Watching highlights of Stephen Curry's performance for the Golden State Warriors against the Brooklyn Nets popped up so many questions in my head. How can one person be so gifted that he makes shooting a basketball from half-court look normal? Yet we have come to know Curry for this throughout his career, and he certainly is the most gifted 3 point shooter of his (this) generation.
However what we mean when we say 'gifts' is often the question that pops up in my head. Is it natural, something that has been present since birth? What type of gifts are required to become a sharp shooter in basketball to the extent that some people take it to be natural.
For some other sports, it is possible to assume that some players are just simply more talented naturally than others, just like people vary in academic comprehension. Even a sport like football, the Messi-Ronaldo comparison usually opines that the former is a natural talent while the latter is a result of hard work. If it can be difficult to imagine that anyone would be naturally gifted in soccer, then it probably would be even more ridiculous to support a notion that talks about in-born talents for basketball.
While there are certain physical attributes that definitely can give an edge for a talented basketball player such as height, hand-eye coordination and other structural genetics, the skillset required to become a complete basketball player goes beyond physical attributes and requires something much more in order to unearth it. Structural genetics can have direct effect in a players ability to rebound for instance, it does not mean much in a player's overall contribution to team play at the highest level if all they can do is rebound.
The major skillset required for today's game as a complete basketball player are dribbling, passing and shooting (both in and out of the perimeter). The other skills required are a good knowledge of the game in order to maximize moves, rules and strategies for the players benefit. Such skillsets unfortunately does not come naturally, and a good evidence to this fact is backed by the level of growth some players exhibit after spending a few seasons in the NBA, or going to various developmental leagues.
The only way for a basketballer to become truly gifted is with years of practice and consistency, honing what has been given. Seeing Curry make those 3 point throws might seem surreal, but his training regiment is quite popular and we know him for being a hard worker.
Even a person like Shaquille O' Neal who was able to bully his way through defenses took a lot of skill and a great basketball IQ to really stand out as one of the greats. There are a few with similar physique's with Shaq who did not achieve much with their careers, showing that natural attributes are perhaps grossly overrated when dealing with having to perform in the NBA.
If it were all about attributes, then Tacko Fall will perhaps have been the NBA's Number one pick in his class while someone like Patty Mills may not have been drafted altogether. However, consistent practice provides an avenue to learn and continue to make improvements in the sport until athletes are so good they are mistaken for having these skillsets built by hardwork and consistency as natural.