VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more.”
— Shakespeare’s Macbeth
If only those words by Bill the Bard held true for ALL ex- NBA players.
These days, that’s what Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry has a right to be thinking to himself.
Unfortunately for Steph, though, not every former pro hoop luminary fades away in silence.
Taking verbal swipes at Curry and his team recently were a number of retired players, including Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and two other very good, if not great, past performers (Stephen Jackson and Cedric Ceballos.)
The ex-ballers basically pooh-poohed, to varying degrees, both Curry’s scintillating deadeye shooting and his team’s historically great performance this campaign.
Curry is a shoo-in to win his second straight MVP award, something accomplished previously by only a few elite players.
And at 56-6, Steph’s Warriors are currently one game ahead of the pace set by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1995-96 when they recorded a best-ever 72-10 NBA regular season win-loss mark.
Golden State broke that Bulls’ club’s record for longest home winning streak at 45 with a 119-113 victory over visiting Orlando on Monday night.
Some, however, are still not that impressed.
Nice guy Curry reacted to the over-the-hill gang’s potshots by saying, “It’s getting a little annoying just because it’s unwarranted across the board.”
Here’s a sampling of the comments that chafed Steph.
The ones that most raised eyebrows were the comments made by Robertson.
The Big O is arguably the best all-around baller ever to strut his hour upon the stage, or in this case, court.
Nothing he couldn’t do.
He has also been one ex-superstar content to stay in the shadows over the years since his 1960s-70’s NBA playing days.
Rarely does he ever venture out of them.
He is no spotlight-addicted Magic Johnson, who annoyingly shows up EVERYWHERE and is constantly putting in his two cents on anything and everything in and out of basketball, whether we want to hear it or not.
Or an attention-craving Shaquille O’Neal.
In fact, Oscar may be the most taciturn ex-jock in history.
That’s why it was so surprising to see him turn up on “Mike & Mike,” an ESPN morning yak-yak radio show.
If he was just another “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” old-timer, everyone would have just rolled their eyes.
But if the Big O finally DOES say something, it at least gives you pause for thought.
And what he said was: “Coaches today don’t know anything about defenses.
“When I played, if you made a shot from the outside,” stated Robertson, “the next time I’m going to be on top of you and pressure you from the three- quarters mark or half-court line.
“They don’t do that now.”
Robertson went on to say he didn’t think Steph would have been as effective if he played back in the day.
Abdul-Jabbar was less harsh.
“Steph is a lights out shooter,” opined Kareem. “But the physical play (of bygone eras, when hand checks and forearms in the back were legally defensively) made it difficult to shoot jump shots from that far out.”
For his part, Stephen Jackson, of the 2006-07 Golden State outfit, took the current crop of Warriors to task as a whole, saying his ball club could take them in a playoff series.
That Jackson squad was an eighth-seed playoff team by virtue of a 42-40 regular season record. It did knock off the top West seed, Dallas, in the opening round but lost in the West semifinals to Utah.
And that team was better than this year’s edition?
Umm. Feel free to roll your eyes, folks.
Ceballos has a much stronger case when he says his ’93-94 Phoenix club would have run the present Warriors out of the gym.
“We had Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, Tom Chambers and Danny Ainge,” reasoned Ceballos.
That WAS a pretty spectacular ball club that won 60 regular-season games and made it all the way to the NBA Finals where it fell in six games to Jordan’s Bulls.
“Teams don’t expose Steph, the way he plays defense,” says Ceballos.
“Kevin Johnson was one of the strongest point guards ever — he would have worn Steph out going to the basket on drives.”
Or just jealousy on the part of athletes from past generations?
Golden State coach Steve Kerr is, understandably, quick to defend his star.
“A player from 30, 20 years ago would be unable to guard Steph,” offered Kerr.
“He’s too quick.”
The game was different then,” added Steve. “It was dominated by big men.
“These days there aren’t many of them.”
A weary-of-all-the-talk Curry countered the critics by saying, “For the most part, you don’t hear us comparing ourselves to other great teams, saying we’re better than this team or that one.”
“We’re living in the moment,” allowed Steph.
“We are a very competent group and we have fun when we play, and it shows.”
Which is a nice way of saying: You guys had your day — please go away and let us enjoy ours.
Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ center, sets many of the bone-jarring screens that free up Curry to launch his famed ring-tailed howitzers.
Bogut had Steph’s back as well and, perhaps, offered a perfect take on the current Curry/Warriors bashers coming out of the woodwork.
“I hope,” said Andrew, with a sigh, “when I’m 50 or 60 and sitting on my couch drinking a beer and watching a game, that I’m not one of those bitter guys that does that
“I know how hard it is to get to this league.”
Perhaps Curry should brush aside the retired pros sniping by invoking a Macbeth quote of his own.
“It is a false tale . . . full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org