Here is a link to my Tuesday column about Stephen Curry. The full text runs below:
Stephen Curry is the most likable superstar in the NBA. He may be the most likable superstar in any sport on the planet.
First a disclaimer. I should have written, “From what we know about Curry, he’s the most likable superstar.” Journalists know only a certain amount about a player, only what a player portrays to them. So, there are limits to the knowledge. Given those limits, Curry is one hell of a guy.
He’s relevant today because he won that 3-point Contest on Saturday, made 13 shots in a row in the championship round. Are you kidding me? And he played brilliantly in the All-Star Game, although Russell Westbrook was more brilliant. Fair enough, but I’d rather have Curry at point guard on my fantasy team. Or my real team. Better passer. Better shooter by far.
Curry is the best shooter I’ve ever covered. My apologies to Chris Mullin who was pretty great himself. But Curry is the tops.
You saw it in the 3-point Contest. He shoots the ball quicker than anyone, and that includes Klay Thompson, a terrific shooter. But Thompson’s release is a little slower, a little more mechanical. He needs to get set up, as if he’s lining up the sights on a rifle. With Curry, it’s grab and flick. That flick is world class. You saw him grab and flick the balls from the courtside rack in the contest. And once he locks in, it’s almost impossible for him to miss.
Curry may be the best player in the NBA. The 3-point Contest allowed the country to see him in action, to know him. What did the country see?
He has an innocent smile. He certainly knows he is great. But competing with that knowledge is – seems to be – a shy, amazed realization that people take him seriously and say good things about him. He is the rare athlete who’s in awe of himself. That’s another way of saying he’s not an egomaniac superstar. I could name hundreds of egomaniac superstars. You could, too.
After a game, Curry immediately makes himself available to the media. No messing around. No hiding in the shower and then taking his time getting dressed. He is the ultimate professional. He sits on his chair at his locker and waits for the reporters to gather around him. And he sits there until every reporter has asked every question and feels satisfied. He is generous with his time and with himself.
After practice, he is the same way. The Warriors have a few high chairs – they look like barstools – at the perimeter of the practice courts. Curry sits in one and answers questions at length. After that, if a reporter wants a one-on-one, Curry will meet with the reporter. Again at length. He understands being the face and voice of the franchise. Embraces the role. He gets nothing in particular out of this. He’s just a good guy.
He is very smart. I’ve come to learn intelligence is overrated. It’s more important to be a good person than a smart person. But the combo good-smart is a winner. And Curry exemplifies the good-smart combo.
You ask him a question and he doesn’t automatically resort to rote answers, default answers. I want to die when athletes tell me, “We play them one at a time.” “We work hard.” “(Insert name here) is the first one at the facility in the morning and the last one to leave at night.”
When I hear this stuff I want to fall on the floor and pant like a dog.
Curry does not induce panting. You ask a question and he listens. Actually listens. He finds questions interesting, even stupid questions. As you speak, he looks you in the eye. Before answering he thinks what he wants to say. The thinking part is unusual. He’s actually trying to form a thoughtful answer which includes a subject and a verb. When he’s done answering you feel grateful. You wish everyone could be Stephen Curry. Or at least try.
He sets the tone on the Warriors. I must be careful here. I believe Curry establishes the friendly professional tone that permeates that good-guy locker room. But I’m not sure. Maybe the good-guy atmosphere came first. Hard to say, but I think young players observe how Curry comports himself and copy him. Everyone who covers the Warriors knows this locker room is one in a million.
Talk to Draymond Green. Absolutely a gentleman. Same goes for Andrew Bogut, Thompson, David Lee, Harrison Barnes. Andrew Iguodala will make you wait after games – he’s appearance oriented and he works on looking sharp. But then he will talk, talk at length. Smart, interesting man.
Talk to head coach Steve Kerr and assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams. Talk to GM Bob Myers.
This group will knock your socks off.
The game starts and Curry takes the court. He looks 14. You expect him to wear braces on his teeth and have his algebra homework stashed in a backpack. He looks like a regular person. He is not especially tall. He has a regular body. He looks like one of us.
And he is one of us. He is our ambassador into the NBA and superstardom. He is Everyman as hoops hero.
And then he runs down the court. Bogut passes him the ball at the 3-point line. Curry jumps. Curry flicks. Swish. Crowd goes nuts.
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