Steve Kerr has learned a lot about Steph Curry over the past six years, and can readily identify the quality that’s often overlooked in the two-time NBA MVP.
“I think it’s probably Steph’s most underrated quality is just how competitive he is,” the Warriors coach recently said on the Runnin' Plays Podcast. “And I think it’s underrated because of just his physical stature and the way he looks. He’s so different from your average NBA star.”
Kerr, who was hired as the Warriors’ coach in 2014, oversaw the winningest five-year stretch in NBA history. Along the way, Curry rose from All-Star in Kerr’s first season to unanimous MVP in 2016, but his competitiveness might not have been appreciated around the league, according to his coach.
“Most NBA stars, they’re physically imposing,” Kerr said. “And here’s Steph, and he looks like he’s just another guy. And then he makes everything look so easy with his game. So you don’t really see the fire that’s in him, but you feel it. And when you coach him or you play with him, you understand how desperately he wants to win.
“My first training camp, when we’re scrimmaging, you can see how much it means to a guy to win,” Kerr added. “And we try to do a lot of competing in practice, and you can see with Steph, any kind of competition he has to win. … My first year, we had an off-day in Minneapolis, we went bowling. He wanted to win so badly. Ping pong, same thing. The guy just, he has to win.”
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The Warriors drafted Curry in 2009, when Kerr was the Phoenix Suns’ general manager. Kerr frequently saw flashes of Suns guard Steve Nash in Curry, particularly with their athleticism.
To illustrate that point, Kerr told the story of one occasion when Nash visited him in San Diego to surf along the region’s sunny shores.
Kerr, an admitted novice surfer, made a point to teach Nash, who'd never picked up a board, a few tricks.
“Hey, just paddle into this,” Kerr said to Nash, “What you want to do is you turn the board and you paddle, and then you kind of stand, you try to stand up and you pop up real quick. And it’s probably going to take a few times.”
Nash picked it up on his first try.
“He’s like, ‘OK.’ First wave comes, he paddles twice, he pops up, he surfs the thing all the way into the shore,” Kerr said. “I’m like, ‘It took me three weeks to do that.’
“Nash and Steph are exactly the same way. You put a ball on a stick in their hand, whatever needs to be done, they're going to figure out a way to do it.”
That’s probably why Nash, like Curry, also is a two-time NBA MVP.