Here is a link to my Tuesday column on Stephen Curry. The full text runs below:
Stephen Curry wasn’t supposed to get this award — Most Valuable Player in the NBA.
Not him. Not this skinny kid, short by NBA standards, frail looking, a guy who used to have bum ankles. Only three colleges offered him scholarships. He wanted to play for Virginia Tech. His dad, Dell, a former NBA star, went there. But Virginia Tech offered Curry a shot as a walk-on. No commitment. No guarantee. So he went to Davidson. The world hardly noticed.
Curry gave his MVP acceptance speech on Monday at the Oakland Convention Center, said he understood why colleges didn’t take a chance on him. He was a shrimp who developed late. He remembered playing ball as a kid. “I was always the smallest kid on my team,” he said. “I had an ugly catapult shot. I wasn’t strong enough.”
You expect the MVP to be an Adonis, great body, a specimen. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Michael Jordan. Curry isn’t like them. He is the guy in the strands who comes out and is great. He’s one of us. He is Everyman. He’s small and not particularly athletic, but he could be the most skilled player ever. His shot is perfect. Watching him shoot a jumper is like watching Ted Williams swing a bat. He is at that level — there is no higher praise.
Because of him — and his teammates and coaches — Oakland is the most important basketball city on the West Coast. In a matter of weeks, Oakland could be the most important basketball city in America.
When Curry arrived at work on Monday morning, his teammates applauded him. Coach Steve Kerr told the players to share pride in the MVP. “You don’t win an MVP on a bad team,” Kerr told the Warriors. “The fact we won 67 games, the fact that Steph wins the MVP those go hand in hand.”
Curry’s MVP is a mark of respect for a team that never used to get respect, for a team that’s earning respect every game it plays.
Lots of people came to the Monday practice — an hour before the MVP ceremony downstairs. Former Warriors general manager Larry Riley was there. He drafted Curry. He loves to tell the story.
“We had identified him late in the college year (2009),” Riley said. “In February, we were convinced he was a guy who could play in the NBA. He was our guy. The question was would he be there when we picked?
“There were other questions: ‘Is he a point guard. Can he defend? Is he tough enough?’ OK, maybe that’s legit. I thought he could pass, dribble, handle the ball and could make shots. And I thought, ‘That’s enough.’ If nothing else he could make shots. Phoenix loved him, New York loved him. We weren’t the only team that loved him.
“We felt he was a point guard you could build a team around. We already had Monta (Ellis) so you know Monta was not real high on the idea of us picking another point guard. To Steph’s credit, he never let that get in the way. He came to town, brought his quiet confidence with him and, within a few days, every player around here could see, ‘This is a young man who can play.’ Steph never fought the issue. He proved he could play and that did it.
“He had a really good rookie year. Tyreke Evans won the Rookie of the Year Award. Steph probably should have won. Steph was a better player.”
Draymond Green also spoke about Curry. Everyone at practice wanted to speak about Curry. It’s like it was Curry Day, a national holiday.
Green said, “I was sitting around and thinking, ‘This guy is the MVP of the NBA. Not many people get a chance to play with an MVP. He’s a superstar that doesn’t necessarily act as some superstars do. People always ask me, ‘What type of person is Stephen Curry?’ I say, ‘Picture the model citizen. However you want the model citizen to be, that’s Steph.’ ”
Do people ask Green about Curry more than about other Warriors?
“Absolutely. He’s our guy. Steph is one of the faces of the NBA. He’s put himself in the category of one of those guys, with the Kobes, the LeBrons. He puts himself in that conversation.”
Later, they staged the MVP ceremony in a huge ballroom. The entire team sat on the stage. You’ve probably read how Curry cried when he looked at his father Dell in the audience, when he thanked Dell for being a good dad. You may know Curry spoke directly to other people in the audience — his mom, wife, brother, sister, grandma, a college pal, the Warriors public relations staff, the Warriors security guard, the equipment man. I may be missing some.
What he did was an insight into who he is. He does the right thing. He pays his respects. He performs the social functions with care. And he performs them from a good place — the heart. He’s special and he knows he’s special. But he still is Stephen Curry — the Stephen who was a good guy before he became Stephen the MVP.
After he spoke to specific people in the crowded room, he addressed every single Warriors teammate. He said the appropriate thing to each man, showed he had noticed every one of them, thought about them all, knew them. He wanted to be accurate and generous.
He called Leandro Barbosa the “Brazlian Blur.” Barbosa smiled with pride. He liked Curry calling him the Brazilian Blur.
Curry called Marreese Speights, “the biggest shooting guard in history.” Speights is a 6-10 center who loves to shoot a J as much as Curry likes to shoot a J. And Speights laughed at Curry’s words, laughed with delight.
Curry lingered over Brandon Rush who almost never plays in games, said Rush matters to everyone on the team. Made Rush feel necessary.
He said Green and Andrew Bogut set ferocious screens for him on the court. When they go somewhere together, people call them, “Steph Curry and the Screen Setters.” Like a singing group.
After Curry spoke about Green, he looked at Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber in the audience, pointed to Green and nodded his head. He meant, “Sign this guy for next season. Please. ”
To Klay Thompson he said, “You’re the quietest guy. You’re actually better than you used to be.” Curry said he and Thompson don’t hang out. “You got your dog. I got my family.” A shy smile from Thompson. “Hopefully, we have a long future together,” Curry said.
When they threw it open to questions from the media, Green grabbed a microphone right there on the stage. Like he was a reporter. Or an agitator. Green said Kobe Bryant gave his teammates watches after he won the MVP. What is Curry getting the Warriors?
“Don’t worry,” Curry said. “I don’t know what kind of watches they were, but I’ll beat that gift.”
He’s come through in the past.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lowell on Twitter @LowellCohn.