WALNUT CREEK – Sonya Curry enters the cozy hotel conference room, seats herself and raises her left hand. It’s shaking.
“Look at this,” she says, staring at it. “I’m a nervous wreck.”
Her husband of more than three decades, Dell, eases into the chair beside her and nods. He knows what Sonya is going through. His hand is steady, but his belly is wrestling with the same glorious predicament.
She’s wearing a Portland Trail Blazers jersey, with the No. 31 in front. It’s a Golden State Warriors jersey on the back. No. 30.
He’s wearing a Warriors jersey, No. 30, in front. On the back is, you guessed it, a Trail Blazers jersey, No. 31.
Both jerseys have the same name on the back: Curry. Stephen Curry, No. 30, is the Warriors superstar, a two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA champion and six-time All-Star. His younger brother, Seth, No. 31, is a backup guard for the Trail Blazers. They, along with their teams, are chasing a prize only one can win: A trip to the NBA Finals.
This has their parents caught up in the crazy emotional hurricane that comes with having sons competing against each other in the Western Conference finals.
“It takes a little bit of the fun out of being a spectator because you just want to jump on and cheer for a team to win,” Sonya says. “But we’re going to have to be very careful because a win for one of our boys is a loss for the other.”
The Warriors took Game 1 on Tuesday, 116-94, with Stephen playing 35 minutes and pouring in 36 points to lead all scorers. The 31-year-old guard shot 12-of-23 from the field, making nine 3-pointers, tying his postseason career-high, and also thrilling the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.
This delights the entire Curry family, even the relatives back in North Carolina, where Dell and Sonya make their home. But it also comes with the bittersweet element sure to follow every game. Seth’s team lost. He played 19 minutes, scoring 3 points, making one of his seven shots.
This is the cloud that on this night obscures the sun of the Warriors and Stephen. Dell and Sonya cheer both sons during the game, but now their sensitivity can’t help but turn to Seth.
“I’m actually rooting for him because I really want him to have that chance to just feel like he’s been successful, especially with all the injuries and everything,” Sonya says. “It was just fun to watch them.”
This has been the most satisfying of Seth’s six seasons in the NBA. He was healthy enough to play a career-high 74 games. Growing into the role of a designated scorer off the bench, his 45-percent shooting from deep ranked third in the league -- ahead of his more celebrated brother, who finished fourth at 43.7 percent.
Furthermore, Seth, 28, is in the playoffs for the first time and the Blazers have, to the surprise of many, survived the first two rounds. But their reward now is to come up against Stephen and the Warriors, who are seeking their fifth consecutive trip to The Finals.
Once again, the little brother is the underdog, leaving his parents simultaneously exhilarated and exasperated. They simply don’t know, minute by minute, which way to turn.
“We have no idea,” Dell says. “We’ve been seeing all the reports with people questioning, ‘Who are we really cheering for to win?’ And we don’t know. We cannot pull for one kid over the other. We want them both to play well. Have a great series and let the best team win.
“But we’re not rooting for one guy over the other. Just can’t do that. That’s what makes this so hard.”
That’s why Dell and Sonya wear two-sided jerseys, splitting their allegiances. It’s why they will sit with Stephen’s wife, Ayesha, in Oakland and with Seth’s fiancé, Callie Rivers – daughter of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, sister of Rockets guard Austin Rivers – for games in Portland.
Dell and Sonya are searching for every conceivable way to be as impartial as possible while sending equal amounts of love and support in each direction. The pride they feel is indescribable.
“There are no words,” Sonya says. “It’s such a blessing. God just keeps blessing our family. We know it’s a basketball game. But for us, we know that it’s a platform. It’s a platform for our family. And it’s bigger than basketball. So, we’re just grateful to be in this situation.”
Despite fully realizing the conference finals will end in euphoria for one son and heartbreak for the other. Dell insists he will find a way to enjoy it.
“I’m living a dream watching these guys play,” he says. “We’re so blessed to be able to travel around and watch our kids play, whether it be in different arenas or their home arena. We’re not taking this for granted. We understand that we’re very privileged and blessed to be able to do that.”
Both are confident that, no matter the outcome, this will not affect the bond of what Warriors coach Steve Kerr refers to as the “royal family” of the NBA. Curry family gatherings will be no less respectful and festive. Even the trash talk, which has existed between Stephen and Seth for most of their lives will be sprinkled with good nature.
That goes back to the two lessons passed along to the boys during the 1990s, when Dell was in the midst of his career as one of the best shooters in the NBA. Dell points to Sonya, who did most of the household teaching.
“The first lesson is always support family,” Sonya says. “In all their different activities, separately, we all went together. We were going to support each other, regardless.
“The second was that life isn’t fair.. . . There was always going to be someone who wins and someone who loses.”