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Stephen_Curry-1There are, deservedly, more video mixtapes, mashups, loops and screen grabs of Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry performing hoops magic than there are recordings of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Possibly.

I like to compare Curry to The Bird, not because Parker played basketball, but because both elevated an established art form into dizzying new dimensions. Curry has transformed the old-fashioned swing of basketball jazz with a bebop virtuosity akin to Parker.

I would be reluctant to share such thoughts about Curry, perhaps the most adulated sports figure in the world today, with Partisan readers. They don’t come to the blog to yap about the entitled world of big-time sports stars, or to argue about whether the Warriors are up to the challenge awaiting them Monday when the Oakland team starts a must-win series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But a post I saw today from one of the people I follow on Twitter got me thinking otherwise. It came from Ron Rosenbaum, one of the best long-form journalists in the country since the 1970s.

Rosenbaum is a serious “literary journalist,” who has written incredibly researched books on subjects ranging from fierce scholarly battles in the world of Shakespeare studies to the haunting possibility of nuclear war.

He spent 10 years researching his 1998 book “Explaining Hitler,” detailing the different scholarly schools — from the political and pathological to the metaphysical — to try to explain Hitler’s supreme evil. It is so good, so learned and so revealing that I’ve read it twice, which I’ve done with a book only rarely.

Anyway, Rosenbaum’s tweet contained a link to an eight-minute mixtape of Curry shots, drives, passes and 32nd-note dribbling solos that is the best introduction, or greatest hits collection, I’ve seen.

And this is how Rosenbaum encourages his Twitter followers to watch the sucker: “This Steph Curry ‘mixtape’ … will lift your spirit. Forget about the 3’s, the behind the backs. Jeez.”

So I did. And Rosenbaum is right.

Take a few minutes, even if you’re not a sports fan, and watch improvisatory art at the highest level. It will lift your spirit and make you smile.

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Like millions, I’m a big fan of Curry of the Golden State Warriors, the Oakland basketball team that starts the NBA finals next week against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But I’m not talking about Steph Curry, the amazing point guard for the Warriors whose uncanny ability to shoot, dribble and pass propelled him to the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. I mean Curry’s 2-year-old daughter, Riley, whose adorable antics at two recent post-game press conferences with her dad have melted the hearts of even the crustiest sports fanatics.

Here’s the Daily Beast’s breathless package on Riley rocking the NBA world.

For me, the highlight of the year was when Riley took a tiny piece of gum from her mouth, and with an impish grin, gave it to an obliging Warriors PR man and proceeded to goof behind the curtains of the interview stage while her father struggled to keep the nation informed about how the Warriors’ gritty play finally dispatched a tough Houston Rockets squad to that post-playoffs land known as “gone fishing.”

Once Riley started cutting up behind curtain, you didn’t know what she would do next: jump out and yell boo at the harried sportswriters already terrified by impending deadlines, grab the end of the curtain and fly across the stage like a pint-sized Errol Flynn in a pirate movie, or simply rip the curtain down in one of those “terribly funny twos” moments.

For his part, Steph Curry has smoothly handled Riley during the pressure of the post-game pressers. At one point, he quickly helped her clasp a sparkly bracelet on her wrist without a missing a beat while responding to a reporter’s question about the Warrior’s ability to handle Houston’s high screen-and-rolls. No one cared about his answer, but hoped down deep he didn’t fumble away Riley’s bracelet.

Now there are a million cute kids and a million cute dogs out there, and I might add, a million cute cats. But Riley has melted even my cynical heart with the loudest cuteness detonation since Art Linkletter, in the early days of television, had a daily show dedicated to kids saying the darnedest things.
I’m sure many couples, seeing little Riley revel as only a toddler can, thought, “Hey, let’s try for own little Riley.” The sports-stats nerds should do a little research on that front in nine months or so.

For a fleeting moment I even thought I heard the faint ticking of my own biological clock, though the battery long ago died and the works are buried along some forgotten road. The Riley Factor  was that strong.

For the NBA, the loving interplay of father and daughter, with the superstar father being upstaged by the caperings of the irrepressible child, was nothing more than a wholesomeness bonanza.

A generation ago, the magazine Sports Illustrated did a searing investigative story that looked at a pathetic pattern of some NBA players who had fathered strings of forgotten children out of wedlock in various cities where they played on and off the court.

The Curry family, bound by their Christian faith and family love, seem to be the perfect counter to that old image of the philandering professional athlete.

But I am concerned how the Warriors’ moppets will match up against the Cavaliers’ kids. Cavalier star LeBron James has three young children of his own, and he has the power moves perfectly capable of bringing all of them to a post-game presser. Will he try to go cute little toe to cute little toe against Riley?

Only time — that final series doesn’t start until June 4 — will tell.

In the meantime, the NBA should consider an addition to the usual, slick halftime shows with big music names. I say just put up a big bounce house at half-court and let all the young children of players, coaches, equipment men, trainers, etc. get their game on. There will be plenty of highlights. And dribbling exhibitions, though some may involve running noses.

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