Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry was on the other end of the phone Sunday night, so I asked him the obvious question.
Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, also holds the title of world’s most recognizable celebrity Carolina Panthers fan. His Golden State team is undefeated at 18-0. The Panthers are undefeated at 11-0. Who’s going to lose first?
“I’d say we are,” Curry told The Observer. “But hopefully not until like February, so it’s a win-win. We’ll let them get all the way through their Bay Area Super Bowl appearance. And then we will eventually lose down the road.”
In other words, Curry – whose Warriors make their annual visit to Charlotte Wednesday night to play the Hornets – believes the Panthers can go undefeated. He thinks his favorite NFL team can win the Super Bowl, becoming the first-ever NFL team to finish 19-0. He also believes Golden State could go through all of December and January undefeated, which would put the Warriors at a robust 48-0 entering the month of February.
A pipe dream? Well, sure.
But it was also a pipe dream for a lightly-recruited, undersized point guard from Charlotte – a player who couldn’t get a sniff at a scholarship offer from any ACC school – to morph from a Davidson star into the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player for the reigning NBA champions.
Curry is used to dreaming big and then making it happen.
And man, is he ever enjoying himself. He believes he is playing at a higher level right now than he did as the NBA MVP. Teammates would agree – Harrison Barnes recently said he thought Curry might win both the MVP and the Most Improved Player awards this season.
“I feel like I’m a better player than I was last year,” said Curry, who averaged 23.8 points per game during his MVP season but has scored an NBA-leading 31.9 points per game so far this season. “And I’m not just talking about statistics. Even if I was scoring the same amount, I feel like the game is slowing down even more than it did last year.”
His life right now is also helped by the facts that he has a devoted wife and two young daughters, is averaging five three-pointers per game and has watched every team he cares about start off their seasons remarkably well. He even gets to see one of them Tuesday night, as he plans to attend to Davidson’s road game against the Charlotte 49ers at Halton Arena shortly after the Warriors’ flight arrives from Utah.
“The Panthers and us are a combined 29-0,” Curry pointed out. “You put Davidson in there and we’re 33-0.”
Thirty-three is a number that has been on Curry’s mind for another reason, too. The NBA record for consecutive wins is 33, set by the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers. Curry’s Golden State team has already set the record for most consecutive victories to open a season – 18, pending Monday night’s game at Utah.
Curry makes no secret that he wants Golden State to get to 33 straight wins and then surpass it.
“It’s something to look forward to and to work for,” Curry said. “And I think it really puts into perspective how crazy an accomplishment that is for that Lakers team. We’ve won at least 16 in a row two straight seasons (on different streaks). But to do what we did and have to double it, that’s pretty crazy. I think in about five weeks we could be staring at 33 in the face. ... It’s kind of a mini-goal to wrap your mind around as you keep in mind the big picture of getting through 82 games, playing your best ball and then winning 16 more (to capture another NBA championship).”
At 27, Curry is the son of all-time Hornets’ leading scorer Dell Curry and a shooting star in the prime of his career. He plans to play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio – he would have a couple of weeks to rejuvenate himself if Golden State gets to the NBA Finals again. He also knows he’s far from the only driver on a Warriors team that is loaded with talent.
“We are more experienced,” Curry said, “and I think the playoff run really toughened us up. ... I think everybody individually is a better player than they were last year. Confidence is a key component to that. We are a ‘capital C Confident’ team. There’s a lot of reasons why – preparation over summer, everyone getting ready, the work we did in preseason this year. We’re putting the time in, staying in the moment.”
Curry has been a huge Panthers fan for years and banged the “Keep Pounding” drum in Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 20 for Carolina’s home opener vs. Houston. On Thanksgiving Day, when he was at home in California just before the Warriors left on this seven-game road trip, Curry posted a video on Instagram of him screaming “Luuuuuuuuke” and “Pick Six!” He was referencing linebacker Luke Kuechly – who took back a Tony Romo interception for a touchdown in Carolina’s 33-14 victory – and the video ended up being the soundtrack to Kuechly’s interception on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Curry wore a Cam Newton jersey on Thanksgiving Day – one of at least five Panthers jerseys he owns. Curry said he also has a Charles Godfrey jersey and an old-school Mike Minter jersey he can choose from.
And if the Panthers make it to the Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., Curry has little doubt he will be there. The Warriors will be on a road trip at the time, but they don’t play on Super Bowl Sunday.
“It would require a lot of work on both ends before that happens, but I’m very optimistic,” Curry said. “I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that.”
More from Scott Fowler’s one-on-one interview with Steph Curry will be published in Wednesday’s Charlotte Observer and online at CharlotteObserver.com.