Warriors

Steph Curry poised to do big things off the court: 'The contract does...'

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AP

Steph Curry poised to do big things off the court: 'The contract does...'

He transcends his sport, his name synonymous with incredible talent in an unimposing physique and an image so wholesome that even now, nearly a decade into a soaring NBA career, some question its authenticity.

Where does Stephen Curry, comfortable with his celebrity and armed with a contract worth more than $200 million, take his star?

Does he fall into the benign complacency that defined Michael Jordan during his fabulous career? Does Curry take more of a David Robinson route and focus primarily on a specific element -- education -- in hopes of making a difference? Does he choose the Magic Johnson approach, investing in communities often shunned by the wealthy?

Or might Curry follow the path of the late Arthur Ashe -- who spoke softly, sensibly and with absolute dignity on human rights -- and stick his toes a wee bit deeper into the treacherous sea of sociopolitical activism?

The global impact door, and its floor, is as open to a sports superstar now as it may ever be. And here is Curry, an athlete of such universal adoration and insane national popularity that everywhere he goes folks hang on his mere presence. A generation after kids wanted to be like Mike, the young dream of emulating Steph.

Curry senses this. Moreover, he is affected by it. One month after becoming the highest-paid team athlete in American history, with an average annual salary of $40.2 million over the next five years, his mind is filled with relevant questions about his next steps, including one that speaks of his well-documented selflessness and clear understanding of his status:

How can I help others?

Curry’s concern along those lines was apparent this week in Walnut Creek during his SC30 Select camp for some of the nation’s top prep players.

“I don’t want to get too deep into it, but for the last couple years I’ve been trying to figure out how I can make the most impact off the court, on a consistent and impactful basis going forward,” Curry said.

“Obviously keying in on the Bay Area, specifically, to hopefully leave a lasting impact for all the good that has happened in my life and to my family since I’ve been here over the last eight years, and over the next five to really impact the community for the better,” he added. “And use my platform -- not only just dollars -- but my platform and connections and ideas to make that happen.

“The contract does put more of a responsibility on myself to make that happen. And I’m obviously aware of that.”

Curry, 29, already has created and supported numerous charities and causes that help the less fortunate, including his Nothing But Nets campaign, the Animal Rescue Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and work with the NBA Cares program. The 2013-14 NBA Community Assist award winner, he is scheduled to participate in the fourth annual Athletes vs. Cancer flag football game this week in Burbank.

Oh, there is plenty more that stands as testimony to Curry’s character and intentions. For five years running, he personally appeared at an Oakland church to provide food and more for hundreds of underprivileged families through the Feed The Children foundation. We’re but a few months removed from Curry auctioning off two pairs of autographed shoes for $45,201, with every cent going to survivors of the December 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.

Make-A-Wish? Of course, as well as seriously ill children unaffiliated with that particular foundation.

We know where Curry’s heart is. We see it all the time.

We also know Curry will go nowhere near the naked self-absorption that trapped Floyd Mayweather, or the willful isolation that often separated Barry Bonds as he smashed the game of baseball. Curry is too committed to his faith to allow himself to fall victim to such vanity.

What we don’t yet know -- and what he himself is trying to determine -- is how involved and on what scale. How far does he wish to extend his reach?

Though Curry tends to be careful with his public comments, he will speak out on issues about which he feels strongly. He has, for instance, made it clear he is not a fan of the current president. He has expressed his dismay with the so-called “bathroom bill” in his home state of North Carolina.

The implication, for now, is that Curry, for now, is thinking first of the area he calls home. It’s where his star took flight. It’s his comfort zone. He is a spectacular basketball player who goes beyond the game yet yearns to do even more.

“I have a great team around me that’s going to help me do that,” Curry said. “There’s a huge opportunity and potential to not only win championships and give our fans amazing memories, but also do some really, really good in the community -- more than I’ve done up until this point.”

Curry’s everyman appeal and common touch allows virtually unlimited influence. He will be involved. He will help people. We’re about to discover just how much.

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Steph Curry is jonesin' to play basketball.

The Warriors superstar misses the game so much that when he woke up on a recent morning, he thought he was in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

OK, maybe not. Clearly, Steph needs to work on his acting skills. But the sentiment isn't too far off.

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals that saw Curry play roughly an extra 20 games a season, the two-time NBA MVP broke his hand in the fourth game of the 2019-20 season. He returned to play in one game in March, but a combination of Curry catching the flu and the coronavirus shutdown ended his season early.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

So between the end of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 and the potential start of the 2020-21 NBA season in December, Curry will have played five regular-season games in a year and a half.

So you can understand why Curry is dreaming of being in Orlando.

Alas, the Warriors finished the 2019-20 season with the worst record (15-50) in the NBA. They were one of eight NBA teams not invited to the NBA season restart at the Disney World complex in Orlando. The combination of Curry's injury, Klay Thompson's ACL injury and Kevin Durant's departure crushed the Warriors' hopes of a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The bright side (of the bed) for Curry is that his body has been given an extended break, the longest of his professional career. After five long seasons, a long 18-month break could do Curry a lot of good.

[RELATED: Simmons wonders if Lillard is better than Steph]

The Warriors are expecting Curry and Thompson to come back healthy and rested when the 2020-21 season starts, ready for a return to NBA title contention.

Based on the video Curry posted, he's getting plenty of rest.

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Steph Curry is a better basketball player than Damian Lillard.

We don't make that declaration in an attempt to slight Dame, because the Portland Trail Blazers star is awesome. We certainly aren't rooting against the Oakland native or saying he is overrated.

But we feel compelled to defend Steph when necessary. And we are doing that now because of the following back-and-forth that took place Monday on "The Bill Simmons Podcast."

Simmons: "Dame -- I don't know where he is on the top-10 players in the league list and what the qualifications are -- but is Curry better than him at this point?"

Ryen Russillo: "Oh come on. Let's take it easy. Don't do this when Curry's missed a year."

Simmons: "I'm not talking about career. I'm not talking playoff chops (or) stuff like that. I'm just talking game-to-game, the stuff Dame is doing now consistently, reminds me of Curry. I feel like he's money. He's in the top eight or nine for me now. And I don't know what the list is. But I just think he's great."

Lillard is great. No doubt about it. And the 30-year-old was fantastic in Portland's first two games in the Orlando bubble.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But we need to remind everybody -- again -- what happened during the Warriors' sweep of the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference finals:

Curry: 36.5 points, 7.3 assists, 46.9 percent overall, 42.6 percent 3s
Lillard: 22.3 points, 8.5 assists, 37.1 percent overall, 36.8 percent 3s

Yes, Lillard is putting up big statistics this season with 28.9 points and 8.0 assists per game. But his shooting numbers -- 45.6 percent overall and 39.1 percent from 3-point range -- don't match up to what Steph did last season: 47.2 percent overall and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.

[RELATED: The disrespect Steph gets absolutely blows Redick's mind]

The day possibly will come when Dame is considered the superior player by the majority of the basketball world. We aren't that naive.

But it definitely has not arrived yet.

So the answer to Simmons's question is ...

... "yes."

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