Thirty years ago, Cedric Ceballos, then a third-year forward with the Phoenix Suns, captured the imagination of the basketball world during the Slam Dunk Contest by throwing down a jam while blindfolded. Like all legends, this one has benefitted by some papering over the cracks. Ceballos could see what he was doing. The blindfold did not obstruct his vision to the level the world was led to believe. It was showmanship at the highest level, a WWE work meant to send the audience into a tizzy as long as they didn't ask any pesky probing questions or employ any cynicism.
The sport has changed drastically since then. Dunks, once the basketball equivalent to baseball's home run, have ceded that ground to the three-pointer. Stephen Curry has perfected the form, honing his weapon into the most reliable dagger in existence. Impossible dreams to be like Mike and soar through the air in defiance of gravity have given way to a generation of dreamers who imagine heat-checks from 30 feet.
Through that lens, what the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter did last night during the NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland was a passing of the torch. One of his absurd 16 three-pointers, Curry spun after release and made eye-contact with a transfixed crowd. He already knew the shot was going in. He owned this secret as the ball followed a careful parabola into nothing but net.
Pictured below is an iconic image. The greatest shooter who has ever and will ever hoist from any distance at the apex of his form. It belongs in a sporting museum and in the collective consciousness of the masses.
Curry, of course, has previously practiced variations on this theme in meaningful games. But never before has such an image been captured. With a collection of superstars, including LeBron James, watching the heave find its intended target. With the world knowing that only one man on the planet could perform such a feat so routinely.
Unlike Ceballos' no-look artistry, this did not require a suspension of disbelief. There was no smoke and no mirrors. If you follow the home-run analogy, what Curry did was Babe Ruth calling his shot during the World Series at Wrigley Field. A bit easier, sure, but no less triumphant. That it came amid a blistering blitzkrieg of triples from the outskirts of Cayahoga County is perfect. There are no studio notes required to make it pop and tap into a level of viewing joy reserved for only the most iconic of moments.
And that's the thing about Curry. We don't have to track the shots after they leave his hand. We can feel the magnetic energy honing in on the cylinder. We can close our eyes and wait for the jubilant roar or defeatist groans. He dazzles across sensory experiences with unworldly touch.
What a sight to behold. Or not.