Scott Fowler

Exclusive: Steph Curry on Kevin Durant’s swipe, Warriors’ chemistry, LaVar Ball’s insanity

Stephen Curry felt strongly enough about Golden State teammate Kevin Durant’s recent swipe at the Under Armour basketball shoes Curry endorses that the two have since “had a conversation about it,” Curry said.

In our exclusive interview before the Carolina Panthers’ 23-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Curry said he believed Durant’s recent statement about Under Armour did not “ring true at all.” But the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player also said that he and Durant cleared the air within the past two weeks about their competing shoe companies, and added that they would not let the issue affect the 2017-18 season.

“This is nothing that is going to put a wrench in the locker room,” Curry told me.

Durant, who is one of Nike’s most well-known endorsers and a former NBA MVP himself, said in a late August podcast with Bill Simmons: “Nobody wants to play in Under Armours.”

After hearing what Durant said secondhand, Curry said he went back to listen to the original Simmons podcast to make sure he understood the context. Then he and Durant talked it out.

“I told him that he has a certain opinion based on his experience growing up in the Nike business,” Curry said of Durant. “What that means when it comes to the competition among shoe brands and universities and the whole grassroots system and whatnot – he’s entitled to that opinion obviously. ... But when it comes to what I’m trying to do with Under Armour, and what the Curry brand means and what Under Armour basketball means, that statement does not ring true at all.”

Curry and Durant – who teamed together for the first time last season at Golden State after years of competing as rivals – both have their own signature basketball shoes that their own competing brands sell and market heavily. Curry said Under Armour had made great strides in the past few years in the basketball business.

“Where we were four years ago, and where we are now – you can’t tell me nobody wants to wear our shoes,” Curry said. “I know for a fact that they do.”

When I asked Curry if Durant’s comments had originally angered him, Curry paused for a few seconds.

Then the former Davidson College and Charlotte Christian star said: “Nah. ... I understand how what we do and the team that we are and the success we’ve had, no matter what anybody says it’s going to be blowing up. ... Especially when it’s the opportunity to make it look (controversial). ... Like I said, it’s nothing that’s going to break up the locker room.”

How did they leave it at the end of their recent conversation? With mutual respect. Curry said he respects all of Durant’s work with Nike and that “KD respects my business and my brand.”

Curry also had interesting things to say about several other topics in our interview, which was conducted at a pregame tailgate party at Levi’s Stadium.

I covered two of those items in an earlier story. Curry was adamant about his support of former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and what Curry called Kaepernick’s “peaceful protests” during the 2016 NFL season. He said Kaepernick “kind of shook up the world, and I think for the better.” He added that Kaepernick, who is currently out of football, deserved an NFL job. He also predicted, before Carolina’s win Sunday, that the Panthers – long his favorite NFL team – would finish 12-4 this season.

The man also widely recognized as the best shooter in NBA history also talked about:

How long he wants to play

Curry, 29, spoke about how many years he hopes his NBA career will last. At this juncture, he said he believes he is only hitting the halfway point.

Curry has now won two NBA Most Valuable Player Awards and two NBA team championships, the most recent with Golden State this past summer when it defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers. He just finished his eighth NBA season and signed a record five-year, $201-million contract extension with Golden State in July.

Curry said he hopes to at least match the 16 years that his father Dell Curry – the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leading scorer and now a TV broadcaster for the team – played in the NBA. Ideally, all 16 (or more) of those years would be with Golden State. Curry, his TV-star wife, Ayesha, and their two young daughters have made their permanent home in the Bay Area.

“When I came in the league, that’s the only thing I did say – I want to play 16 years just because my Dad did,” Curry said. “I’ve always had an appreciation of what that meant. But now – having done eight years and understanding the work that it takes and whatnot – playing eight more years somewhere near the level I’m playing now would be solid.”

LaVar Ball’s ‘insanity’

LaVar Ball – the provocateur, former Panthers practice-squadder and father of rookie NBA point guard Lonzo Ball – has included Curry in a couple of his diatribes. LaVar Ball has said at least twice that his son (who was the No. 2 pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in June after playing a single season for UCLA) was a better player than Curry already.

Curry laughingly said Sunday that calling Lonzo Ball better than Curry at this point in both players’ careers was a testament to LaVar Ball’s “insanity.”

But Curry otherwise steered clear of the elder Ball’s hyperbole and also noted that Lonzo Ball had worn some of Curry’s Under Armour signature shoes for part of the NBA’s Summer League. Curry seemed somewhat amused by the whole topic.

Chuckled Curry of LaVar Ball: “I don’t know him at all. ... They (the Ball family) are obviously unique and they are doing it their way. You can say a lot about the power in that. ... And I think Lonzo wore my shoes. Hey, that’s somebody who wants to wear my shoes!”

The Curry legacy

Curry said he wanted to win more NBA championships, but didn’t want to put an exact number on that goal.

“I never want to put limitations on myself, saying I want two or three or four more,” Curry said. “I don’t know what is possible. All I’m saying is I’m just going for more, across the board. I’m going to put the time and work in it.

“Obviously we (the Warriors) have a huge opportunity to do some special things, especially this year – hopefully keep the team together and really push the envelope. From that standpoint, (I’m) living in the moment. It sounds clichéd, but it is the way that I approach everything.”

Curry also said he planned to become more of a social activist when he believes the occasion warrants it, concentrating on issues like “social equality” and ignoring people who say athletes should talk about sports only.

“I’m not on the extreme like some other guys,” Curry said of social activism. “I’m not going to infuse myself into every conversation. ... But I encourage – no matter what you do in life – if someone wants to know how you feel, you tell them how you feel. You stand by it and live with the consequences, and the changes that you can make.”

The Irving-Thomas trade

“Nothing in this league surprises me,” Curry said of the recent trade in which Cleveland sent point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston in return for Isaiah Thomas and some other assets. “But there are some things that might be a head-turner. You’re never thinking that coming off three straight Finals appearances (all against Golden State) that they (the Cleveland Cavaliers) would shake up their lineup like that.

“But you go through history,” Curry continued, “you see blockbuster trades. You see trade demands from high-caliber all-stars and superstars in the league. So it won’t be the first time and won’t be the last time. ... When something like that happens, it’s like fireworks. It’s obviously a reflection of how popular the NBA is right now. ... It is kind of good for the league that teams are trying to shake things up to try and get better and win championships, because that’s what it’s all about.”

The Warriors’ next Charlotte trip

Curry’s lone trip to play in Charlotte this season will come Dec. 6 when Golden State visits the Hornets during an extended road trip for the defending NBA champs. Curry said he did not yet have any Charlotte-based plans right now other than the game itself for that trip, but that he hoped to see a Davidson basketball game if the scheduling worked out.

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