Errol Flynn and Hedy Lamarr had it, Sidney Poitier radiates it today.
Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi were instilled with it, before they began shaping minds and winning national titles.
Politicians Barbara Jordan, Juan and Eva Peron, Huey Long, FDR, John Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln all had it.
Rebels George Washington, Emiliano Zapata, Mahatma Gandhi and, I’d guess, Spartacus (Thracian) were imbued with the quality of presence.
Artistic performers Maya Plisetskaya (d. 5.2.15) and Rita Moreno have it.
Baseball men Roberto Clemente and Walter Alston both shared the trait.
And all the major prophets are reported to have had it.
If those figures don’t quite explain it for you, maybe you caught Kelly’s Heroes (‘70) this Memorial weekend. Telly Savalas character, Sergeant “Big Joe,” he had presence, and how.
What is presence?
It might be described as the ability to command a respect, a pointed attention, admiration or even awe from people in the room because of past deeds or present mannerism.
It can be conveyed and perceived by one’s physical appearance, a personality, outspoken or unassuming, and even something as simple as a distinctive laugh or one telling act.
Dignity and leadership are usually concomitant but, unlike grace, attribute with which one must be born (See; “Mr. Pitt (Seinfeld))”), a presence can be acquired.
Golden State Warriors point guard and reigning Assc’n MVP, Wardell Stephen Curry II might have presence. We don’t really know that for sure, not yet. We’ll find out soon enough.
The pathway for Oakland’s NBA rep to the 2015 NBA Finals has not exactly been the gauntlet from Hades. In fact, in recent memory, I can’t recall an easier road to the championship for either Eastern or Western Conference playoff combatants.
Be that as it may, Warriors are on cusp of their first Finals in 40 years (‘75), up on the Rockets, 3-0, and will hoist the O’Brien if they can close it and then meet the challenge that is likely to be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’re besting Atlanta by the same 3-0 margin and poised to make the Finals even as their #2 scorer and top rebounder Kev Love went out early in playoff action with a dislocated shoulder (R1 v BOS).
That ‘74-75 Warriors’ team (48-34) took the Walter Brown title trophy by sweeping the Bullets 4-0, a DC squad with names like Unseld, Truck Robinson, Haskins, Riordan and the “Big E,” Elvin Hayes. No slouches by any means.
GSW had top talent too, with names like Keith “Jamal” Wilkes, Clifford Ray, Butch Beard, man-on-the-boards George Johnson, and a guy who most definitely evoked a presence. His name, Richard “Rick” Francis Dennis Barry III.
Rick was a 6-7, 200+ forward out of the University of Miami who handled ball like a guard: passing, driving to basket and shooting mid-to-long jumpers, before the advent of the 3-pointer (‘79). A 4-time ABA and 8-time NBA All-Star, Barry won ROY honors in 1966, was MVP of the 1975 Finals and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.
Intensity and an unabashed drive to win would’ve described basketball legend Barry to a tee. Compete, multi-skilled player, those work, too.
Not a particularly gregarious fellow from a fans perspective, or maybe his teammates, either, Rick bounced around numerous teams before finally settling back in San Fran from 1972-78, finishing his playing career in Houston (’78-80) and then heading into the broadcast booth where he showed the same devotion to his new trade.
But Barry was a winner and made few excuses. Frank and too the point, the man from New Jersey held himself to the same high standard he did co-workers. As memorable as his shooting touch and lightening quick reflexes was his trademark underhand free-throw shooting style that served him well (.893 (SC: .900)).
How do the two stars stack-up?
Steve’s size (6-3, 185+) make him a true guard. Whether on point or shooting will depend on the game’s flow which often means he’s launching 3-pointers at will.
Barry (14y): 25 pts (35.6 ‘67), 5 ast (6.2 ‘75), 7 rbs (8.4 ‘73), .456 fg% (.464 ‘75).
Curry (6y): 21 pts (24 ’14), 7 ast (8.5 ’14), 4 rbs (4.5 ’09), .471 fg% (.487 ‘15).
Of those figures (rounded), one may surprise in comparative field-goal percentages.
With the long-distance 3PA you might expect today’s b-baller to have a lower %. But keep in mind, most attempts are either half-defended or not at all (foul on a 3PA and it’s a possible 4-pt‘er). So if you get good at it, like Stephen, as was his coach, Steve Kerr in his playing days (UA/ CHI /SA), it’s almost a freebie.
In the less tangible, harder to quantify measure of contribution to team success, phrases like heart & soul and capable of ‘carrying on his back’ would apply most readily to both men’s on-court play.
Barry had a couple losing, a few very successful and most campaigns around 10 wins > .500. Steve’s in his 6th year, the first 3 where he’s had a new coach in each, the losses out-numbered the wins nearly 2-to-1. As the Warriors’ worm began to turn (‘12-13), the wins have piled-up, even before coach Kerr’s arrival (‘14).
There’s no debating Steve’s a “smooth operator.” Not in the Sade sense (dude sounded a cad), but a guy who’s a cool customer and succeeds by keeping emotions in check. His present popularity trends so high it rivals Dick Sherman’s for the hearts of Junior America, made only more certain by his heading the VORP sabr-stat category (basketball-reference.com). Ugh.
Rickster, on the other hand, he tended to rub folks the wrong way.
But then top-tier competitors don’t often make a whole lot a’ friends and will not infrequently foster animosity & jealously in the bushel baskets (See; T.Brady).
Steve didn’t hurt his starry status with celebrity – social media followers by his post-game (HOU) press conference earlier last week when he just happened to bring his adorable little daughter on stage. Why, I don’t know, but it was memorable.
Even though the jobs are in most respects worlds apart, given that the photo-ops took place at times when the President was in relaxation mode, if that’s possible with a Commander-in-Chief (it appeared to be so), the Curry & Cutie-pie photo tandem (her peering from underneath table) was somewhat reminiscent of the movies and photoplay of JFK and his kids (Caroline & John-John) taken in the big Oval (’61-63), a name apropos, given that particular circumstance: oval (office), ovary, ovum (egg).
Awards and cute won’t by themselves satisfy the Sporting Gods.
If and when they do qualify for Finals (Ain‘t over ‘til it‘s over, will say Rockets & Hawks), Curry, Coach Kerr & Co. will have tall task ahead in facing what again looks to be the Eastern representative in a surprisingly, or not so (See; above), resilient Cleveland Cavaliers club.
The 3-point Kid vs Mr. Strength, LeBron James, would offer a curious contrast in scoring styles.
Key categories: steals, free-throws and rebounding, with Love out, all edge GSW, while turnovers, with focus on both teams top ball-handlers in James and Curry, are a wash, as both cough it up plenty. The same could be said for team defense.
Both franchises rank around the middle (“a C, not falling behind, not showing off (Costanza)”). In b-ball, unlike the gridiron and net-minding (ice & grass), score stoppage is not as clear an indicator of prowess when you consider half of the top-ten teams in total points allowed ranking were poor threats to championize.
So, between the two (GSW / CLE), who’d be most likely to hoist the O’Brien?
The numbers, a 1st-year coach in Kerr who’s near as popular as Curry and who, at this juncture, has quickly taken on the wily rep formerly possessed of his playing-days mentor (Jackson) and that LeBron is without that game-in, game-out multi-skilled cohort on which he’s come to rely (See; Wade-Love), all say Golden State.
But the Sporting Gods can be mercurial.
I wouldn’t say they’ve got a soft spot for James (2-3 Finals), but Steve’s fellow Akron native does seem imbued with a dynamic this post-season that looks, arguably, not just more determined but skillful than ever. Oh yeah, LeBron’s got proven presence, too, and, like Mr. Curry, does not get rattled easy.
1975: That’s the last time Golden State was Finalized and then took title. Forty years. That the Cavaliers have never won an NBA championship probably works them no more a motivation. Both teams and towns really want that trophy.
Gerald Ford, former VP under the resigned Dick Nixon, occupied the White House that year, Foolish Pleasure was running for roses, ABA was in it’s last season before ‘merger’ and inflation and Vietnam’s fall to the Communists were top topics in the news which was disseminated by radio, print, broadcast TV and Ma Bell, decades before integrated circuits, mobility and digitalization dominated our lives.
Rick Barry paled in popularity to Stephen Curry, but Rick earned himself a ring and a deserved place among basketball‘s immortals.
Help take a title, Stephen, and you’ll have presence too, the kind that lasts all…year…long.
Photo credits: S.Curry, 3.2.11, K.Allison, wc.cca; Curry, wc, 2.24.15, K.Allison; R.Barry, GSW, 1972, wc; Barry, SportingNews, 1976, wc; S.Kerr, 2.24.15, wc, K.Allison; L.James, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; StraightShooter, produce-label.
Posted: 5.25.15 @ 12:21; edit 11:57am EST
Note: This article is dedicated on Memorial weekend to the men and women in the American and allied armed forces and support units who have in the past or are presently serving Stateside, in the air, sea or foreign lands around the globe.