When I root for [Stephen] Curry’s success, I am not interested in affirming the supposed superiority of the light complexioned. I reject the notion that identifying with Steph more than LeBron constitutes aligning one’s self with whiteness. Instead, I relish Curry’s rise because of its potential to illustrate that blackness contains multitudes. He has fallen into a strange place in the American racial cosmos. Too easily accepted by white people to be fully embraced by black people, Curry also represents a rare case of white folks being wrong about a black guy in ways that exalt rather than diminish him.
That LeBron James was able to overcome the odds and become the best basketball player of his generation is an objectively tremendous feat, but his story is also a familiar one. In many ways, he’s a composite of black stereotypes: born to a teenage mother, raised without a father in the inner city, surpassingly strong and fast with surreal hops. The reality is that his success is as much a consequence of his legendary work ethic and shrewd decision-making as his unprecedented mix of skill, size, and agility. Nevertheless, he’s seen as a passive beneficiary of a genetic lottery, a once-in-a-generation physical specimen who merely had to lace up shoes to actualize his predestined dominance….
[T]he durable misconception that Steph’s all-world handle and historic shooting ability come solely from tireless toil in the gym is refreshing, as tall tales go. It’s a rare instance of black athletic excellence being appreciated as a reward for diligence, sacrifice, and commitment rather than the abundance of fast-twitch muscles. It’s a step in the right direction for American culture that a black superstar can be celebrated as a super striver and not just a happy accident.