Is Healthy Shame under the Golden State Warriors’ Success?

I’ve never been a basketball fan, but I was introduced to the Golden State Warriors last year when my husband told me about an amazing 3-point shooter—Stephen Curry. As he explained the game to me, I began to see the advantage of Curry’s 3-point shots from far afield versus the melee of the overly muscled competitors fighting each other in the paint under the basket for a 2-point shot. I noticed Curry’s smaller physique and graceful, dancer-like movements that allowed him to move through members of the other team in a very different kind of way. I also saw the teamwork of each of the Golden State Warriors passing to each other and allowing whoever was “hot” to make the shot. I saw the level of teamwork and cooperation and their motto “Strength in numbers”—and I was impressed.

Last year I read an article about Stephen Curry, where he was asked directly how he developed his unusual shooting style, to be able to make so many baskets in his stunning way, and put his team way ahead of the other team. He talked about his father, a basketball star who mentored him. He remembered his father saying that because he was a smaller weight and smaller size, unless he got really good at shooting baskets, he wouldn’t get the attention of a coach to get on a team. So he spent years slowly developing and working and finding his own way to shoot baskets. I believe this is an example of growth coming from healthy shame. There was a moment of choice where he could have given up, he could have said “I’m not tall enough” or “I’m not big enough or muscular enough” etc. Instead, he used the information from his father not as something to stop him, but as something to work toward, to grow something in himself to make himself better, by finding his own path to shooting, which was different from the way other people were doing it. I remember in the same article, Draymond Green, who is another amazing shooter now, also went through a period of time where he could have given up but didn’t. He just kept going. Instead of getting stuck in a place of shame, he focused on what he could do to grow his skills.

Now they’re amazing players and part of an amazing team, working together to win many awards. Curry has been named MVP twice. What touches me when I watch them play is that maybe there’s a new paradigm for masculinity, that somebody doesn’t have to look big or overly muscled to be a man, to show up. They work as a team rather than play what some people call “hero ball,” where the “hero” just keeps making the same shots and leaves the other team members behind. These men play in more of a collective, cooperative way, where the coach, Steve Kerr, encourages each player to play to his own strengths.

Believe it or not, I watched the series! One interesting thing I noticed was that all the other teams started making 3-point shots. So what Stephen Curry was doing was showing them that the 3-point shot was actually possible. This was like, in my childhood, the guy who broke the 4-minute mile—and then everybody started doing it. I feel like I’m watching a new paradigm of cooperative possibility from this Oakland-based team, that is changing basketball all over the country.

You can read more about the Warriors in this New York Times article: With Survival Kit of 3-Pointers, and Team Trust, the Warriors Live On.