Editor's note: The above video is from May 5, 2015
OAKLAND – Steve Kerr is telling a story about Stephen Curry. Kerr is raising his eyebrows. He’s grinning. He’s shaking his head in disbelief. Even after two years together, the Warriors’ coach still marvels at the man.
Steph Curry the player? He’s not bad either, which partly explains why the Warriors star will be named the NBA MVP for the second consecutive season, multiple league sources confirmed to CSNBayArea.com on Monday morning.
Kerr’s story, though, has little to do with Curry’s basketball gifts and everything to do with his genuine approach to people.
Kerr a few months ago heard from a friend whose 5-year-old son, one of millions who adore Curry, recently had been diagnosed with cancer. The kid wanted to meet Steph, and his father wondered if Kerr would set it up. Kerr was initially ambivalent, not wanting to burden his players. He finally decided to ask Curry, who response was all too typical.
The meeting was arranged in Miami, the fourth of seven games on a February road trip, and Curry was 10 days removed from All-Star Weekend, when he is swallowed whole by incessant requests.
“I was expecting maybe the kid would come into the locker room and Steph would say, ‘Hi,’ and then maybe sign an autograph for him,” Kerr recalled to CSNBayArea.com. "Steph went above and beyond. I mean it was incredible. Before the game, he held court with the kid and his family. After the game, he invited the kid and his brother into the locker room. They shared a meal. He signed shoes.
“It was incredible to watch this because it was so natural. Steph knew how much it meant to the kid. And he does this . . . all . . . the . . . time.”
That Curry would win the MVP award was a foregone conclusion. When you’re the best player on the best team, the most popular player in the league and the most mesmerizing figure in the sport, you are, no matter the balloting, the MVP.
How on earth, though, does Curry continue to get so much better at basketball when he spends so much time and energy getting so much better at life?
Curry, 28, is that player every fan wants to watch, that every coach wants to coach and that every CEO is eager to pay. The Warriors star is the full package, a bona fide artiste, smoothly spectacular, transcending basketball and now squarely in the realm of pure entertainment.
He is what every bride wants to marry and every parent wants as a son.
The NBA or any other league is beyond delighted to deliver MVP hardware to someone with those characteristics.
The NBA or any other league can only wish their MVP could offer so much to so many outside the lines of the arena.
Curry’s humanitarian reach starts in the Bay Area and extends around the globe. One week he’s visiting an elementary school six blocks south of the team’s downtown Oakland facility, urging youngsters to drink water – and encouraging them to dump water on his head. The next week he’s handing out food at a church two miles north of the school.
Name a positive cause, and Curry bends toward it like a flower to the sun.
“I know how much it meant to me as a kid when people spent time with us,” Curry says. “I kind of feel like this is something I should do. I want to do it. I’m blessed to have a platform, and I want to use it.”
He’s a go-to guy for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Nothing But Nets, Curry’s project to fight malaria in Africa, will add 1,206 treated bed nets in the fight against malaria, a bloody battle Curry happens to be winning. Curry raised the stakes in the fight, issuing a “Call Your Shot” challenge (CallYourShot.org).
“Sometimes he does too much stuff,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says. “We try to pull him back, pull the reins back because everyone wants a piece of him and he has a hard time saying no."
Curry’s personal trainer, Brandon Payne, who spends as much time with Curry than anyone outside his family, just shakes his head and grins at the many demands and requests his client hustles to handle.
“I’ll go to pick him up at home, and he comes rushing out of the house eating oatmeal or some fruit or something as he’s jogging to the car,” Payne says. “Happens all the time. I’m used to it.”
Curry seems to be in several places at the same time. He’s a husband and father of two, a son whose parents remain close without hovering, a sibling who always makes time for his brother and sister.
And, look, Curry is now meeting up with a large group of teammates, venturing out for dinner. That happens on the road and at home.
This guy signs his name about as often as he takes a breath. And he signs these autographs for, get this, free.
There was the January evening in Philadelphia when a father and son stood in the cold over a loading dock and dropped a string with a pen and notebook 20 feet, like a fishing line, in hopes of getting Curry’s autograph. Braving the chill, he signed and watched as the prize was pulled back up to street level.
A month later in Orlando, after scorching the Magic for 51 points, Curry took off his shoes and tossed them to a young fan celebrating a birthday.
Five weeks after that, the Warriors were in Salt Lake City when Curry added to his list of good deeds. He had completed his dazzling floor show – conceivably the greatest individual pregame routine in NBA history – and was signing autographs as he returned to the locker room when a few fans fell over a railing in their quest to get his signature.
Curry made a point of signing for those who had fallen – none of whom sustained serious injury. Moreover, he later inquired about their condition.
And you wonder why former Warriors coach Mark Jackson amended most every compliment of Curry with “and he’s a better person than he is a basketball player.” That is the consensus among players and fans and Warriors employees.
Time Magazine, in a February headline, referred to Stephen Curry as “The Antidote to America’s Anger Problem.”
Curry may not always make the right altruistic step, but he never seems to make the wrong one.
“He’s so grounded, so well raised by his parents,” Kerr says. “I think he understands the adage that with great success comes great responsibility. I don’t know where that quote came from, but I’ve heard it and Steph lives it.
“He understands that he is among the most fortunate human beings on the face of the planet. There’s an obligation that comes with that. He’s doing an amazing job of providing great joy to people who watch him play basketball but also providing service to people.”
All this from a scrawny kid who was lightly recruited out of high school and heavily doubted upon entering the NBA in 2009. He started from somewhere near the metaphorical bottom and now he’s the paragon of American sport.
Maybe that’s what’s behind his drive to do great things, on and off the court. He knows the feeling of rejection, to be told he’s not good enough, to be judged by others as unworthy.
Rather become embittered, or toxically insecure, Curry has made it his mission to treat others well, as he would have wished to be treated.
He’s not Mr. Perfect, not by any means. But there may be times when Mr. Perfect wishes he were Steph Curry.