Sure, they’ve been charmed by his 3-point shooting pyrotechnics, his creativity in attacking swarming defenses and his gleeful engagement with crowds at Oracle Arena.
But Warriors fans really didn't know Stephen Curry.
They were seduced by his positive energy. They recognized that his ascent to MVP level was the turning point, lifting the franchise out of despair and into euphoria. From irrelevant to elite. No question during this process, Warriors fans fell in love.
Getting to know someone you don’t live with takes time and observation, even to the point of inspection. These days, when so many have so much time to observe, even inspect, Warriors fans finally are getting to know what they’ve loved.
They’re seeing Steph in real time, during a global crisis, spreading his wings and, in the process, polishing his star to an even brighter shine.
In the four weeks since the NBA came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Curry has been sprinkling bits of his heart in every direction.
He has shown his light side, frolicking with University of Oregon basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.
He has gone heavy and deep, generating public discourse with Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost expert on infectious diseases for nearly four decades – and the man who has become a household name in the wake of frequent TV appearances throughout this emergency.
Curry joined one of his rivals, Chris Paul, who ranks among the most polarizing players in the NBA, for the kind of revealing dialogue that provides glimpses of humor and humanity.
Not long before that, Curry connected with one of his former Warriors teammates, Kent Bazemore, to play some virtual golf.
Curry could have passed on any of these moments and nobody would have thought twice. He could have given Ionescu the “maybe some other time” treatment. Could have kept a respectful distance from Dr. Fauci and no one would have thought any less. Could have told CP3 that he “was tied up with family” and not caused a rift.
Could have told Bazemore to find another ex-teammate, maybe someone of less acclaim.
That’s not how Curry works. It’s not his style. Those who have welcomed him to local schools and recreation centers, they know. Those who have welcomed him into their houses of worship, they know. They will talk your ears into flames saluting Steph’s contributions of time and money and kindness. I know, because my ears have been exposed to this countless times over the past decade.
Warriors fans are familiar with some of Curry’s deeds. The young Napa girl, Riley Morrison, who wrote him a letter expressing her disappointment with the lack of his signature shoes in girls’ sizes and inspired Steph to call Under Armour and resolve the issue. The video of Curry standing in the Philadelphia chill to sign a single autograph for a youngster who used twine to drop a pen and pad from the loading dock.
Or, more recently, Steph and his wife, Ayesha, teaming with Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Unified School District in a pledge to provide one million meals to students whose nutritional needs are adversely affected by school closures during the pandemic.
There are many other similar instances. Some known, many not.
Curry on Wednesday spent a few moments on FaceTime with nurse Shelby Delaney and her colleagues at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. Steph wanted to show his appreciation for their spirit and determination in fighting the worst pandemic in our lifetimes.
“I can't thank God enough for what you're doing and just the sacrifice, the selflessness and the way everybody's coming together,” Curry told the crew huddled around Delaney. “Thank you so much for what you do, your heart, and the inspiration you provide for everybody.”
It is times like this that reveal character. Some folks rise to the moment, some stumble and fall and still others fade into the fabric.
Freed from the daily routine of games and practices – and not yet bound to summer commitments – Curry is finding even more time to make a difference. He’s reaching farther and wider and higher, and he’s not going to stop anytime soon.
Stephen’s family always has been proud of him. The same can be said of Warriors fans, particularly after getting a clearer look than ever at the man’s heart and mind.