Of course Stephen Curry benefited from being the son of an NBA player. No one questions that. His father, Dell Curry, was one of the better three-point shooters of his generation, and passed on his love for the long ball to his son, who now seems on the cusp of perfecting it.
There are other things that likely helped, namely Curry's well-chronicled time working with private coaches that helped him perfect his shooting form. But it's impossible to separate Curry's success with the situation he was born into.
And according to a new study, that sort of familial advantage isn't restricted just to Curry. More than any other type of professional athlete, NBA players come from families that feature at least one elite athlete, even if it's in a different sport. According to The Wall Street Journal, 48.8 percent of all NBA players are closely related to at least one elite athlete. That's far more than the NFL and MLB, in which just 17.5 and 14.5 percent of player, respectively, are related to elite athletes.
The WSJ presents one central theory as for why NBA players are so closely connected with elite athletes, and it all has to do with their height. The average NBA player stands about 6-foot-6, compared to the 5-foot-7 average for U.S. males.
Merely rising to this height represents a critical win in the genetic lottery, even ignoring their overall athleticism, because there isn't a single height gene that determines how tall a person becomes. Instead, it's a combination of genes that all have to align the right way for some to grow to, for example, 6-foot-8 or taller.
NBA players tend to come from family lines that have the right combination of these genes. And because size comes in handy across so many sports, taller individuals typically tend to have more success in sports.
That might explain the success of a guy like Oklahoma City's Steven Adams, who, the WSJ notes, is the brother of a two-time Olympic gold-medalist in the shot put. It doesn't explain Curry, who stands just 6-foot-3. But the article notes that other factors come into play, particularly environmental: Growing up around the game almost certainly helped him, along with the inherited athleticism from his parents.
What does this mean for aspiring NBA players? Better pray you've got a cousin who's an Olympic diver, or a grandpa who was a linebacker in college. And hope you get the right genes to add a few inches to your frame. Of course, by the time you're reading this, that's already been decided for you.
The whole WSJ explanation is well worth the read. Check it out on WSJ.com.