Warriors

Warriors

The evidence gets clearer by the day. With the coronavirus pandemic and all its inglorious but sensible restrictions, too many people with too much idle time are flocking to social media and diving keyboard-first into irrational discussions.

Such as the one that raged Tuesday night and into Wednesday and was unrelated to Kamala Harris as a vice presidential candidate:

Is Damian Lillard better than Stephen Curry?

The answer is no, but that doesn’t stop “debate.” Nor should it.

One of the charming aspects of sport is that it is, like a crowded barber shop, a virtual playground for silly arguments. Sports are where conflict prompts research before meandering to laughter and expressions of mutual respect. It’s OK to agree to disagree. On those rare occasions when it escalates to violence, the blame lies not with the disagreement but with whomever loses perspective.

With Lillard lighting up all comers in the NBA bubble, pulling the Portland Trail Blazers into favorable playoff position -- and doing so in spectacular fashion -- it’s natural that hyperbole would take flight into a loony dimension. Recency bias is real, and it’s the fastest route to folly.

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Dame is the best point guard in the bubble, so he must be the best point guard in the NBA. The first claim defies debate, the second invites it.

Which leads the conversation directly to Curry, the point guard against whom all others should be measured. He has the least to prove and is the most decorated player in the league not named LeBron James.

Curry is the only active point guard with three championship rings. He’s the only point guard with two MVP trophies, and the only player in history to nab the award by a unanimous vote. Moreover, he is the only point guard that can make a legitimate claim to altering the offensive philosophies and defensive strategies of basketball at all levels, regardless of gender.

All the things Dame wants most, Steph already has.

But Dame is coming. And hard.

His performance in Florida has been a portrait of stone-cold determination and preposterous production. Lillard is averaging 37.0 points (48.5 percent shooting, including 41.4 percent from deep, 88.8 percent from the line) and 9.3 assists per game. In their last two games, with increasingly high stakes, Dame put up 51 and 61 points. Of the 69 points that Portland totaled in the fourth quarters of those two games, both excruciatingly close, he scored 40.

In scoring 61 points to put away the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Lillard joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with three games of 60 or more points in a season.

Hats off. Caps, too. Lillard lives up to his Dame D.O.L.L.A. (Different on Levels the Lord Allowed) nickname. The praise coming his way, is richly deserved. He shouldn’t plead with anyone to “Put some respect on my f---ing name,” as he did Tuesday night.

Curry might not be caught uttering that phrase, but it surely lives in his heart. That’s where these two players are most alike. Each was a three-star recruit out of high school and landed at a mid-major -- Steph to Davidson, Dame to Weber State. Each entered the NBA to the yawns of skeptics. They feel disrespected because they’ve been disrespected.

But comparing Dame to Steph is cheap debate bait.

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Curry, he has the chips and the dip. His teams crush Lillard’s at every postseason turn. Steph’s presence in the Bay Area is responsible for the Warriors hysteria that has surfaced over the last seven years. Chase Center does not get built without the team’s runaway success, and that success does not happen without Curry.

At the root of this silly debate is, sadly, perception.

Despite his record and his innate toughness, Curry always will be perceived by some as a soft kid from the suburbs, son of a millionaire NBA player. His baby face, relatively fair skin and his exhibitions of joy are magnets for jealousy and bound to lure detractors.

 

Lillard gets props for surviving his upbringing. He’s a Brookfield Village kid, raised in a five-block stretch between railroad tracks and I-880 in East Oakland. He's a credible rapper. His court demeanor is of such intense focus it’s almost trance-like. He is serious business.

Curry and Lillard deserve better than to be fantasy-pitted against each other, with slander flying both ways, at a time when one is radioactive and the other inactive.

Debate can be fun, but rarely is it vital. How about we cool the keyboards a bit and allow each to be magnificent in his own right? Both are, after all, bound for the same Hall of Fame.