The Everyman Star

The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around a lot these days.

In game 1 of the Denver-Golden State series, Doris Burke was foolishly anointing Ty Lawson a superstar on the rise. Doris Burke was just doing what so many analysts do. Hyperbolizing the stardom of professional athletes. Those who are only well-known to fans following the particular sport and understand that athlete’s greatness within their sport.

Ty Lawson is not even a star, much less a superstar.

Heck, I would argue that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the NBA’s only two true superstars. They are the only players that have a significant reach to the public beyond those who care about basketball.

Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are stars. They will be known to the average sports fan. However, my mom is going to be utterly confused if I start a sentence involving any of those guys.

Steph Curry?

He is well be on his way to surpassing those stars and he just might be knocking on the door of legitimate superstardom. Kobe/Lebron territory and that’s no joke. Steph Curry is everything that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are not. He has something that none of them will ever have.

He is relatable.

No, he isn’t tiny like Muggsy Bogues. But Steph Curry isn’t imposing either. He is an unintimidating 6 foot 3, 185 pounds. He went to a small school because no one thought he was good enough. He beat the odds in a Cinderella-like fashion.

His game isn’t intimidating either. He has that silky smooth jumper we all wish we had but he can’t just pull up whenever he wants. Remember, he is not 6 foot 9. He is the opposite of physically dominating. He has crazy handles but they aren’t made for an And1 street ball mix tape in a Jamal Crawford style.

Despite the fact that his Dad, Dell Curry, played in the NBA, there is no sense of entitlement or superiority. There is no gorilla chest pounding after a slam dunk in a meaningless first round series against a relatively hapless opponent.

There is passion though. Lots of it. The man is not without personality by any means. He gets pumped in a manner that doesn’t come across as smug or arrogant. He reacts to the energy of the game the way many of us probably imagine we would as well.

Steph Curry could be this generation’s Allen Iverson, except he won’t be broke at 35. He is not the same player as Allen Iverson in any sense but his appeal to fans is similar.

He is the little engine that could.

With a bum ankle, unthinkable scoop shots, rainbow 3’s and one-handed dimes, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although their double-double machine David Lee was missing for most of the series, Curry was still able to step up and did so at the most opportune moments as only a superstar can.

Most importantly, Steph Curry is a joy to watch. There is more to his game for the average viewer than say, a Chris Paul. You don’t have to be a basketball person to appreciate what Curry does on a night-to-night basis.

He needs a championship calibre team though. No one becomes a superstar without championship runs. Multiple championship runs. Steph Curry could possibly be the scorer’s version of Steve Nash, who is a borderline superstar in his own right (Note: He is a superstar in Canada). Playing in a run and gun system that never fails to generate excitement, Curry already has a sidekick for years to come in fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

With a guy like Curry, any franchise has the ability to build a team good enough to make a run a championships for years to come.

Without Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Jeremy Lin in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Steph Curry has become the darling of the entire league. The underdog role fits him more perfectly than, well, a glass slipper.

Steph Curry won’t be able to shake that label but that isn’t a bad thing. He will always be the little man beating the odds. As a professional athlete, it is what makes him so endearing. To think, this is just year 1 of his rise to stardom. As long as he stays healthy, he will be one of the NBA’s premier stars.

With a little bit of luck, he might be a superstar too.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

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Acceptance

Jason Collins is gay.

You might not know who Jason Collins is. He is a 34-year-old journeyman NBA center. He is now the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. Jason Collins came out in a ground breaking article that he wrote for Sports Illustrated.

This was inevitable. The talk of a gay athlete finally coming out has been increasing recently and it was simply a matter of time before someone did it. It takes immense courage to be the first athlete to come out. It is unchartered waters and for Collins to be the first to put himself out there to face the unknown must be commended.

Jason Collins will be likened by some to be the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes.

Although what Jason Collins is doing cannot be diminished, his coming out of the proverbial closet will not be nearly as difficult as what many have anticipated.

Collins writes himself that “I’m glad I’m coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted.” The landscape in 2013 is not one where the public will harass and demonize Jason Collins for being openly gay. The world has changed.

If you take one look at the comments on the article from Sports Illustrated website, the majority of comments are those praising Collins for his bravery. For every negative comment, there is at least one other commenter willing to attack that person’s narrow-minded perspective.

Search Jason Collins on twitter. Read all the tweets mentioning his name. Despite the anonymity and cruelty that is the twitter world, the majority of the people are expressing their congratulations to Collins. Other than the kudos, there are not many tweets harsher than a mildly inappropriate joke, often making fun of his ability as a player or that this should have been Chris Bosh (I still don’t get those ones).

While there are probably lots of other people, especially among the older generation, who may be disgusted by Jason Collins that simply aren’t tweeting or commenting on Sports Illustrated, it shows that entire landscape has changed.

Not only are people much more accepting of homosexuality in general, people who are not accepting of that lifestyle do not publicize their opinion out of fear for being labelled a bigot or a homophobe. In the politically correct North America that we currently live in, the outspokenness of small-minded individuals is lessened due to this fear.

If Jason Collins ever finds his way onto another team at age 34, the first fan to chirp Collins in the stadium about his homosexuality will be met by a whole host of fans defending Collins.

When Jackie Robinson became the first black professional baseball player, you could imagine the outcry from the media.

Jason Collins does not have to face any of that.

Collins will not have to face the scorn of the media. As Collins continues to receive congratulations from left, right and centre around media circles, those in the business who don’t approve of his behaviour cannot speak up. Even those who wish they could speak out against Collins will not because they will get fired.

Jason Collins might never play another NBA game. It will take a bold owner to take on a 34-year-old center who, in almost all likelihood, isn’t good enough to be on an NBA roster anyway. Jason Collins knows that.

The locker room is still the place where acceptance is up in the air. Having to face the public and the media is one thing, but trying to be accepted in the locker room is quite another. It’s the Tim Tebow dilemma all over again, except multiplied exponentially. Teams don’t want the distraction.

This is a monumental day in sports because Jason Collins has opened the floodgates. Gay athletes can now start to reveal their true colours, however slowly that may be, without the anxiety of going down in history as the first to come out.

As straight athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo continue to speak up for gay athletes to come out, more and more players have warmed to the idea of having an openly homosexual teammate. It just isn’t an obscene concept anymore.

While this is undoubtedly a monumental day, it is not quite as monumental as one would have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago. The world is a different place. Jason Collins, alone, is not bearing the brunt of the blow like pioneers of the past have. There are hundreds of thousands of supporters that are willing to help him along the way. The ignorance is not as real as it once was.

By doing it on his own terms and in such an eloquent way, Jason Collins finally opened the doors that needed to be opened.

But Jackie Robinson, he is not.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

No Surprise

Carmelo Anthony

The Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony experiment was destined to fail from day one.

Alas, the experiment is still failing.

That isn’t a knock on Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire. It’s a knock on the idiot who decided that putting those two players together with Mike D’Antoni would somehow work itself out. The New York Knicks are winning but their max contract problems haven’t gone away.

It shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone that the Knicks are winning games. They’re 20-8 on the season following their tough loss on Christmas day to the re-energized Lakers. That’s 20 wins without Amare Stoudemire and 8 losses without Amare Stoudemire.

No one has ever questioned Carmelo’s Anthony ability as a player. For much of his career, he has arguably been the best pure scorer in the association.

It was never meant to be with Mike D’Antoni trying to lead two incompatible star players. On the flip side, Mike Woodson isn’t the primary reason for the Knicks unexpected success through the first quarter of the season.

Sure, the Knicks experienced a rebirth due to the culture change provided by Woodson’s insertion as head coach near the end of last season. However, it is the injury to Amare Stoudemire that has been the jump start that the Knicks really needed. It’s not news to anyone that his absence has made the Knicks a better team.

A better team than they could ever possibly be with him on the floor.

Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to carrying teams on his back. He did it throughout his tenure in the Mile High City. By himself, ‘Melo led his teams to the playoffs in the much more competitive Western Conference.

Without Amare, why did we think it would be any different in New York?

Outside of the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is weaker than the 4 nerds on the Big Bang Theory. The only reason Carmelo couldn’t figure it out in New York was because he was forced to play with another star that he had no business playing with. Surrounded by a cast of players that complement rather than limit him, ‘Melo has reverted back to his ridiculously efficient scoring ways.

Going small and playing Anthony at the 4 has helped. ‘Melo’s maturation as a player and a person should be commended. It has allowed Mike Woodson to throw out these small lineups that continue to shoot the lights. However, Amare’s absence is still the biggest reason for the Knicks success through 28 games.

As a lone wolf, Carmelo Anthony was always going to succeed anywhere he played in the NBA. He may not be the leader or winner that Michael Jordan was but he can make any team a winning team all by his lonesome.

I wrote during the Knicks-Heat playoff series that Amare Stoudemire’s injury from his cartoon-like punch was possibly a blessing in disguise for the Knicks in the short-term. They were clearly better apart than together back then and it is no different now. In the long-term, the issue will remain that Amare has a max contract that is virtually untradeable.

The difference between then and now is that it is no longer a given that the two stars will have to make things work.

No one could have foreseen that the Knicks would be 20-8 but after Amare was ruled to be out for at least 6 weeks, those pre-season expectations should have been raised instead of being lessened. ‘Melo was always better without Stoudemire but everyone just assumed that Carmelo and his cast of geezers would be worse without Amare.

It turns out that isn’t the case.

The Knicks will carry on being a successful team as long as Carmelo Anthony is the lead dog. Maybe not 20-8 good or championship successful or 20-8 good, but they will be good.

That should never have been a shocker with ‘Melo running the ship.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Hating on Howard Will Stop

It’s a match made in heaven that even eHarmony could have figured out. The Hollywood personality finally getting a taste of what Hollywood life is.

Dwight Howard and Brooklyn never really seemed right.

Now it’s time for the public to stop hating on Dwight Howard. I’m not telling them to stop hating. Rather, I’m saying it’s only a matter of time before Howard starts to feel the love again.

People are already starting to forget about the whole ‘indecision’ saga and are envisioning the Lakers sexy starting 5 of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta Word Peace, Pau Gasol and Superman himself. They are talking about whether the Lakers have the depth to match up against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. They are dreaming of alley-hoops and comedy sketches between one of the all-time great point guards and one of the most athletic 7-footers to ever step foot on an NBA floor.

I said all the way back in March that Dwight Howard will only be booed by the Orlando fans. Heck, that might not even be the case anymore by the time the Lakers take the court in Orlando next season.

The sports world is a very forgiving one.

A lot of guys would now rather have a beer with Tiger Woods, for reasons you can imagine, than condemn him like so many did only a couple of years ago. Michael Vick has gone from dog fighter back to NFL fan favourite, you know, when he’s not injured. Lebron James is no longer a villain simply because he won a championship and, apparently, winning cures all that ails.

People were appalled when Tiger Woods was caught cheating with 896 women. They were disgusted when Michael Vick was found to be cruel and unusual to man’s best friend. Clevelanders and non-Clevelanders burned jerseys and tore down posters when Lebron somewhat predictably spurned the Cavs.

However, people seem genuinely excited about the possibilities with Dwight Howard in a Lakers uniform.

Dwight Howard’s situation is not nearly as shocking as the others because his events were dragged out over the course of the past year. Nevertheless, hate is not the word that would define the reaction to Superman’s relocation.

Now that it is all over, Dwight Howard will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist in comparison to Lebron James. The NBA world will forget about Dwight Howard as fast as they will forget about 95% of the athletes in the 2012 Olympics. His immaturity will soon turn back to lovability.

D-12 is no longer the focal point either. He is the 3rd superstar on one of Los Angeles’s many prominent professional sports teams.

Dwight Howard toyed with a fan base that isn’t close to a championship with or without him. The rest of the NBA was just annoyed. Unlike Lebron James, who’s decision felt like a Mike Tyson punch to the noggin, all Dwight Howard kept doing was poking us in the arm like an infuriating little brother would.

The indecision wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It only felt like that in the moment.

The NBA world jumped on the hate Howard bandwagon. Most of them aren’t real Dwight Howard haters though. They have already jumped off and are running after the LA Lakers wagon.

Dwight Howard and all.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

No Lin Situation

Editors note: Excuse my title and conclusion. I couldn’t resist.

The New York Knicks had 2 choices: One, they pay a generous amount of money to keep Jeremy Lin in the Big Apple. Two, they let Linsanity walk and every greenback dollar that his sensation would have brought to the franchise along with it.

There was no right choice for James Dolan.

Sign Lin to the 3 year, $25 million back loaded contract and you risk compromising your already delicate as a baby’s head roster. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have both gone public about their displeasure with the enormity of Lin’s contract. Behind the scenes locker-room balance is often overblown by the media but Linsanity could very well have produced a major rift among the Knick players.

Not to mention that bringing Lin back would in all likelihood have meant a similar and familiar fate for the New York Knicks and their fans – no championship. Because of the danger Lin’s contract posed to the Knicks financially, anything less than a championship in his 3 years would have been deemed a failure.

Considering what the Knicks have given up to create this “superstar” roster to match that of Miami and Oklahoma City, bringing Jeremy Lin back would have brought even more unrealistic expectations to a team that has shown no ability to contend.

On the other hand, let him walk and the Knicks risk losing a potential star quality NBA point guard. Lin doesn’t even have an entire season under his belt yet has shown that he can play at a level that most NBA players could never reach. The Knicks brass will never hear the end of it if Jeremy Lin finds a way to blossom in the Houston Rockets organization.

Lin will have to fall flat on his face in Houston to silence Lin’s legion of fans in New York.

3 point guards, a big luxury tax hit in 3 years and almost undoubtedly no championship? Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and no hope for a championship?

With Jeremy Lin, the Knicks were left without a good alternative.

Jeremy Lin is as unknown as the unknown gets. At this point, the mystery of Lin is tougher to solve than Jack the Ripper. No one knows who Jeremy Lin really is and who he really can be. The riddle of Lin is what has made this so doggone difficult for the Knicks.

Despite James Dolan’s apparent disgust at the Houston Rockets and Lin’s lack of loyalty, it is peculiar that, since their season ended, New York had been adamant in the fact that they would match whatever offer Jeremy Lin received. Marketing aside, Lin has immense potential that you would have thought the Knicks wanted to explore. They discovered Lin so it made sense that they wanted to see what type of player he could turn into. By handing him over to the Rockets it’s as if they discovered gold in a small untouched area yet didn’t want to fully invest in the possibility that the entire area could be flooded with gold.

While the marketability of Jeremy Lin clearly wasn’t as big a deal as it was made it out to be, the Knicks still lose out on that as well by setting Lin free.

Nevertheless, there was so much lose and awfully little win surrounding both choices in this decision-making process.

That is why it is so difficult, one way or the other, to condemn or applaud the Knicks in choosing to let Jeremy Lin sign with the Rockets.

There was just no Linning this one.

Don’t forget to vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

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