The brightest spotlights have a way of finding Stephen Curry. A sports celebrity with a high likability factor, he embraces the recognition, understands its value and discerns its higher purpose. Stardom grants an objective beyond championships, NBA records and those perfectly silly CarMax TV commercials.
Why stop at changing the way basketball is played if in the process it provides a forum that can change the ways of the world?
Curry is as engaged with the needs of people as he is with the goals of the Warriors. He has a deep desire to win, but is no less dedicated to seeing others feel triumphant. The gift of selflessness was formed early, as the son of a father who played in the NBA and a mother who was quite the collegiate athlete herself. Dell and Sonya Curry were determined to raise their three children with a base of faith and an awareness of humanity.
“It was started with watching how he and my mom leveraged their platform in Charlotte to do amazing things,” Curry says. “Building computer learning centers, volunteering all around the city. Just find a way to make sure you leave some kind of impact on a place that supports you year after year after year.”
“Taking that now, in the context of not just community impact but also being vocal about issues that matter, that’s more of a generational shift that is happening in front of our eyes.”
Stephen is paying it forward -- exponentially. He does that year after year after year. He does it with the voice of an activist and the wallet of a multimillionaire.
“More and more young people are being outspoken about what they believe,” he says. “They’re holding authoritative leaders and those put in position to help usher us into more positive times, holding them accountable.
“And, also holding us as athletes accountable to not just dribble a basketball but to discover what else can we bring to the table that can change people’s lives. That wasn’t as much a part of my dad’s era as it ours, but I’m happy to be a part of that new culture.”
When he’s not lighting up NBA opponents with 3-pointers, he’s lighting up faces in a room filled with people in need.
When he’s not giving opponents easy layups with lazy passes, he’s giving a charitable organization (say, Oakland’s Homies Empowerment Program) a new truck to replace one that was stolen.
When he’s not signing autographs for young fans at one of the league’s 30 arenas, he’s signing a check that funds the college golf program (Howard University).
When Curry is not practicing or training or fathering or pulling pranks on teammates, he’s summoning Dr. Anthony Fauci for an Instagram Live session to educate more than 50,000 viewers on the facts and fallacies of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of this takes time, lots of it, and Curry almost always seems to find it.
It’s a lot, so much that Warriors coach Steve Kerr, shortly after taking the job in 2014, wondered if his star point guard was too giving of himself at the cost of his team. Seven years later, Kerr simply admires the intentions and shrugs.
“Now that I know him so well,” he says, “I know that there are usually a couple times during the season where we try to pull him back and protect him from himself. It’s because he’s such a nice person and everybody wants a piece of him and he wants to use his power for good. And he does so much.
“But I’m with him at some of these events and he loves doing it. He loves his life, loves what he does on and off the court. He comes into practice every day with a filled-up cup, ready to roll. As long as that’s the case and he doesn’t appear fatigued, he’s got it all figured out.”
In addition to those aforementioned, Curry gives a piece of himself to, among other ventures, the Boys and Girls Club, the Brotherhood Crusade, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Animal Rescue Foundation, the Partnership for a Healthier America and, of course, the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, in which he and his wife, Ayesha, have delivered more than 17 million meals to children and families.
Long is the list of people and places that give Curry -- who often brings Ayesha and their three children to meetings with the public -- a way to open doors, aid the ill and lift sagging spirits.
But you get the picture.
“It’s about being aware of the opportunity that we have, the resources we have access to, the networks that we have access to and being able to not just be spokespeople but to live it and really commit to it,” Curry says. “There’s always work to be done.
“It’s really highlighted when you think about who comes to our games and who sits courtside and Silicon Valley and the wealth of this area. But, also, this is the innovation capital of the world, the future of tech and all that.
“Yet in our backyard, in Oakland, there’s a food desert. There is a lot of inequity there. That alone speaks to the mission we’re on, from a foundation perspective, and that’s even before the pandemic.”
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When you see those CarMax commercials, the most famous of which also features Curry and WNBA star Sue Bird, know there is more to the story than a two-time NBA MVP pitching cars. There’s a relationship, a goal mutual to man and corporation.
For it was the CarMax Foundation, partnering with KABOOM! (which builds kid-friendly play areas), the Oakland Unified School District and Eat. Learn. Play. that in June presented Franklin Elementary School in East Oakland with a renovated playground.
Curry, with his wife and children, was on site for the dedication. All part of his pursuit of a better world.
Sometime late in 2021, health permitting, Curry will surpass Ray Allen and become the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. The spotlight will find him, and it will not be strong enough show the sum of the man.