Steph Curry is one of the leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here.
A few years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with Stephen Curry. He had battled one injury after another and we didn’t know if his ankle would ever get better. I remember thinking to myself, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This can’t be his life story. This can’t be it.” Steph is one of the best people—not just players—I’ve ever been around and I just remember feeling devastated that he wasn’t going to get a chance to reach his potential.
It’s easy to look at Steph now and see a player who has it all, but that wasn’t always the case. He was doubted so much coming into the league. He slid to No. 7 during the 2009 draft and it’s been pretty well documented that we weren’t his first choice. He went through three head coaches in his first three years, all of which were losing seasons. He got hurt, people wrote him off. They said he couldn’t play point guard. They said he couldn’t defend. They said he’d never lead a team to the playoffs.
He proved them all wrong.
Right after we won the NBA championship in June, Steph and I had a moment in the locker room. There weren’t really words exchanged as much as emotions. My recollection of the night was that we had basically reached the mountaintop. There’s nothing higher than winning a title in pro sports. There’s nowhere else to go. I looked around the room and saw the happiest group of people I’ve ever seen. Everyone was going crazy. But when I looked at Steph, I had a moment of reflection. It kind of hit me what he had gone through. To prove all of those people wrong, to overcome such long odds, it was just incredible to see him achieve his dreams. I looked at him and said, “You deserve this.” In life, if you work hard enough, you do get what you deserve. I had a flashback to that doctor’s office and thought about how far Steph had come. It was such a gratifying moment.
People are well aware by now of Steph’s accolades on the basketball court. He’s arguably the best player in the world. He’s the reigning MVP and an NBA champion. But what people don’t know is his character, integrity and authenticity are also world class. Combine all of his traits and you have a person that is elite in every way. Everything he does is with the highest character. He’s a great husband, father, son, brother, friend and teammate. He’s a joy to be around. He has a daughter the same age as mine and I’ve gotten to see how he approaches fatherhood and how he treats his wife. It’s beyond imaginable. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s the guy you hope your daughter marries.
Ask anyone in our organization and you’ll universally get a positive response. He treats everyone with respect. In his MVP speech last spring, he made a point to mention our security guards and equipment managers by name. There’s nothing arrogant about him. He’s confident, but not cocky. He works extremely hard when no one is watching. What you hope for in an organization is someone who represents your group in the most humane way possible. The Warriors could not have picked a better candidate—or for that matter the entire NBA. I represented players as an agent for 14 years and I know a lot about players in this league. I’ve never come across one like Steph.
Most of the time when you meet a famous person you’re disappointed, because they didn’t live up to the image you’d created in your head. Sometimes you meet a famous person that does meet your expectations and you say, “Wow, they really are great.” And sometimes, on the most rare of occasions, you meet someone who exceeds every expectation imaginable. Steph is that guy. He’s the rarest breed. You hear all these great things about him and not only are they true, but there’s even more the public will never know.
The most impressive thing about Steph’s basketball career is he’s gotten better every year. It’s probably true over his entire life. I don’t think he’s ever not improved from one season to the next. That’s pretty tough to do when you win MVP and lead a team to 67 wins and an NBA title—but just look at what he’s doing this season. He’s taken his game to heights that we couldn’t have even imagined.
I’m fortunate enough to get to see Steph work on his craft behind the scenes. If you were to watch him train you would understand how he does these insane things when everyone is watching. If we all worked with the same focus and efficiency he approaches the game with, we’d all be incredibly accomplished people. He hones his shot every day and he’s already the best shooter in the world. When I watch him drain a 30-footer off the dribble, I’m never surprised. You don’t see all the work he puts into that shot, that exact situation. He’s practiced everything.
Not only was Steph the most dominant basketball player on the planet in 2015, but he also helped change the game. It’s no longer unusual to take 10 or 11 three-pointers in a game because he pioneered a new way of thinking. He’s partially responsible for the way the perimeter game has been turned into a weapon in the NBA. He exploited a rule that a lot of people knew was there but had yet to master. He’s made the three-point line his and is executing with astonishing efficiency. To lead a team like he did last year and evolve the game along the way, it’s something people are going to remember for a very long time. Every championship gets its proper due, but some stand out a little more than others. I think this one might be the exception.
To see Steph preserve, succeed and reach his potential has been a tremendous experience. It’s why we love sports. It’s why Stephen Curry should be SI’s 2015 Sportsman of the Year.