Is sport really an opiate for the masses or something a lot more profound? According to the likes of Albert Camus and David Foster Wallace, it's most certainly the latter. Author Shane Anderson cuts a similar jib, positing that it just might hold the key to understanding life itself.
After the Oracle (Or: How the Golden State Warriors' Four Core Values Can Change Your Life Like They Changed Mine) is a new book from the Berlin-based US transplant, who uses basketball as a lens to consider man's weightier questions. The idea came after Anderson adapted the Warriors' four core values (joy, mindfulness, compassion, and competition) in his day-to-day life following a tumultuous decade of personal and physical struggles. The result is a stunning memoir-slash-essay-slash-chronicle that takes in subjects as eclectic as rave culture, homelessness, and the limits of self-help.
In any piece of media related to the Warriors, Steph Curry is inevitably going to crop up in conversation. Earlier this week, The Chef eclipsed Hall of Famer Ray Allen to become the greatest three-point shooter in the history of the game with 2,977 successful shots. Even more astonishing is how he achieved the record in 511 fewer games.
To honor the landmark, Highsnobiety is thrilled to present an excerpt from the chapter "Joy" from Anderson's book that details his fascination with Curry. Read it after the jump, and order your copy by hitting the button below.
Sidelined from his team’s historic start to the 2015–16 season by a botched back surgery after herniating a disk celebrating the Warriors’ 2015 NBA championship, Steve Kerr visited the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility in November 2015 to talk to the team about the state of things. The Warriors had just won sixteen games in a row and Kerr was proud of their performance in his absence. Not because they were winning, which was great, of course, but because they were executing according to his four core values.
As I read this article again, I noted that, in his reported speech, Kerr placed emphasis on joy. Kerr wants his team to play with joy, he wants them to be happy. He wants them to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing. Not only because they’re privileged to be earning more money yearly than the average American will in a lifetime — which they are — but because they are able to do what they love and they should love what they do; both on and off the court.
This is something that Stephen Curry, the leader of the team, has seemed to embody from the beginning. Curry makes the impression of being a happy-go-lucky person who also enjoys being mischievous. His child-like silliness is often expressed during pre-game warmup routines where he acts like a bowling pin. With his arms crossed across his chest, he marvels at the ball slowly rolling toward his feet while his teammates prepare for the challenge of the game ahead.
Eyes wide and jaw dropped, Curry pretend faints when the ball grazes his feet then stands up and performs a 360 in the air before crouching and launching the ball into the basket. The merriment of the Baby-Faced Assassin carries into the game itself when he passes the ball to Draymond Green at the top of the key, then curls around a screen at the baseline, shooting a three and galloping down the court like an overexcited foal prancing in an open field. Over the years, Curry has developed a large repertoire of awkward celebrations. There are the can-can kicks of line dancers, the dad-like “raising the roof,” or the shoulder shimmy out of the Roaring Twenties.
Most famously, Curry is known for his turnaround threes, where he doesn’t even bother to see whether the ball has achieved its goal. As the greatest shooter to ever play the game, he doesn’t need to. Statistically, he has the effective field goal rate of highly efficient centers and what is remarkable about this statistical feat is that Curry does not take most of his shots close to the basket-like these highly efficient and tall centers. Instead, he’ll pull up from thirty feet, further from the basket than anyone who came before him, then chew on the mouth guard that’s hanging out of his mouth after the ball goes through the net, a totally un-macho gesture that makes him look like a teenager.
Curry’s reckless delight can also be documented in countless highlights where he lets his ebullience get the better of him. The most heartbreaking example of his looseness was during Game 7 of the 2016 Finals when he attempted a behind-the-back pass to Klay Thompson halfway through the fourth quarter. While the ball sailed out of bounds, even Curry knew this turnover was completely unnecessary. The Warriors were clinging to a one-point lead and a simple pass would have perfectly served the purpose.
But then, as the saying goes: “Steph’s gonna Steph.” Sitting at home and trying to reconnect with the value of joy, I remembered that I experienced a new height of the Warriors’ embodiment of the value when Curry “ventured upon a throw” a half-court heave against the Oklahoma City Thunder to win in overtime on February 27, 2016. When the ball went through the net, I was ecstatic. The team was ecstatic. Even opposing and bandwagon Warriors fans in attendance in Oklahoma City were ecstatic. We had all just witnessed something incredible. So incredible, in fact, that it’s worth a closer look.
With the game tied at 118 in overtime, the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook misses a contested shot and the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala secures the rebound. There are 6.8 seconds on the clock and Iguodala passes the ball to Curry. Curry, almost casually, brings the ball to the half-court line then enters his shooting motion out of nowhere.
With two steps, he crouches and shoots a shot defying all conventional wisdom. He is wide open, yes, but no one shoots from that distance with that much time on the clock (3.4 seconds). No one “settles” for such a shot when your team still has a timeout remaining, like the Warriors did. A heave like this is reserved for the final tenths of a second. This was why the Thunder defender, Andre Roberson, was not there to block Curry’s shot. Roberson was wisely hovering around the three-point line where it could be expected Curry would approach and shoot from—that is, if the Warriors didn’t call a timeout.
The problem is that Curry has changed the dimensions of the game and weaponized a shot that had previously only been fit for games of H-O-R-S-E, forcing us to redefine our ideas about shot selection and solid defense. His release is so quick and his aim is so accurate that, statistically, a contested deep three is a layup for him. And this shot certainly looked as easy as a lay-in.
When the ball went through the net and the announcer Mike Breen exclaimed “BANG! BANG! OH, WHAT A SHOT FROM CURRY,” Curry broke the record for the most threes in a single game, as well as his own record for most threes made in a season with another month and a half remaining. (In the end, Curry would break the record for the most three-point field goals made in a season on three separate seasons: 272 in 2012–13; 286 in 2014–15; and then, in 2015–16, the same year he was the league’s first-ever unanimous MVP, obliterating his own record with 402. In this season, now over after the heartbreaking loss to the Cavs, Curry would even come to be known in Mandarin as the “Skyfucker.”)
While Curry danced and the rest of the team celebrated winning the game in Oklahoma City, I was covering my mouth, trying to not wake up my neighbors in my apartment building in Neukölln at 3:30 in the morning. I ripped my earbuds from my ears and I couldn’t help it—I let out a little yell.
I couldn’t believe it. I was insanely happy and not only because my child-hood team had finally pulled out of the decades of doldrums for good. They were doing something incredible and they were having a lot of fun doing it. Game after game, we all kept cycling through joy together. It was like cicadas waking up in the forest after years of staying subterranean, dormant. I realized now that this joy was even more than a preposition or conjunction. I realized what Donna Haraway, the feminist theorist and daughter of.a sportswriter, meant when she said joy is the “eternal suspension of time, a high of ‘getting it’ together in action.”
Which is where we reach the chicken and the egg. Some might say the Warriors wouldn’t be happy if they hadn’t won the championship the season before. They might say that joy is dependent on victory. Such an interpretation won’t do. The value of joy had been instated the day Kerr became the head coach of the team, and as the brief Curry interlude suggests, their star player had always approached the game with the same verve as a child. Instead, this situation is like what William James said.
There are “cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming.” If we learned to live as if joy were already present and not contingent on success, then the weird thing is that the championship, the ring, is more likely to come.
As the Warriors teach, the trophy is yours if you learn to have fun in the daily grind. If and when it comes, your happiness will only be briefly increased by the trophy. Joy cannot be dependent on results. It must be its own reward. The one catch is you can’t trick yourself. You can’t pretend to believe. You actually have to believe. You have to scream “WE BELIEVE,” just like the 2006–07 Warriors did. It’s so simple, insane even, and it actually works. This doesn’t mean that everything will work to your advantage through belief alone. It needs hard work, too. Even then you might fail, as the Warriors have shown. Still, joy is the first, most crucial step. And this seems applicable off the court as well.