Sometimes in life, lightning strikes in a particular way and brings together two people that help to create something great. When Outkast united to create their first album, no one on the planet knew that the two would go on to be one of the most influential hip hop groups not only for rap music, but also in bringing southern hip hop in a style all its own. That time DiCaprio and Damon showed up for a Scorsese movie and managed not only to land the man an Oscar, but also pump out one of the greatest crime films in the modern era. Steph falls to the Warriors, and a couple years later is joined by Klay Thompson to form one of the deadliest back courts in basketball.
See, life is kind of funny like that in a way. Random acts of circumstance bring two people together to form a partnership that transcends what the initial goal started out to be for them. In a lot of cases, no one ever starts plans to become iconic to someone or an entire group or city, but things don’t always just stay small, no sometimes they grow bigger than just one simple task.
When Curtis Stinson and WIll Blalock arrived in Ames in 2003, I would imagine that they didn’t set out to become what they did to an awkward, acne riddled thirteen year old. These were just two guys who wanted to play basketball, and I just happened to be a kid that was VERY mediocre at the sport.
The mid aughts were fraught with being a transitional time period for the basketball team at Iowa State. But despite where Wayne Morgan and co. weren’t succeeding, there was still one thing they showed constant success in — They were exciting to watch.
Stinson brought a sort of toughness to playing the point guard position I had never seen before. He would relentlessly attack the basket by going under defenders for an under handed lay up, or, as he would coin the term, go over the top with a “teardrop.” He was lightning quick on a fast break and hand handles that (to a younger me) rivaled Allen Iverson. Stinson wore a snarl just as comfortably has he did his signature headband and could spin into the lane off a pivot like a Midwest wind sweeping up into a tornado.
Blalock, on the other hand, always seemed the more reserved one. He was a deep threat from the arc, but had the athleticism and skill set to leap up for a dunk or pull back out and hit a deadeye mid-range shot. He was a solid defender that could pour in twenty without anyone even noticing.
For a young fan of the game, and someone who watched these two in action for three years, this was awe-inspiring. The way the two moved in sync with one another and with or without the ball was something I had never seen. I owned the #1 jersey and a white head band. I spent hours and hours with my brother trying to perfect the “attack the left, pivot into the lane, drop over the close out, teardrop” shot that was Curtis’ signature.
There was a speed and execution that they played the game with, and along with that, the two names became synonymous with one another. In the way that the Chef and Klay revived a fanbase long destitute, these two helped to keep Iowa State fans from the same fate.
They may not have been the most successful or the best team to ever hit the floor. But even now, over a decade later, if you talk to anyone who saw those teams and anyone who saw them play and mention one name, the other immediately follows it.
This was the type of pairing that kids in parking lots and rec centers and driveways all across the state of Iowa were emulating as they played. Morgan ushered in a sense of uptempo and fast break offense that these two could feed on. They were exciting and they made basketball must-watch games.
Despite only one of them being an NBA selection, and the fact they were never superstars at the NBA level, to thousands of dorky un-athletic tweens like me in Iowa, they were stars to us. They were the duo that got us to pay attention to basketball, they were the duo that we emulated and they were the duo that mattered most to us.