of his declarations about how the jump-shooting Dubs would not be able to win a championship. Maybe someday, someone will get the right idea about Barkley–hint: he’s stupid–and just make him go away.
The same could be said for Barkley’s near equal in broadcasting crime, Mark Jackson. The ex-Warriors coach demonstrated once again on Christmas day that a skull full of sawdust seems to be an advantage when it comes to getting yourself on TV talking about basketball with his off-the-cuff peevish insult about Stephen Curry somehow “hurting the game” with his almost preternatural 3-point shooting.
At least Barkley had enough sense to say something ridiculous about one of those “can’t know” debates (though he was dumb enough to make it a definitive statement). But Jackson is stupid enough to have staked his case on an idea that is easily demonstrated to be risible.
Let’s see the full quote, so we can get the entire context of the thing:
“Understand what I’m saying when I say this. He’s hurting the game,” Jackson said. “And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game.”
This is so mindbogglingly stupid that it almost merits no analysis, except to make the definitive point that Jackson is as dumb as a block of wood and deserved to be dumped by Golden State when he was fired.
Consider it: Let’s assume what Jackson says is true, and that now all young kids who want to play basketball are going to run to the gym and start chucking it up from behind the three-point line. And…what? This will somehow ruin the game? How is that going to happen? Because a bunch of bad shooters will eventually enter the Association?
No, they won’t. The few kids who are good at the long shot will make their way onto the high school teams, then the college teams, and maybe even a few of them will make it into the NBA as long-range specialists. Maybe those few sharpshooters who make it that far will be below average in various other aspects of the game, but there have been plenty of guys like that who’ve collected NBA paychecks with just such a limited game. J.J. Redick of the Clippers springs immediately to mind. So does Kyle Korver of the Hawks. Both teams have been able to play winning basketball these last few years with a guy in the rotation who is known mostly for his ability to drain the 3.
Nor is this a new phenomenon. One guy who fit the same bill–and played on multiple NBA champion teams is none other than Steve Kerr, a guy who was a superior outside shooter and is a superior coach to, you guessed it, Mark Jackson. Ahem.
Not that a player with great long-range skills has to be a one dimensional player. The beauty of advancing all the way to the association based on your shooting skills is, once you sign that pro contract, your job–and the only thing you’re really expected to do with your time–is to play basketball, and presumably get better at it. You will have plenty of time to work on all aspects of your game, including ball-handling, seeing the floor, passing, and playing good defense. The exemplar of that transition from shooter to all-around great player? Stephen Curry, of course.
And all those other kids who hit the floor and start launching from behind the line? The ones who can’t make that shot? They’ll clank a few bricks, then move on to other things; they certainly won’t make it onto their school teams (at least not for their shooting), and the NBA will not eventually live under threat of being buried beneath a storm of bricks. End of story.
It will be an evolutionary process, one in which the few great shooters will be selected for their skill and move up the basketball ladder, while the other, lesser-skilled players will go the way of the California Golden Bear (extinct since 1922). California’s three-point shooting Golden State Warrior, however, will be just fine.
The fact that this very simple idea escapes the reason of Mark Jackson demonstrates his deficiency as an analyst. The irony is, while it is clearly ridiculous to claim that Stephen Curry is hurting basketball, because he’s so good at it, it would make perfect sense to claim Mark Jackson is hurting broadcasting, because he’s so bad at it, and only has his position through the charity of ESPN, who have been known to make a bad decision or two about on air “talent.”
Forrest Gump’s mother almost had it right. It should be not just, “Stupid is as stupid does,” but also, “Stupid is as stupid says.”