The following is excerpted from Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry by Marcus Thompson II. Copyright © 2017 by Marcus Thompson. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
A week after Curry learned he was done for the year, he was holed up in a sterile room with French vanilla walls in Van Nuys, California, praying with his father and his agent, Jeff Austin.
Getting examined by Dr. Richard Ferkel, and knowing they had done everything—rest, building up other muscles to take the pressure off his ankle, different wrapping techniques, custom shoes—led to fears Curry would need ankle reconstruction. If so, that was career-threatening.
by Marcus Thompson
The incredible and inspiring story of the miraculous rise of Stephen Curry, as told by a long-time Warriors beat reporter.
Replacing damaged ligaments with new ones is risky for a player that thrives on change of direction and sudden bursts. Not only would he have been out at least six months, but there was no guarantee he would get back his same range and explosiveness after such a major surgery.
Ferkel couldn’t have known without cutting the ankle open. So Curry went into surgery not knowing if he was done with basketball. Or if he would be facing soul-challenging rehabilitation to try to salvage his career on a reconstructed ankle. Complications are always a possibility. Many potentially Hall of Fame–bound players, from Grant Hill to Penny Hardaway, are proof.
But when Curry returned to consciousness, he got the best news possible. All Ferkel had had to do was clean out debris. This was a relatively minor procedure and an incredible outcome. Curry just needed time to heal, more rehabilitation, and he would be ready for training camp. And his motivation was at an all-time high.
Curry’s ego had been thoroughly bruised by how easily he was written off. Yeah, he was talented. But he was deemed fragile, injury prone. His repeated ankle issues had put him in a space he so vehemently despised: being seen as weak. You tell Curry he can’t do it, that the road is too tough, and it only incites him to go harder.
Curry recovered from surgery in time for training camp. But Jackson brought him along slowly, holding him out of the first preseason game and playing him sparingly in the second. He’d finally gotten up to his normal minutes when a freak accident led to another sprained ankle.
He was waiting for an inbounds pass when Wesley Matthews crept up from behind to steal the ball. In the process, he kicked Curry’s right heel while the Warriors’ guard’s toe was planted, spraining his ankle again.
Curry hobbled off the court once more. But he and the trainers were encouraged. It had taken a significant kick to sprain it; this was not a phantom sprain. And it held up pretty well despite how severe it looked. Curry even tried to get back in the game, though Jackson shut that down.
Two days later, several Warriors accepted Jackson’s invitation to attend his congregation. Jackson was the co-pastor of True Love Worship Center International in Van Nuys.
A part of the tradition at Jackson’s church was a spirited service including worshippers jogging along the walls of the congregation in praise. Curry, two days removed from his latest sprain, found himself taking laps with Jackson and the other members filled with the spirit. Then after Jackson’s sermon, his wife and co-pastor, Desiree, continued the worship with an impromptu sermon and benediction. She also called Curry to the altar.
They took off his shoes and socks, anointed his ankle with oil and prayed for healing. The parishioners lifted their voices in chants and amens, calling on God to bless one of His Christian ambassadors. Service at Jackson’s church was much more passionate and engaging than Curry was used to back in Charlotte. But he humbly accepted the blessing that was being offered and returned to his seat with a smile on his face.
“Where you going?” Desiree asked the star point guard in front of the congregation. Curry responded with his go-to look of bewilderment, a half smile and widened eyes. He thought he was supposed to return back among the flock when she was done.
“You don’t get a blessing from the Lord and just walk off!” she shouted. “Show us you believe in the power of God.”
It took Curry a second to understand what she meant. Then the old Bible stories rushed to his mind. Like when Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, that man had to pick up his mat and walk. If he believed he was healed, he needed to show it.
So Curry started shimmying and hopping on his right foot, much to the delight of the congregation.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Curry said.