Stephen Curry, the Carolina Panthers’ most famous fan and a self-described eternal optimist, made the short trip from his home in the Bay Area on Sunday to watch the Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.
I spent some time with Curry a couple of hours before kickoff -- long before Carolina won the game, 23-3 -- and asked his prediction for the 2017 Panthers season.
“I’m going to say 12-4,” Curry said. “I hope that means a first-round bye in the playoffs.”
Curry also was adamant in his support of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco quarterback who no longer is in the league after his protests during the national anthem during the 2016 season.
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Curry, who grew up mostly in Charlotte and starred for both Charlotte Christian and Davidson, has banged the “Keep Pounding” drum several times for the Panthers. Curry also attended Super Bowl 50, when Carolina lost to Denver in the same Levi’s Stadium that the Panthers played in Sunday.
Curry is so popular in the Bay Area that although he was obviously cheering for the opposing team – he was wearing a shirt with a Panthers logo – that he was bombarded with accolades everywhere he went. That’s what winning two NBA championships – and two NBA Most Valuable Player awards – will do for you.
Curry’s synopsis of the season to come includes the likelihood of big things for quarterback Cam Newton and rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. “I expect Cam to be amazing. Hopefully Luke (Kuechly) stays healthy. Christian is going to be something everybody is excited for and hopefully takes us to another level.”
Curry also posted a picture from the game on Snapchat with the hashtag #freekaep. He told me a few hours before that in our interview that Kaepernick – whose protests Curry has previously supported – should have a job in the league at least as a backup quarterback.
Said Curry of Kaepernick: “He definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.
“Obviously his stance and his peaceful protest when he was playing here kind of shook up the world,” Curry said, “and I think for the better. But hopefully he gets back in the league – because he deserves to be here and he deserves an opportunity to play. He’s in his prime and can make a team better.”
Curry said, though, that he hoped most of all that from Kaepernick’s protests that “all that he’s gone through in the past year actually leads to some awakening.”