Stephen Curry the MVP and his Journey of Contradictions
Stephen Curry isn't just the NBA's MVP; he's a pioneer blazing the path for a new style of professional basketball - and he's doing it in the faces of those who told him he couldn't.
It would be disingenuous to say that we could write about Stephen Curry in a completely objective way. We couldn’t. We’re huge fans of Steph at CoachUp. His journey to NBA stardom is a physical representation of what we stand for as a company: be dedicated, be humble, and above all, be coachable.
Bill McKillop, who coached Curry in his three years donning a Davidson jersey, recalled attending the game that Curry reset the 3-point record for the second time in his NBA career, and the electrifying atmosphere that sizzled around Golden State's point guard.
“I got there early for that game. I wanted to see the way the crowd came in. So for 15-20 minutes I just sat there and watched people come in with Steph Curry jerseys, Golden State jerseys, all these signs – it was just an extraordinary, college-type atmosphere. It was what you would see at maybe a Kansas or a Duke, a school at that level…And when the starting lineup is introduced he comes out last. They say, ‘From Davidson College, Stephen Curry!’ The crowd just erupts. There’s something pretty special about that.”
Curry exudes a kind of humble strength and authenticity that has earned his fans' respect and admiration. He’s not a player who feels entitled to stardom because of his father’s success in the league. He's had to work hard for his playing time – some might say even harder as a result of his lineage.
They told him he was too short, too scrawny. Too much of a defensive liability. He was prone to ankle injuries. He didn’t look like a man who could command the court. Every time he pursued the next level, he was greeted with skepticism and doubt.
For most of his career he was a long shot. And here he stands, holding the most prestigious award given to a single player at the highest competitive level and thanking his family for supporting him through the journey of contradictions.
By all precedents, Curry shouldn’t be where he is today. But he is - and a lot of that can be attributed to the support of his parents who did their best to provide their son with the resources that he needed to excel.
"Everything that we did we just invested for them as our children. We didn’t have an idea of where they would end up. We just wanted them to have a very enriched childhood and to expand themselves.”
Steph’s father, Dell, had a prosperous career in the NBA and would bring his two sons to practice so that they could watch and learn. He undoubtedly had a positive impact on his son’s affinity for the game at a young age. But when Steph turned 13, Dell decided it was time to take a step back and let someone else pick up the whistle.
“I had been fortunate enough to be able to work with him privately, but at that point I thought he needed someone to give him different views… I thought another voice, a fresh voice with new ideas would be good for him, kind of a motivational thing and he would enjoy displaying his skills and working with another private coach.”
His new trainer helped him with his tangible skills, but more importantly, he helped Steph build confidence in his own abilities; a kind of self assurance that would serve as the backbone for his career throughout moments of trial and skepticism.
In 8th grade, Steph lead his middle school team in an undefeated season and went on to play in high school for Charlotte Christian. He quickly got called up from JV to Varsity, but was still hesitant to shoot the ball. He didn’t want to seem selfish. He required coaxing from his trainer and coach, and reassurance that shooting the ball would help his team, not hinder it. He began taking more jumpers and his team began seeing more success.
His high school coach, Shonn Brown, held back his laughter when remembering Curry’s small frame in high school.
“We got brand new uniforms, and this might have been his sophomore or junior year, and when you’re ordering basketball jerseys, you just don’t order very many mediums, much less smalls. He probably needed a small, but we were able to kind of fit him into a medium pair of shorts. All we had for a jersey top was large. I guess you could say it hung a little bit loose on him. It kept bouncing and shaking around whenever he was running.”
Despite his non-threatening appearance, Curry worked hard to be the best that he could be on the court. He was named all-state and all-conference. He led his teammates to three consecutive conference titles and state playoffs. He kept his confidence, kept his cool, and worked on his skill development outside of practice to prepare himself for college.
It was Stephen’s dream to follow in his father’s footsteps and play for Virginia Tech as a Hokie - but it was a dream that didn’t come to fruition. Virginia Tech didn’t offer Curry a scholarship and wanted to redshirt him due to his size. In fact, Curry didn’t get the nod from any major conference schools. He wasn't even nationally ranked. Despite all of his high school career achievements, he was confronted with doubt.
He decided to play for a team that believed in him, and went on to play at Davidson, a small school that had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1969. Here, he was given the platform that he needed to become an impact player and shine at the collegiate level.
He helped lead his team to repeated NCAA Tournament appearances, even making the Elite 8 in 2008. He received a number of impressive accolades, and was nominated for an ESPY in the Breakthrough Player of the Year category. He broke school records in just 3 years playing for Davidson, including all-time points, 3-pointers, free throws, 30-point games, and 40-point games.
Again, he proved that he was a name to be reckoned with - and again, he was met with doubt.
It never seemed good enough to impress those at the next level. Scouts wondered whether his game could transition into the pros.
“While Curry was perhaps the best shooter in college basketball, there are questions about how successful he’ll be in the NBA” -ESPN
He was picked up as the 7th overall pick for the Golden State Warriors, an organization that had a starkly different reputation before Curry re-branded them as a top NBA franchise.
Although Curry had two operations on his ankle in the first three seasons with Golden State, The Warriors decided to extend his contract by four years before the 2012-13 season. It was seen as a major risk to the organization considering his injury history, and the league questioned how much of an impact he could really make at the professional level. Clouds of doubt continued to cast their shadow over Curry's head.
Yet despite his injury setbacks, despite his lower than anticipated draft pick, despite the perceived holes in his defensive game, Curry proved the mental fortitude needed to persevere and silence the naysayers.
He continued to better himself as an individual athlete so that he could play his part on a winning team. He came back from surgery stronger than ever. He worked with a trainer to fill those holes, improving his ball handling and defense. He developed an inside game, tripping up top tier players while penetrating the paint. He fired off one shot after another with unfathomable ease and precision. Gradually, arduously, Curry dazzled his way into the hearts of his once-skeptics.
Stephen Curry deserves this MVP win.
With the kind of stats Steph's putting up, it's astounding how eager he remains to learn from others. Even in the pros, at his skill level, the 6'3 point guard works tirelessly to perfect his craft. He's eager to learn. He's humble.
He buys into the team mentality and plays to the best of his ability within those parameters. The team fired on all cylinders to achieve a franchise and NBA best of 67 wins on the season. Steph set that tempo. He buried shots while still consistently dishing the ball to his teammates in such a fantastical way that left spectators chuckling in delight and amazement.
The rarity of a point guard winning the league’s most prestigious award seems misaligned with Steph’s landslide victory over NBA giants like Kevin Durant and LeBron James – but it isn’t. He’s proven to be the exception to the rule at every benchmark of his career.
Simply put, Stephen Curry is an absolute athletic marvel and role model. He puts what’s best for his team above what’s best for his individual stats – even sitting out 17 4th quarters this past season because the Warrior's enjoyed such strong leads coming out of the 3rd; valuable time that would no doubt help raise his game stats.
He represents a whole new style of play that, if we’re lucky, will trend among new stars and shape the NBA to become a league of precision and unselfish teamwork that has been stunted by the glorification of individual athletic achievements thus far.
Hats off to you, Steph, and your monumental achievement. As league commentators have said over and over again while watching one of the many Stephen Curry magic shows: “Here’s another one for the highlight reel.”