Friday, January 20, 2012

On Eddy Curry, Weight and Motivation


Eddy Curry made his Miami Heat debut Thursday night against the Lakers, playing in an NBA game for the first time since December 17, 2009. For some perspective on how long ago that was, when Curry last played in the NBA prior to Thursday, Blake Griffin had zero career NBA dunks, LeBron James was a Cavalier, Amar'e Stoudemire was a Sun, Carmelo Anthony was a Nugget, Vinny Del Negro was coaching the Bulls (Curry's opponent that night) and Kobe Bryant had a mere four RINGZ.

It's been a long road back to the NBA for Curry, who still has a long way to go toward being a productive member of a championship contending team. Curry had six points and three rebounds against the Lakers, but also looked sluggish -- and unsure of what to do -- on defensive rotations. Still, the simple fact that Curry found himself back on an NBA court is amazing.

Let's put away the weight jokes for a second, and focus on something else. It's easy to forget this, but in 2009, Curry had to deal with one of the greatest tragedies any person can suffer. His ex-girlfriend, the mother of two of his children, and his nine-moth-old daughter were murdered in Chicago.

I don't have children, so I can't even begin to relate to the loss of a child, but I can imagine that Curry -- who at that point in '08-09 had played just one game and would play just nine more over the next two and a half seasons -- didn't exactly have basketball at the top of his priorities list. The fact that the murder came just two weeks after Curry was slapped with one of the most embarrassing lawsuits in recent history probably contributed to Curry's general disinterest in the game.

Given his off-court problems, his ballooning weight and his general perception among NBA observers both inside and outside the league, Curry had ever reason to just walk away from the sport when he was bought out by the Timberwolves last March. He'd made more than $68M in salary in his NBA career, and though he reportedly had debt problems, he also didn't seem to be in line for an NBA windfall either.

Yet he kept at it. He tried to latch on with the Heat after being cut by the Wolves, but the team passed, basically telling him "you're too fat to play basketball. Lose a lot of weight and try again."

So, rather than sulk, he did exactly that. When he signed with the Heat, he'd already lost somewhere between 40 and 60 pounds, and he's lost an additional significant amount since the start of training camp. As someone who's battled weight problems my entire life (and is currently losing that battle very badly -- like "the South at Gettysburg" badly), I can assure you that losing as much weight as Curry did, even with a million-dollar contract in the balance, is not easy. Doing it when you've already been through so much personal hardship, and when your reputation among your peers and critics is all but already cemented, is even harder.

Fans focus on Curry's weight, because quite frankly it's right in front of us and it's easy to mock. From the day he entered the NBA, Curry always seemed to be out of shape, and two years away from the basketball court don't generally contribute positively to a person's physical condition. But the hard part is over for Curry. Now that he's achieved the simple goal of returning to an NBA court, he can work on improving his game, and getting to the point where scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds -- a stat line that happened nearly 24,000 times in the NBA between the last two times Curry has done it -- isn't cause for celebration, but is instead the norm.

Eddy Curry is never going to live up to the expectations that his No. 4 overall draft selection or his six-year/$60M contract brought. But he can certainly re-write the final chapter of his NBA career, and he seems to be on the way to doing it.

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