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NewsUSA: Curry demonstrates what great basketball is all about

By Khalid Salaam, www.theshadowleague.com

(Sports Network) - What would you rather have? Analysts and fans micro- focusing on mundane, soul-draining considerations, like whether LeBron James should compete in next year's NBA Slam Dunk contest, or truly great basketball games?

For example, what took place in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27 is what sports are supposed to be about. Competition, exhilaration and fun. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry put on a show with 54 points, including 11 3-pointers.

On the other side, the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony dropped 35 points, J.R. Smith had 26 off the bench and, lost in all of this, Tyson Chandler pulled down 28 rebounds.

What they did in basketball terms is like pulling a rabbit out of a burning hat, wrapped it in Egyptian linen, sprinkled crushed lavender dust on it and made it float through the air. Somewhere Penn and Teller are clapping their hands and yelling "Bravo."

The fact the Warriors lost is irrelevant, or at least for the night it is. For Warriors fans -- who are double-checking playoff seeding every 48 hours -- each game is something to consider. Or for Knicks fans -- trying to beat Indiana for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference -- each win gets them closer to potentially their best postseason in this century.

So, yes, of course, for them, it was an exciting game. However, for the rest of us, it was must-see TV. It ended up being one of those rare occasions when the game is just a game, and then, somehow, more than just a game.

It was one of those best-case scenario moments where there are no politics, no talking heads pontificating senselessly, no bizarro writers in old shoes and oversized pants criticizing a player's postgame wardrobe. This was just sports fed intravenously right into the blood stream. It's not about reconnecting to your childhood or appreciating sports for its lessons on teamwork and dedication. It's about stripping it down to its building blocks. Fans need games like that every once in a while to be reminded why we love this.

Sports have always separated into two categories: A distraction from the daily grizzle of everyday life, where the stresses of work, school and family can be compartmentalized for a few hours and you can disappear into another world, or a vehicle to discuss and expound upon serious issues that, bogged by the monotony of heavily insular language, would otherwise go ignored due to the magnitude of the subject.

It's a powerful way to take a bite out of issues like gun control or socio- economics and bring it down to a level where understanding these things doesn't require a doctorate. I'm still trying to figure out a way to discuss the sequester without the dryness so prominent in the suit and tie networks.

But when sports are dominated by 40-yard dash soap operas, sex scandals and small-mindedness, it can lose its exuberance. There's no escaping and there are no lessons learned. It's just an onslaught of bile that eventually leaves you jaded and corrupted. You can argue who is at fault here, but really, we're all culpable in different ways. Journalists, writers, producers, editors, businessmen, consumers and fans, we're in this together.

Some of you are going to read this and lament about the downside of idealizing. You have that right. It doesn't matter since much isn't likely to change anytime soon. There's always going to be more of "them" than there are of "us" and the professional haters out there will always have their audience.

However, when these moments do happen, we have to appreciate them. Take a step back and breathe deeply. The Feb. 27 game was awesome, and even Knicks players commented on how great Curry played. There was no name-calling and no fake- drama moments to sizzle the tabloids. Just entertainment, straight, with no chaser needed.

This story is courtesy of "The Shadow League." For more sports stories, go to www.theshadowleague.com

03/06 12:33:33 ET