Steph Curry made the news again for getting caught unloading excited profanity at the home crowd after a made bucket, an unmistakably mouthed expletive broadcast live to TNT’s national audience.
Reporting for The Fumble, Krystle Rich mockingly noted the difference between Curry’s apparent on-court split persona: The humble, pointing with gratitude to heaven 3-point making “Regular Steph” and the arrogant, dancing and cussing and staring down his opponent “Shimmy Steph.”
“It’s ‘Shimmy Steph'! Shimmy Steph, it’s been so long we thought you were gone forever. Wait! What? Whose house is that? Oh, ok, YOUR f-ing house. Shimmy Steph sure is a lot different than ‘Regular Steph'.”
Rich went on to explain the aftermath.
“You know who didn’t like Shimmy Steph’s cursing? His Momma! Momma Curry texted Shimmy Steph after the game with a video of what he said and said he needs to wash out his mouth with soap. Regular Steph showed back up and agreed with her. He said he has to do better.”
Yep. We’ve covered this ground before with Curry and others like him. Really nothing new here to see.
A player outspoken about his Christian faith (footage which you could easily show to your youth group) unleashes words in the midst of a game—or does something worse after the game—captured for national scrutiny on video (footage which you could NEVER show to your youth group.) Player publicly acknowledges error of his ways.
People identifying as Christians rise up on social media to judge him, question his faith, suggest he’s already had enough chances to get it right, reference his political positions for good measure and declare the finality of their righteous disgust before casting him to hell.
Others, also identifying as Christians (though seemingly fewer in number), suggest that God is gracious, longsuffering, and ready to forgive—even heinous behavior like bad words and different social beliefs—and that sanctification is messy business in all our lives.
In this case even the player’s Mom got on board to publicly scold him. We got this covered.
(The guy in the very-worth-watching video above notes that after Curry’s tirade he went from Malcolm in the Middle to Malcolm X. But after his religious conversion even Malcolm X suggested that a man who constantly swears to express himself is just being lazy. Look it up.)
So That Was OK?
But then the strangest thing happened. The morning after the same game, another outspoken Christian teammate—Kevin Durant—gets asked about Curry’s ingame cussing and says the most amazing thing.
“Do you like when he drops an f-bomb like that because it’s so out of character for him?”
Durant: “F-yeah.” (Followed by the expected junior high laughter that ensues when anything inappropriate happens in a crowd.)
Later: “What does it mean when Steph unleashes an f-bomb like that?”
“I heard him curse a couple times...but when he releases an f-bomb I mean of course I like it. That word—it’s just an important word when you’re playing basketball. It means so much. But I just like his excitement for the game, and his intensity, and the crowd feeds off of that and we feed off of our crowd.”
Huh. Since it doesn’t seem that Durant’s Mom or anyone else is coming to help, let’s get it in print here—that’s a stupid answer. Clarification: That’s a stupid answer for a Christ-follower to give or to believe or to encourage others to believe.
I get it. Nothing relieves the competitively amped, fleshly inner-man like screaming the mother-lode of all curse words—at someone, at the crowd, at oneself. It has great utility to cover a multitude of in-game situations, both positive and negative. And this interview practically teed up the opportunity for Durant to be funny and a little shocking and to shed cultural light on the usefulness of the word in a game.
But goodness—maybe we’re really lost without our WWJD bracelets after all.
Help Us Out Christian Athletes
Dear Christian Athlete, we don’t need you to be perfect, just consistent. Those of us in touch with our own sin can totally relate to bad behavior. We see it in ourselves and expect to see it in you. But acknowledge it as such. Don’t point to heaven one minute, then try to justify acting like hell the next. That isn’t the gospel, it’s phony religion. The gospel involves repentance for not practicing the presence of God. Phony religion involves trying to get Jesus-credit with one group of people while also striving for Worldly-approval from another. Jesus says you can’t have both, so pick your allegiance and let’s get on with it. Putting both heaven and hell on display without any inner conflict is confusing for everybody—maybe even for God. (No, God is never really confused, but don’t miss the point.)
During a high school basketball game this past year, my 17-year-old son reportedly screamed a slew of well constructed, profanity-laced sentences at an opposing player on the way back down court—right in front of a long stretch of the first three rows of fans.
I don’t believe he’s going to hell because of the tirade. I don’t find myself questioning every aspect of his teenage heart. I don’t wonder what path he’s on because he wasn’t able to control his emotions in the midst of a rival game. I don’t assume he’s destined now to become a godless Liberal or hate-filled Conservative when he gets older.
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But I do want him to have class. I do want him to have self-control—a fruit of the Spirit produced by Jesus. I do want him to take responsibility for offending people who heard him with a direct apology before leaving the gym. I do want him to practice the presence of God in the midst of competition; or in the middle of his peers in the classroom; or in the checkout line at Walmart; or among the collection of sinners he sits with in church. I want every aspect of his life to be changed from the inside out by the gospel, and I want to be able to say “This is the path, not that one.” I want him to realize that something was wrong in that moment, not walk away feeling justified because he was “just being intense” or trying to fire up the crowd. There’s plenty of other ways to express and do both without causing kids to get in trouble at school the next day for repeating what they heard you yell.
Jesus made it clear that the words of our mouth indicate something about the condition of our hearts, and foul words don’t get a pass just because we’re in the heat of a game. Curse words reveal some measure of stench in the heart, and Jesus said we should make it a point to let Him clean that mess up, not justify it in the name of “intensity” or some other game-time experience.
If I can get help from other Christians to bring this about in him, all the better—especially athletes whose game he admires. But I sure don’t need anyone to make it harder or more confusing.
Just To Be Clear
So is there any chance at least one person caught Durant in the hallway after the interview and said, “Yo KD...nope. Stop. It’s a bad look man. You can’t be talking Jesus one minute then justifying F-ing people out the next. At least acknowledge you’re repping contradictory worldviews. At least let people know that you know you’re walking both sides of the fence. Better still, stop playing different roles with different audiences. Either be Jesus guy who is in the midst of the struggle of sanctification, or be worldly dude who doesn’t give a rip. But trying to do both is exhausting for you and confusing for people watching you, especially kids like my son. Not to mention what it does to Jesus Himself.”
I hope someone said something close to that.
But if not, for the record—we did it here.