Charlotte Hornets

Short, scrawny and undeterred: NBA star Stephen Curry recalls his time at Charlotte Christian

The Curry guys wear No. 30 on the basketball court. It started with father Dell, and sons Stephen and Seth carry on the tradition all the way through the NBA.

Except for Charlotte Christian School. Stephen wasn’t big enough to wear No. 30. Literally, not big enough.

“I wanted to wear 30, but the jersey was too big,” Curry recalled Tuesday, as Charlotte Christian retired his jersey. “I couldn’t fit in to that 30 (an XL jersey), so I had to bring it down to something I looked good in on the court.”

As a high school freshman, Stephen Curry was all of 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, hardly the makings of a future NBA Most Valuable Player. Back then he wasn’t so well equipped to tune out the noise and focus on his aspirations.

“My freshman year, I went through some doubts about whether I could play on the varsity level back then,” Curry recalled. “One of my only regrets is not trying out (for the varsity) that year. I played JV.

“That taught me to go for it. To not let what people might tell you – no matter how short or skinny you might be -- deter you from getting where you want to go.”

Where he’s gone is amazing. Two NBA MVP awards. A championship with the Golden State Warriors. Back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals.

As far as that No. 30, Curry’s is the most popular jersey in the league, based on nbastore.com sales figures publicized Tuesday morning.

But for all the mega-contracts and Under Armour endorsements and milk commercials, the neat thing about Curry is he’s not just from Charlotte, he’s still of Charlotte. He might live on the other side of the country, but he made time in his one in-season visit to his hometown to attend a jersey retirement at Christian, then hustle up to Davidson, which was renaming its student section “Section 30” in his honor.

This isn’t just show. He’s gone back to both his schools in the off-season to interact with students. He gave generously to help fund Davidson’s on-campus basketball training facility.

Why, when his base is now the Northern California Bay Area, is he still so tied to these institutions?

“They’re a part of my DNA, growing up here in Charlotte,” Curry said. “I learned a lot from everyone who had a part in developing my life. Not just on the basketball court, but off the court. Then, being able to go to college 30 minutes away and still be part of the greater Charlotte area. It’s hard to turn that off, no matter how far away I live.”

Davidson coach Bob McKillop has said Curry’s makeup is the right balance of humility and arrogance - that in proper situations and doses both are constructive approaches.

Based on recollections of his former teachers and coaches at Christian, the makings of that approach were already forming.

Art teacher Eva Crawford and Bible instructor Dean Hardy spoke to what a gentleman Curry was in high school, that he was kind to younger students in the way upperclassman athletes can get away with not being.

Then, Christian boys’ basketball coach Shonn Brown told a story about a practice years ago when Curry persisted in throwing a pass to where no teammate stood.

Brown sat back and watched for a bit, then asked Curry what in the world he was doing?

Curry replied that if a teammate would make the correct cut, as designed in the offense, he’d always be there for that pass and it would create an advantage for the offense. The more Brown thought about it, the more he agreed, not only that Curry was correct, but this was a flaw that should be corrected for the Knights to be their best.

Brown said Curry always had NBA dreams, even when he was so small that No. 30 jersey would have draped on him like a bed sheet. But he wouldn’t compromise.

When a college in a more prominent conference than Davidson was in asked Curry to redshirt as a college freshman, he declined. He basically said if a program wasn’t all in on him, he’d be better off finding one that was.

Worked out OK, huh? Hard to find a kid in the Bay Area who doesn’t wear No. 30 these days.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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