The 5 stages of a Steph Curry heat check

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I have never been hypnotized.

When NBA legend Steph Curry explodes for one of his predictable yet outrageous offensive tsunamis, however, I swear to the basketball gods, it sure feels like I am.

The 40-foot bombs. The teardrops from heaven. The mesmerizing crossovers and microwave-instant releases. I check Twitter mentions and text friends, “Did you just see that?!” whenever Curry catches fire to double check that I’m not hallucinating or that I’ve entered some permanent state of psychosis. There seems to be irrefutable evidence that these instances are indeed real, but I cannot always shake the feeling that NBA 2K’s graphics have just become that good.

The man plays like he has a cheat code embedded into his primary motor cortex, and the rest of us watch with faces that look like we lost a piece of our own.

Curry has had a phenomenal start to the season and looks like an early front-runner for MVP. He’s averaging 33 points per game while shooting 51.6 percent from beyond the arc to go along with an average of 5.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

Last week, he erupted for a beautiful 51-point performance against the Wizards that more closely resembled a Jackson Pollock painting than an actual competition and has accounted for more than half of the Warriors’ three-pointers, even while sharing the floor with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

To put this all in perspective, here’s a five-step guide to prepare us for the next inevitable Curry heat-check performance in order to best ensure the safety of ourselves and our sanity.

Stage 1: Søren says

It can be a nice off-hand layup, a benign jump shot, a pair of free throws or even an assist, but all it takes is one play for the wind to shift in Curry’s direction. It can go completely unregistered in the moment, but once you look back on a Curry heat-check performance, it’s clear that one small action created a ripple effect of three-pointers, circus finishes and 16-0 runs that secured a Warriors victory.

Søren Kierkegaard famously said, “Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.” In that same vein, any of Curry’s iconic games are often only fully appreciated when watching the highlights over and over again online, but nevertheless, each new iteration in the Curry destruction series never ceases to amaze.

Stage 2: Boost

Every time you collect a coin in Mario Kart, the faster you can drive. The more coins you collect, the more dust your opponents will be eating. Like our favorite Nintendo avatar, when Curry scores on two or three possessions in a row, he gets a boost of energy that everyone on the floor can sense but no one can stop, just like Bowser Jr on a Zip Zip.

Stage 3: The levee breaks

When Curry has that little boost in confidence, he starts launching threes with just a sliver of daylight and torturing defenses with his constant movement off the ball. You can see the panic spread through opposing defenses as he runs through a forest of defenders and a vortex of back cuts and ball screens.

Once he’s broken their spirits after three or four successful trips down the floor, often involving a ludicrous shot or two, it’s only a question of how, not if, he’ll exactly roast a defense now that it has been successfully hunted down.

Stage 4: Deluge

This is the stage in which the internet is broken and his stroke turns into the raging ball of fire from NBA Jam. The Warriors bench celebrates like they’ve lost control of their loose grip on reality, and the other team starts calculating just how much longer it has before the team plane arrives.

(Usually, this is when a timeout is called)

These are the episodes Curry fans cherish most and the ones that make his rivals shutter. The times when I think I come closest to understanding just exactly why young girls would urinate themselves at the sight of the Beatles. When Curry has it going, his motion is overwhelming, consolatory, draining and euphoric.

Sort of like when you lose control of your bladder.

Stage 5: Nirvana

The final stage. The shots that seem to be taken just for fun and the times in which defenses feel the most humiliated. At this point, any of Curry’s buckets seem to be more of an ironic, meta-commentary on his own greatness than having anything to do with the actual outcome of the game.

It’s when Curry’s robotic-like efficiency mixes with his artistic feel for poetry in motion.

The composition is always impeccable

Rory O’Toole writes the Thursday column on the transformation of athletes and sports media into the cultural conversation. Contact him at [email protected].