The best thing about point guard Stephen Curry? He’s still one of us.
By that, I don’t just mean he’s of Charlotte, although that’s no small thing. He still holds on tight to his hometown, making time to return to alma maters Davidson and Charlotte Christian to share his experiences with students.
He’s still a regular guy of regular size, yet with extraordinary basketball skill. For the second consecutive year the NBA recognized that, naming the Golden State Warriors’ All-Star the league’s most valuable player Tuesday.
Curry is the third point guard in NBA history to win this award twice, joining Magic Johnson and Steve Nash. To make this even more special, he won by unanimous vote: All 131 voters (130 media members – myself included – and one fan) named him first on a five-player ballot.
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Curry, lightly recruited coming out of high school, has done something Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan never did: He won every single vote to be a major sports league’s most valuable player.
Only two other athletes – Tom Brady in football and Wayne Gretzky in hockey – received unanimous support for their sports’ highest individual award. Curry’s the best player on a Warriors team that set a record for regular-season victories, going 73-9.
He was the NBA’s scoring leader at 30.1 points per game and second in 3-point percentage at 45.4 percent. Each season he resets his own record for most 3-pointers made.
Anyone who says he saw this coming is fibbing. I sure didn’t see it, and I’ve known Curry almost his entire life because his father, Dell, was an original Charlotte Hornet.
He was never destined for this, and that’s a factor in how he has excelled. He wasn’t really recruited by ACC colleges, though his parents were scholarship athletes at Virginia Tech. Curry ended up at Davidson to a great degree because Wildcats coach Bob McKillop showed faith in his potential in a way most coaches didn’t.
My favorite story about Curry being overlooked involves Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Someone once praised Krzyzewski for smartly accepting Stephen’s younger brother, Seth, as a transfer from Liberty.
Krzyzewski replied that if he was really that smart, he would’ve had the older brother signed to play for the Blue Devils, too.
Curry was overlooked because he was always somewhat small growing up. Basketball tends to be dominated by giants, who can look down on the world both literally and figuratively. Curry never had those physical advantages, but he inherited Dell’s fantastic shooting range and developed rare ballhandling skills Dell never acquired in a 16-season NBA career.
McKillop says the beauty of Stephen Curry’s emotional makeup is he’s in equal parts humble and arrogant. Dell and Sonya Curry raised their children to be respectful and polite, to not act as if they’re above others. I’ve seen Stephen back at Davidson, hanging with classmates, and he never comes across as condescending.
But when it’s time to win a basketball game, as it was Monday night in overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers, there is an arrogance about the way Curry plays that is an underpinning of greatness.
This was his first game back after missing four with a knee sprain, and there was legitimate concern whether he was healed enough to play. Clearly rusty, he missed his first nine 3-point attempts.
But it’s a major chore denting Curry’s self-confidence. He scored 17 points – the most by any player in a single five-minute overtime – to lead the Warriors to a 132-125 playoff victory.
At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Curry will never be as physically imposing as Jordan or Cleveland star LeBron James.
But if you need one guy to make one shot with everything on the line, every other player in the NBA is competing for second place.