STATELINE, Nev. – As the Warriors prepared for the 2021-22 season, many observers expressed a measure of concern about the enduring potency of Stephen Curry.
After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, with more turnovers than assists costing the Warriors in 2020-21 play-in games, could Curry still summon the gifts that made him special?
And do it with age – he would turn 34 during the season – starting to become a factor?
Steph heard the doubts; he always hears the doubts. And he responded with a very good regular season, a tremendous postseason – and a spectacular NBA Finals, in which he was voted MVP.
This didn’t surprise Dell Curry, who shared what appeared to be a cathartic embrace with his son in the final seconds of Game 6 in Boston as the Warriors finished off the Celtics.
“(I felt) gratitude,” he recently told NBC Sports Bay Area. “After how things had gone the previous two years, everyone counted him out this year. I think that’s why you saw it, the emotions of really doing it when nobody expected it.
“That’s why it felt just as good as any of the first three. Knowing how hard he worked. Going through a lot of adversity on and off the floor, being able to stay focused and do his job well every day.”
That shared embrace and the ensuring moments are Steph’s most emotional moments in public. As he pulled away from his father, there were tears. He bent over, elbows on his thighs, his face, covered by both hands, tilted down.
And finally, with 2.7 seconds remaining, Curry took a few steps, slumped over, and took a seat on the parquet floor.
This was more than a basketball game. More, even, than winning an NBA Finals closeout game.
“That was a big emotional thing as well, how hard he worked to get back to that level and maintain that level of play,” Dell Curry said. “And then to win it all. You can’t describe that feeling as a father when you see your son work his tail off and then reach his goal at the end of the year.”
No doubt some of the off-court adversity referenced by Dell related to his split with Sonya Curry after more than 30 years of marriage. It went public, and there is no way the human side of Steph could dismiss its significance.
This final triumph allowed Steph a moment to temporarily release a tumultuous year of personal sorrow and professional highlights, including overtaking Ray Allen to become the all-time leader in 3-pointers.
“Winning the All-Star MVP, the Western Conference MVP – and I knew he was going to win the Finals MVP; that was the easiest vote as there ever was,” Dell Curry said. “To get all that done and then win the world title made it all worthwhile.”
Stephen Curry had, once more, overcome the preseason doubts, the in-season gossip, and a formidable opponent. The tears were absolutely real, a richly earned physical response to a resolve that was tested but never broke.