There may not be a better example of disparate sports career clocks than those associated with the Warriors’ starting backcourt during the years when the franchise spent most of its nights lounging about the NBA basement.
Whereas Monta Ellis timed out of the NBA at 31, Stephen Curry was an MVP finalist at age 33.
Whereas Ellis is said to be interested in making a comeback after four seasons out of the league, any hope of seeing Curry’s career finish line requires a Hubble telescope.
A few weeks away from his 13th season, Curry is more likely to count the minutes until next season tips off than the years until he leaves the league. Though his family will have a say in the matter, as will his body, his wish is to play as long as the game brings him joy.
Which is why he studies fitness and nutrition trends that help athletes extend their careers beyond the limits of a conventional sports clock.
Who better to study than Tom Brady, the quarterback who at age 43 not only led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory but also was named MVP of the game?
“Absolutely,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “I’ve actually talked to him, personally, about this. He’s at the point now where he can look back and talk about that with some authority and experience.
“But even he said, in the moment, when he was in his early-30s, mid-30s, late-30s, it was always, ‘I think I’ve still got two more years in me. Stay. Do everything I can to sustain yourself and stay physically and mentally sharp.’ And then you look up and you’re saying that again, saying it the next two years. And you’re saying it again.”
Brady has avoided the one-year-at-time mentality so common to athletes, particularly when they reach the uber-veteran stage. One year is comfortable, but two is greedy. Committing to two years requires a certain disposition.
Curry this month signed a $215 million contract extension that binds him to Golden State until 2026. And while some have questioned whether he’ll be worth $59.6 million in the final season, when he’ll turn 38, the Warriors believe he’s worth more than they’ll ever be able to pay.
The front office and the coaching staff saw what we all saw from him last season. He led the NBA in scoring and in 3-pointers.
He won back-to-back Player of the Month awards for the first time in his career – and did it in the last two months, in the heat of a chase to the postseason. When so many are pushing hard and digging deep, no one pushed harder or dug deeper.
Just as Curry does his research in matters of longevity, so do the Warriors. They know shooters tend to endure. Reggie Miller retired three months before he turned 40, as did Dale Ellis. Ray Allen made his last shot a month before he turned 39 but still had franchises chasing him at 40.
Then there is this: Curry has played fewer NBA minutes than DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, James Harden or Russell Westbrook. If Curry averages 35 minutes per game, and plays 80 games each season, he will catch up to Ray Allen sometime around 2028.
Which is to say, Curry is a “young” 33, roughly the age at which Brady began turning to his two-years-at-a-time mind trick. The quarterback, three weeks past his 44th birthday, is toiling away in training camp with his teammates.
That’s five sets of two-year plans -- this season might begin a sixth.
"I'll know when the time's right," Brady told NBC Sports’ Peter King this week. “If I can't ... if I'm not a championship-level quarterback, then I'm not going to play. If I'm a liability to the team, I mean, no way.
“But if I think I can win a championship, then I'll play."
Curry’s attitude is very similar. He’s not going to be a burden, even if the Warriors presented the opportunity.
He might take inspiration from Brady, but Curry has his own mind tricks. He’s not looking at a retirement age, nor is he reaching too far ahead.
“It’s all about staying in the moment, and not fast-forwarding, putting too much pressure on yourself to reach that milestone,” he said. “You do everything now to set yourself up for now and the future. Staying in the moments is all a part of getting there.
“So, the vision is there. But I’m looking forward to the next 12 months.”
Curry’s clock still looks new. It shines. No dust on the hands. He plans, like Brady, to keep it clean and in excellent working order. To stretch it for all it’s worth.
Let the years and the numbers keep coming. No need to watch. That’s history. Spending an inordinate amount of time gazing at the past might be the surest way to get old.