NBA: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors

Every once in a while, a star comes along that completely transcends not only his/her team, city and region, but even their nation. The Warriors have had plenty of fan favorite players over the years, all amounting to little on-court success and even less national recognition.

The Golden State hardly mattered back then, as every season that team missed the playoffs, the team just sunk deeper into the depths of uselessness. Players such as Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Monta Ellis were beloved by the Bay Area, but needed a departure from the Warriors to reach peak success and national recognition.

Stephen Curry seemed to be on a similar path early in his career, as ankle injuries, a muddling backcourt combination with Monta Ellis and incompetent ownership seemed to foretell an early end to what was a promising draftee for the Warriors. However, circumstances deviated from the norm this time and Curry got healthy, Ellis was traded and Chris Cohan sold the team.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors

These moves allowed Curry to develop into the franchise centerpiece and eventually become the star that he is today. It took three different coaches, thousands of questions about his ankles and incredible roster turnover, but Curry maintained an even keel throughout, hit his stride and is now leading the best team in the NBA through an MVP campaign of his own.

The only criticism of Curry now is that he’s still a negative defender, but head coach Steve Kerr – as opposed to previous coaches – has had confidence in Curry to guard the opposing point guard. Instead of hiding Curry on the weaker offensive player, Curry has constantly shown the defensive intangibles — consistent effort, staying in front of defenders, eluding screens, where to funnel players — that were overlooked his early years.

The case in point was this past week, where Curry saw a trio of impressive point guards and thoroughly outplayed each of them on both ends. It began with Tony Parker, who couldn’t muster a single field goal against Curry in over 21 minutes. All-Star starter John Wall was limited to 18 points in 34 minutes and committed eight turnovers to Curry’s zero.

In the most highly anticipated regular season game of the season, Curry went up against the young, flashy Kyrie Irving. In a game dominated by LeBron James, Irving finished with 24 points on 6-for-17 shooting in an off-night from Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors were slow to react on defense, were bothered by the Cavaliers’ newfound length and athleticism and couldn’t do much against the unstoppable force known as James.

In their demolition of the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, Curry was incredibly efficient with 22 points in 25 minutes on 8-for-13 shooting and a measly +33 on the night. His counterpart Kyle Lowry had only 4 points in 17 minutes and a game low -33. The game ended early, as the Warriors suffocated the Raptors in the first quarter and allowed a paltry 11 points on 5.3 percent shooting.

The Warriors are 3-2 since returning from the All-Star break and are currently in the midst of four road games in five nights. The MVP talk is gaining steam with Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook all vying for the award as the season is nearing it’s close. An MVP would vault Curry’s status to even greater heights, giving him the hardware he deserves. But also needs.

Curry and Obama

He’s already a superstar, but that’s not enough in the Bay Area. In a region with six professional sports teams, three championships in the last five years from the San Francisco Giants and two professional football teams, Curry has trumped them all other athletes in popularity, status and admiration.

This is no slight to Klay Thompson, World Champions Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, or even the much maligned Colin Kaepernick. Curry doesn’t have the hardware like the Giants do, but given the global popularity of the NBA – and subsequently, the blandness of baseball – Curry’s stardom has elevated his cache in the Bay Area and earned him the title as the Bay Area’s most intriguing athlete.

Not only is he successful on the court, but he’s helping change lives off the court as well. In addition to being a husband, father and believer, his off-the-court initiatives such as the Nothing But Nets campaign has made him the ideal spokesperson for the league. This past week, Curry was invited to the White House to speak on the issue of malaria – which kills an estimated 600,000 people every year — and spent time with President Barack Obama.

“Steph Curry represents a unique part of the Malaria partnership,” Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, the coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative said. “When someone of his stature and reputation steps up and not only articulates the problem of malaria, but also provides time and resources, it sends a resounding message.”

The regional divide seen in football and baseball doesn’t apply to the Warriors. There is only one basketball team in the Bay Area, and while they’re calling a new place home in a few seasons, the Warriors will forever be the Bay Area’s team. The league loves him, the team needs him and the Bay Area is proud to have him.

Curry is King.

One Response

  1. scotmac

    Yes, warriors are having a historic season, and curry, as the best player on the best team is reaping the rewards of that.

    And yes, basketball has a bit more international appeal than baseball. But, baseball doesn’t lack for international appeal (see Japan, Taiwan, Korea, all of middle america, etc). Regardless of the international popularity of the two sports, the fact is, both are loved by billions, and nothing about that implies that baseball is bland. You need to try to keep your individual bias out of the article. Just because you don’t get enjoyment out of baseball doesn’t mean it is bland.