It’s 1986, and I’m 10 years old on the blacktop at my elementary school. Several other classmates and I are using the monkey bars as a hoop and a tennis ball to shoot with. Before we begin our low-budget version of basketball, a familiar refrain goes around.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Michael Jordan," one kid yells.
"Steve, you're Larry Bird," and everyone laughs.
It would be three years before I could respectfully say, "I'm Kenny 'Sky' Walker!"
This was the fate of a light-skinned boy whose hue wasn't prominent in the NBA. Didn't mean that there weren't light-skinned players, but if you exclude the last five years, I'll wait while you come up with the top five all-light-skinned teams, and good luck with that.
So much has changed since then; now kids on the lighter side of the color spectrum can easily see themselves in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, Zach LeVine and Aaron Gordon.
#TeamLightSkin was not a nod to privilege or a divisive breakdown in color genetics; for me, as a light-skinned, green-eyed, "Which one of your parents is white?" black man, it was a celebration. Finally someone who looks like me and is nasty with the shot or mean in the post is being mentioned in the same breath as the greats. That's not separatist; that's about as inclusive as it gets.
It is important that all hues and shades of blackness find representation in areas outside of themselves. It would be great if we could all just embrace under one monolithic black umbrella where blackness alone is enough. It isn't. I would love to live in a homogeneous world where our race is merely the great connector, but like kids today, I need to see people who look like me doing things I dream of doing. It's encouraging. In this one area, being light-skinned has not been a privilege—if anything, on the court, it's been a detriment.
When Kobe Bryant told Jordan Clarkson to stop going to the hole like a light-skinned dude, everyone knew what that meant because, historically, light-skinned men have been declared soft or pretty boys who don't get busy like their darker counterparts. It's all myth and stereotypes that belie the accomplishments of many, but when you don't have countless examples of the latter, the former begins to serve as something like truth. My light-skinned brethren out West served to dispel that rumor. Hell, Matt Barnes has been single-handedly trying to deconstruct the notion of the soft light-skinned black man by fighting everyone both on and off the court.
Light-skinned privilege is a real thing, and I have no arguments against that. It's rooted in slavery and how a fairer complexion relates to whiteness. But this story about some light-skinned brothers showing out on the basketball court isn't that story. Hell, if light privilege mattered, Steph and Klay would be passing around the trophy at a parade that would be driving through Oaktown later today, but we all saw how that worked out.
Everything from emojis to baby dolls is working to make sure that all hues feel represented because it's important for growing children to see themselves in the dolls they adore.
Stephen Curry has played this role in several ways, and it's one of the reasons he has become the darling of the NBA. He isn't a genetic freak; he's a man of average height and weight who just happens to be able to possess the accuracy to throw a bottle cap onto a teaspoon from 100 yards out.
And he is a black man who happens to have skin the complexion of raw chicken, and isn't that great for all of the rest of us out here. To see someone who might know exactly how it feels to walk onto a court and have everyone assume he can't play—only to shoot the lights out.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.