They aren’t meant to be contrived and constrictive. Nor are players supposed to be robots.
They’re meant to play as children do; with imagination and a sense of independence that lets their personality shine on the playing field.
Too many times, we’re exposed to levels of sport that rely on systems and forcing players to adhere to these systems. It’s where coaches try to make players fit to the way they want to play when it should be vice versa.
It’s not just hockey, either. Every sport is better off if players are encouraged to think outside the box and display their talents.
Want an example of this? Look to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. There is no athlete — professional or otherwise — who is playing their sport with as much unbridled freedom and joy as the 27-year-old sharpshooter.
Chewing his clear mouth guard, Curry is changing basketball and he’s doing it through creativity.
The greats before him, Magic, James and Bird, all left their stamp on the game. They’ve never done it like Curry.
They impacted the sport inside the confines of the game. Steph does it by stretching the floor and molding the game to his will.
He feels no pressure to play a certain way. Curry just plays. That’s what makes him great.
Every great player in basketball gets compared to Michael Jordan, just as Wayne Gretzky is referenced whenever hockey’s ‘Next One’ comes along.
Dare I say, if his ankles hold up, Curry could transcend Jordan. Michael is the greatest of all time, but Curry is changing the way it’s going to be played for years to come.
And, he’s doing it with a childlike grin every time he hoists a seemingly impossible long-range bomb.
Don’t get me wrong, Michael is still and will always be the greatest.
But, there comes a time when even the best gets pushed to the side a little.
That’s what’s happening with Curry.
His shooting displays the past couple of seasons are putting him in that conversation. There’s a new style of play quickly starting to dominate the NBA.
It’s nightly three-point contests and slick shooting from all over the court. Something that puts a bad taste in the mouth of some purists, and Curry is at the forefront.
Whether he meant to do it or not, Curry created a new way to play basketball.
There were shooters before, but nothing like this. He’s become the flagbearer for the new NBA.
One where the game is played without too many constraints and a freedom that is nothing like we’ve ever seen.
Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org