Stephen Curry is no longer the overlooked overachiever who routinely silenced those with modest to low expectations for his game or his career. Curry is now a star with playmaking skills to accompany that pure shooting stroke and has stepped into a world where outside perceptions of his talent have suddenly begun to mirror the confidence he always had in his abilities.
The progression has been amusing for Curry, whose remarkable journey included a walk-on invitation from Virginia Tech – where his father, Dell, once played and mother, Sonya, played volleyball. Instead he helped turn tiny Davidson into an NCAA tournament giant killer before landing in the NBA draft lottery with the Golden State Warriors. In his fifth NBA season, Curry became an all-star starter and was named second-team all-NBA. This summer, Curry will start for Team USA and will be looked upon to lead his team to a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup.
“It was fun, for sure,” Curry said, recently, of his path to stardom. “Every time, [success] was unexpected to everybody that watched myself and my Davidson team play. I was a lottery pick, but still was kind of doubted a little bit, because of my size or whatever, but I thought the whole process and growth was fun, because I had some great teammates and great coaches along the way.”
His last two seasons in Golden State, Curry has emerged as a 20-point scorer and the front man for a playoff contender, taking on a role similar to his time at Davidson. Health has played a huge factor in his growth, after overcoming a troublesome right ankle injury that cost him the majority of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened campaign and diminished his value when he committed to a four-year, $44 million extension ahead of his fourth season. Curry’s contract is now considered one of the best bargains in the NBA.
How Curry reached this stage in his career – when he considers himself a better offensive weapon than LeBron James and statistics show he isn’t far off – required a considerable amount of patience and determination. But Curry can’t recall the moment when the game started to really click for him.
“It’s not really like one defining moment. It’s just, that’s been my goal and I still don’t feel like I’ve reached my full potential,” Curry said. “So, each day, there’s something you can do to get better. There is something you can do to learn the game better. There is something you can do to make your teammates better. That’s all a part of the process. It wasn’t like a light bulb moment at all. I always felt confident and comfortable on the court, it was just a matter of putting the time in and, eventually, it showing itself on the court. I still got more room to grow.”
Curry will have the chance to continue his growth at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. With the withdrawals of Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, Curry is among of handful of players on the roster with international experience. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will be looking upon the 26-year-old guard to split time at both backcourt positions and carry much more responsibility than at the FIBA world championships in Turkey four years ago, when Curry, then viewed simply as a floor-spreader and zone buster, helped the Americans claim gold.
Team USA will have its final tune-up against Slovenia on Tuesday in Gran Canaria, Spain, and the World Cup tournament will begin on Saturday in Bilboa, Spain, against Finland.
“This is an awesome experience for me,” Curry said. “In 2010, after my rookie year, I had high expectations to make the team when I came, but didn’t really know what my role was, especially with that brand new group that was assembled then, so I learned a lot. Exposing me to the international game was definitely good for my game going into the next NBA season. But now, I’m during an important part of my career, and just excited to have more of an impact on the team as a leader and on the court.”
After Paul George broke his leg in that gruesome accident during the Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas, Curry spoke with members of the Warriors organization about his desires to remain with USA Basketball and was grateful that they continued to support him. When asked recently about the roles some teams play in advising star players not to participate in international competitions, Curry said the decision should always be in the hands of the players.
“You don’t want to be forced to do anything, whether that’s play or sit out,” Curry said. “Everybody is in a different point in their career and has to make that decision, obviously. We all have families. We all have other things going on in the offseason. But if this is important to you and something you want to do, then you should be able do it.”
Curry has had his own injury history but believes the benefits outweigh the risks and is excited about where this competition will be able to take his game going forward.
“When you’re around great talent, around great coaches, around great basketball minds, you’re going to learn something. You’re going to get better just by surrounding yourself with those kind of people,” Curry said. “The mental toughness and focus as we take on a big challenge of winning a gold medal …we’re probably going to face some adversity through that. We have to be able to battle. You’re going to become a better player and have a better presence on the court by being here.”