Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably have heard of Stephen Curry. He’s the reigning NBA MVP, and led his Golden State Warriors to the best record in the NBA. Unless something cataclysmic happens, it’s likely that he’ll win an NBA championship. Steph Curry is really, really, really good.
Steph Curry’s performance is intriguing in a very endearing way. He isn’t very tall, by basketball standards. He isn’t very fast. He doesn’t dunk the basketball from the free-throw line. But Steph is very good at the most important thing, putting the ball in the basket.
Stephen Curry’s season has been one of absolute dominance. It was a year for the record books. Don’t believe me? Let the evidence speak for itself. He was 6th in scoring average, 6th in assists per game, 2nd in steals, 4th in 3 point percentage and 1st in free throw percentage. He is the leading scorer among guards, although everybody thinks they’re a guard nowadays.
Stephen Curry has had a hall of fame season. Rightfully so, Stephen Curry was named the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player. But Steph Curry isn’t dominant in every NBA category, and there is one category that should cause us some serious pause. Stephen Curry isn’t even in the top 50 in one major category.
I can remember falling in love with the American culture, as a young Canadian high school student. America was, and I still think it is, the land of opportunity. Your status or caste or family or history doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. America, at least as I saw it, was the ultimate meritocracy.
A meritocracy, in its simplest definition, translates to one simple concept. You get what you deserve, based on your performance. In a theoretical meritocracy, what you do is much more important than who you are. This is the America we preach. This is the America we teach. And American sports are probably the most iconic example of the meritocratic world we envision. At least that is what we hoped?
Stephen Curry, arguable the most dominant player in the NBA this year, is ranked 51st in salary. According to his NBA salary, he’s the 51st best player in the league. His income or “merit” doesn’t even get him in the NBA’s top 50. It’s this statistic that should force you to pause.
Let’s keep it real. Sports aren’t that important. Although sports generate billions of dollars each year, sports aren’t life and death. Stephen Curry isn’t a Roman gladiator and he won’t be sacrificed to the lions for underperformance. That said. Sports are a microcosm of society. If we get the meritocracy concept wrong in the NBA, we’re probably getting it wrong elsewhere in our society. We’re probably getting it wrong when the risks are far greater.
If we really were the meritocracy we claim to be, Stephen Curry should be the highest paid player this year. Contracts would be based simply on merit. They would be based on what players do and not who they are. And if we really believe in this meritocracy, we should extend it to our society. No one should get a free pass.
Whether it’s youth sports or company executives, no one should receive special dispensation. Merit or playing time or money or promotions should be based on performance. It shouldn’t matter who your dad is, how tall your mom is, what you did in third grade, who your mentor is, who you know, how much money your family has, where you’re from or how “connected” you are. Merit should be awarded based solely on your performance.
Congratulations to Stephen Curry on proving everyone wrong. Hopefully, he’ll eventually get the “merit” that he deserves. And hopefully, America will continue to maintain the meritocracy that we all fell in love with.