That Stephen Curry, how does that guy do what he does? I mean, 402 three-pointers? #Seriously?
Lots of people are asking these questions right now and, I am pleased to say, some people (click here for a previous example or maybe two) are probing deeper than the wonders of his hand-eye coordination and the near miraculous range on his high-arching jump shot.
If reporters are going to ask what makes Curry tick, they have to do more than ask what makes him tick as a basketball phenomenon. If they are going to be honest (and logical) they also need to know what makes him tick as a man, a husband and a father. They may even have to back up and look at how Curry's past, quite literally his spiritual roots, have shaped him.
These kinds of honest, totally journalistic questions (if you are writing about Curry the man) lead straight to his faith and his family.
Thus, the big question: At what point in a Curry feature story does one play the God card (or even worse, the Jesus card)? If the goal is to let readers see Curry's heart, mind and soul, how do you avoid the contents of his heart, mind and soul?
This brings me to the recent Washington Post feature that ran under this headline: "The hidden price Steph Curry pays for making the impossible seem effortless."
Hidden price? That sounds deep.
That sounds like the goal, yes, is to deal with Curry the man. Early on, it's clear that the word "humility" is crucial. This chunk of the feature is long, but worth it:
Some people just couldn’t get past the incongruity, the idea that a guy with the build of a math geek could be a dominant NBA player. The Minnesota Timberwolves passed on him, even though they needed a guard. A disinterested Nike all but dropped him two years ago, refusing to make a decent counter-offer and letting him go to Under Armour.
As a result, humility is his natural state. While the rest of the NBA slams, pounds and shouts, Curry is a whisperer, by all accounts an unassuming sort who “doesn’t believe his job is any more important than yours,” according to Warriors General Manager Bob Myers. Even his voice is sort of faint.
Just once since winning the 2015 most valuable player award and leading the Warriors to their first NBA championship in 40 years has Curry shown any hint of becoming an outsize ego. One day he walked into the Warriors’ offices wearing sunglasses, and didn’t take them off. Myers hates it when players wear their shades inside; it’s an immediate sign that arrogance is taking hold.
Myers said to Curry, “Really? Is that what we’re doing now? We’re doing this inside?”
Curry has never worn them indoors again.
“I don’t think that’s who he is,” Myers says. “That’s the beauty of Steph.”
Humility is a very loaded word in Christian theology and Curry is, of course, an outspoken Christian -- literally right down to the soles of his shoes.
Did the author of this piece know all of that? I would assume the answer is "yes," since the author is Sally Jenkins, one of the best sports writers on planet earth. I need to stress that this piece measures up to her usual high standards.
Thinking out loud, I think there is a distinct possibility that Jenkins down-played the religion element in this story as a way of playing up -- for a secular audience, perhaps -- the importance of what she might see as a larger theme, which is the importance of Curry's marriage in his story and the unusual degree to which he has carved family time into his life as a father, as opposed to his life as a superstar.
I would imagine that Jenkins knows just about everything there is to know about the dark side of NBA life. She probably knows more NBA giants with five or six children by five or six women than she does mega-stars who hold tea parties with their tiny daughters (a scene that offers the final, haunting image in this fine piece).
This brings us to the "hidden price" angle of the piece. At what point does this burst of high-voltage fame affect Curry's personal values, to use a loaded word?
No surprise, this is where -- rather late in the story -- God shows up.
The question is whether, or for how long, Curry can maintain his form with all of this weighing on him. Curry confesses that he is beginning to feel it. “Yeah, a little bit,” he says. “It’s a learning experience for sure. It’s a bubble we live in with the NBA, with all the theatrics around it and all the hype.” What he really wanted for his birthday was some peaceful routine with his wife, who he met at a church youth group when he was 14. He wears a tattooed ‘A’ on one finger, and a Hebrew Bible verse inside of one wrist: “Love never fails,” First Corinthians, 13:8.
“You want to keep things off the court, the things I love to do, the same,” he says, “and not let what happens on the court change me.”
That's that, sort of. It isn't much, but the link between marriage and faith is mentioned. There are many other places that faith can be seen hidden (like a ghost) between the lines, if you know much about Curry and his extended family.
Stephen and Co. were raised in an intensely Christian home, with NBA star Dell Curry and educator Sonya Curry. Look up Charlotte Christian School for a key reference.
In the Post story, that turns into:
Recently, ... the Warriors’ general manager, asked Curry how his father had handled his own NBA grind. Dell retired in 2002 as the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leader in scoring, while also managing to be an involved father raising three extremely active kids. Steph’s younger brother Seth plays for the Sacramento Kings, and sister Sydel is a volleyball player at Elon College.
“You turned out pretty well,” Myers pointed out. “How did he do it?”
“My Dad’s life was the NBA and family,” Curry replied. “There was no other thing.”
Ah, but with the Curry crowd, what is included in the word "family"? And there is that religion ghost, once again. Deal with it.