Your life’s tough? Maybe not now, but it has been? I know mine has been. But for normal people like you and me, when we are down or when the chips aren’t falling the way we want them, we don’t normally have 20-something-year-olds from other countries calling us “fat”, “lazy”, “underachieving” or “the stupid weak prick who plays centre for the Knicks” Instead, we are just like “hey, Rob D’s having a tough week, the Pistons lost to the Knicks AGAIN, perhaps I should knit him a jumper?” or “wow, Jobba must be depressed about the current state of his favourite NBA team, I might go give him a hug”.

For a while now, the criticism has been piling up for Knicks centre Eddy Curry. He has been stamped an “underachiever” for his entire career, and will most likely never grow out of that tag. As a high school star in Thornwood High School, Curry began receiving hype as one of the best high school players in the country. He avoided college like the treadmill (he had signed a letter of intent with DePaul – where current Knicks Quentin Richardson and Wilson Chandler attended) and was drafted 4th by the Chicago Bulls to team up with fellow high school star Tyson Chandler. While the Baby Bulls had some success in Curry’s final year with the Bulls in 04-05, he was really put on the map once Isiah Thomas sent Mike “Stay Puff” Sweetney, Tim Thomas, essentially two first round draft picks, two second round draft picks and the farm to Chicago for his rights. But what few NBA fans have probably taken note of, is the struggles Eddy Curry has been going through as a person. Rarely do we as fans step back to consider things from the player’s perspective, but lately I’ve been stepping out of my size 12 Nike Air Max, and attempting to step into Eddy’s most likely larger shoes. As a Knicks fan I take the time to learn as much as possible about our players. I’ve watched 50+ games of them each season since 2004, and I’m slightly obsessive about the Knicks, let’s be honest…

Curry’s career reminds me of the Golden Child of Bad Boy Records, Ma$e.

Curry killed it in high school
Murda Ma$e killed it in Children of the Corn
Curry made the big league and had some bright spots
Ma$e signed to Puffy’s Bad Boy Entertainment and had some bright guest spots (112’s “Only You” remix with the late, great, Notorious B.I.G, Mariah Carey’s “Honey” remix in his shiney suit along with the Lox, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” with Puff, and Biggie’s radio classic “Mo Money Mo Problems”)
Curry had stability and consistency in New York with Isiah in charge
Ma$e dropped two albums on Bad Boy with Puff in charge
Curry’s career dipped once he was no longer the main focus for Isiah
Ma$e’s career dipped once he left Bad Boy and was no longer the main focus for Puff
Curry created headlines for non-basketball matters (the robbery, sex suit)
Ma$e created headlines for non-hip hop matters (Reverend Betha!)
Curry has attempted to get back on track with little success
Ma$e has attempted to get back on track with little success (although ‘Keep It On’ was my fav. from “Welcome Back”)

It’s been a tumultuous road for Eddy Curry, but to understand where his head and heart are right now, you need to understand the life he has lead, the road he has traveled.

2005 – Curry was diagnosed with an irregular heart beat and many doctors differed in their opinion of his future career. As a free agent, Curry looked to cash in during the off season, but didn’t even receive an offer from Atlanta after a two-day visit. Golden State were a possibility, and New York remained interested the entire time. It was once John Paxson demanded Curry take a DNA test that the parting of ways became imminent. Chicago reportedly offered Curry $400k annually if the tests returned bad news, but Curry refused, and Isiah “took advantage” of the situation. Curry left Chicago with a bad wrap for turning down the offer, and leaving a very promising Chicago team on the rise. He walked into hostile, media savvy New York, looking for an answer to recent struggles and looking to prove doubters of his work ethic and health wrong.

2006 – Curry is labeled the cornerstone of the franchise by coach Larry “I’ll get you 23 wins for every $50 million you give me” Brown, yet due to poor conditioning is continually sat out in the fourth quarter for cheap, CBA recruited Jackie Butler. The Knicks season is a failure after big expectations, and the blame is centered around Brown, Curry and Marbury.

2007 – With Isiah Thomas at the helm (both on and off the court), he played 98% of the Knicks offense through the talented big man. He dominated many games and set career highs in scoring and rebounding averages. With Isiah insisting the ball go through the post 8-out-of-10 possessions, many turnovers were forced, many double teams were sent, Washington chose to triple team him, and many losses were pegged to Curry’s inability to lift NY to higher grounds. Isiah led a “Curry is an All Star” campaign that failed, and resulted in Curry getting the “Bruised Never Broken” tattoo on his sternum.

2007 – Curry, his wife, his children and an employee were bound and robbed at gunpoint in his Chicago mansion by three robbers, just weeks after Antoine Walker was also robbed in his Chicago home. Curry was working out with Tim Grover in Chicago this off-season but was scared to return to the home and moved back to New York early. His pre-season training was put on hold for obvious and fair reasons. The only problem was in the off-season Isiah made the bold move of acquiring ANOTHER post presence, statman and current LA Clipper, Z-Bo. All New York officials wanted was for Curry and Randolph to get in practice time together, but that was all put on hold due to these circumstances. When Curry finally got to the training facility, he and Randolph spent one day together, before Zach had to fly out to Indiana due to his grandmothers failing health. Much of the blame for the lack of success in the low post was given to Eddy, although Isiah Thomas was continually questioned for his use of the two big men. Before long, Thomas elected to play Randolph over Curry, and eventually replaced the big man in the starting unit. Obviously tough when he had the entire offense to himself last season.

2008 - An MRI revealed a tear in the cartilage of Curry’s right knee. He had arthroscopic surgery eight days later and would be out for the remainder of the 07-08 season missing 23 games in total, and never fulfilling the success from last season. New York fail to make the playoffs for the second time under Isiah Thomas, the man with the most reason to see Curry succeed.

2008 – New York sign Mike D’Antoni to a three year coaching deal beginning in 08-09 and it is made clear to all player personal to be ready to run in training camp. Curry turns up out of shape, and when D’Antoni was asked if Curry would be a part of the opening night 10-man rotation, he responded simply with “no.” This, was news to the once franchise center. “I’m here with him every day,” Curry said. “All he has to do is tell me. I’m definitely stunned to hear that from you guys.” Curry came down with a viral infection and misses all but one day of training camp, and is clearly set back for the season. Although he claims to be good to go, he and Stephon “Courtside in LA” Marbury both appear and remain on the bench, as the new run-and-gun D’Antoni-era Knicks post 120 points in the season opening win. A bold move that had clear implications for Curry’s place on the team.

2009 – Curry is sued by his former driver for sexual harassment, unpaid money and for racially abusing him. Curry is claimed to have called his drive, amongst other things, “the grandmaster of the KKK”. Curry is supposed to have approached the driver completely naked on two separate occasions. “Just to see how well Eddy treated him and how nice he was to him, almost to a fault, and to see something like this come out is pretty disgusting,” Quentin Richardson said. “I couldn’t even believe it. I thought it was a joke at first … The things that he says Eddy did is just crazy, especially like I said for how nice Eddy treated him. Just letting him have days off and all kinds of stuff. It’s just ridiculous that he would do something like that.” Curry is still considering filing a defamation suit.

2009 – Curry’s right knee kept him not only off the court, which he struggled to get onto due to poor conditioning, but also prevented him from practicing for a large part of the opening months of the season. To date, he has appeared in one game thus far this season, before shutting it down again (due to soreness in his left knee from over-compensating on his right). His name is now constantly linked to trade rumors, and if he finally re-appears on the floor for the Knicks it will be assumed only for “showcasing” purposes. Curry’s contract runs past the magical 2010 off season and is thus unwanted by Donnie Walsh.

2009 (just days ago) – Curry’s ex-girlfriend and her nine month old daughter are murdered (shot to death), in front of Curry’s three year old son in Chicago. Curry is said to be very active in his three year old son’s life, although he has four children with his wife. Curry has flown to Chicago to be with his son, as he is questioned by psychologists and police about the life-changing and life-ending events he witnessed.

It’s easy to focus on the negative events in E-City’s life because, well, there’s been a lot of them. But for every ounce of bad luck, injury or misplaced blame, there has been a positive, a reaffirmation that perhaps Eddy Curry is going to come out on top. So let’s take a minute to highlight some of Eddy’s better moments in the National Basketball Association.

02-03 – Curry became the first Chicago Bull since MJ to lead the league in a positive statistical category, leading the league in field goal percentage (.585)

04-05 – With 2.4 left on the clicker, Curry swooped in for a game winning lay up against the team that would eventually trade away their future for him, downing the Bockers 86-84. “This is amazing,” Curry said. “I don’t think it can get any better.” Perhaps he was right? Benny Gordon would go on to down the Knicks by 2pts the following game at MSG, with Michael Sweetney’s all NBA defense unable to stop the 6’2” guard’s skyhook in the lane. I remember watching that game with Eze at his joint.

06-07 – When the only person in front of you is Patrick Ewing, and the person directly behind you is Allan Houston, you are in strong company. Curry’s hot streak of 11 straight 20+ point games placed him second only to the NY legend, including 36pts, 9rebs, 3blks, 2stls, 1ast against Andy Bogut and the Bucks. Curry threw down an alley oop in the 3rd that brought the house down, mine that is. Others agreed. “Eddy Curry was a monster,” Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. His dominance at this time even got a usually media shy *cough* Marbury to add his thoughts, “I’m adjusting to the way we’re playing right now – dumping the ball down to Eddy. He has it going right now. He’s playing like an All-Star, and he’s carrying us right now. I’m just trying to adjust my game to fit around how Eddy is playing.”

– Playing in the hometown of Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford, it was Eddy Curry who got the Knicks moving on the 5th of Jan. After less than 3 minutes of game time, EC picked up a T, to go along with a personal foul. Isiah wisely (hmmm, something feels wrong about that start to the sentence) removed Curry from the line up. Considering Curry had a penchant for racking up fouls, I was startled and scared when Curry re-entered the game with 5 minutes to remain in the quarter. Eddy, being the nice guy he is, went up to ref Bob Delaney and apologised for his harsh language, and scored 15pts in the final 5 minutes. “I apologized to him, he accepted my apology and I just got onto a roll,” Curry said. He finished 9/9 from the field, with 27pts, 6rebs, 2asts, 1blk, and gave the Knicks a comfortable cushion for the entire game. I watched that game several times when it arrived from Pontel, and never got sick of Eddy’s antics.

06-07 – The 7th of April was not a special night in terms of the Knicks playoff hopes. We were out, and had no chance, the season was done, and it was hard to get excited about us at this point. My Uncle and Auntie were over, but somehow I was drawn to the computer instead of them (love you guys!). Curry turned in his biggest performance in his NBA career, and I love thinking about how pumped he seemed after the game. He poured in a career high 43pts (17-20 from the field, 1-1 3pt), 13rebs, 2stls, 1ast, and his first attempted three in two seasons, under such scrutiny, a magic moment. Before hand, Ruben Patterson drilled a three with 0.9 seconds remaining. NY called a timeout and Isiah decided Eddy was to tie the game. “He asked me if I had one in me and I said, ‘Yeah,” Curry said. “It felt good leaving my hand.” After the game, Starbury (sat out due to injury) wrote “E-City: Welcome to the 40pt club”, I remember thinking, wow, that’s a massive game for someone who is so doubted.

Best Eddy Curry dunk: 3rd February 2007 1 second left on the 24, turning Darko into his bitch

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Best Eddy Curry assist: 3rd Febuary 2007 behind the back pass to D “Double Double” Lee
Best Eddy Curry block: 9th December 2007 vs. Andrew Bogut
Best Eddy Curry play: 7th April 2007 3pter vs. Bucks on the buzzer to send game into OT

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I refreshed my browser like 20 times to check I got this one right:
0:00 Eddy Curry makes three point jumper (Mardy Collins assists)102-102.

And just for the sake of it, one of my favourite moments of Curry’s peak with the Knicks (clearly 2007 judging by the above dates), Curry got me and Spike up outta our seats with this play, thankfully Phil called Lamar’s number down the court and not Kobe.

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As a result of the battering of negative events, especially the latest tragedy involving two deaths, Eddy Curry is taking a leave of absence, highly supported by the Knicks. So while Eddy Curry is not an on-court factor, and has had some disappointing seasons, I think we as fans need to be fair on Eddy the human. Forget Eddy the player for a bit. The pressure has been on him ever since the irregular heart, and has only magnified with the NY media (who did their best to destroy him along with Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury etc.)

I own an Eddy Curry singlet and I will wear it proudly, because from Mike Breen to Walt Frazier, to Jamal Crawford, Q Rich, Malik “Chair Pull” Rose and Nate Robinson, Eddy has been portrayed as a fun, friendly guy who puts others first. The Knicks were basically annoyed when Eddy had his break-out season that he wouldn’t be more of a vocal leader. It soon became clear though, that his personality is not suited to that style, he is a supporter. A Robin, not a Batman. A large, large Robin, but still, a Robin.

So next time you check the box score and have a chuckle about Curry’s lack of playing time or input, how about you balance it out and send out a prayer that night for the big fella. If you don’t think it will do anything, there’s no harm, but if it does, it could be your biggest assist of the season.

Tizzle, over and out.
P.S David Lee is an All Star.

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