The boyish face is deceiving. The lack of size is misleading. But so much for appearances, the NBA draft as a science and the rap on small-school pedigrees.
Stephen Curry even crossed up his father.
“I knew Steph could shoot,” Dell Curry recently said with a head shake and a quick smile, “but I never expected this.”
The younger Curry is sitting on a gold mine. No, on top of the moon. His features are splashed across advertisements, magazine covers, T-shirts, websites. He is the poster child for a league that pitches basketball as the beautiful game. And as his Golden State Warriors sprint closer to an NBA championship, the dynamic point guard with the ridiculous jumper was introduced as the 2014-15 MVP on Monday, one day before his team hosts the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
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Curry received 100 of 130 first-place votes from a panel of writers and broadcasters and fan input on the NBA websiteto finish ahead of James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
If points were awarded for degree of difficulty, the 6-foot-3 point guard probably wins in a landslide. While averaging fewer than 33 minutes, the former Davidson standout not only emerged as the league’s premier deep shooter, he repeatedly added tweaks. The NBA has had exceptional shooters through the generations, but Curry distinguishes himself from his peers, past and present, with his ability to shake off defenders with a hard dribble, square up, elevate and, with a flick of the wrist, release a jumper that appears destined to find the net.
“He is the most creative great shooter I have ever seen,” said Kings analyst Jerry Reynolds, who once coaxed Larry Bird, a fellow French Lick, Ind., native, into returning to college. “No one has ever shot the ball off the dribble better.”
It’s not as if Curry is just a shooter or scorer, either. Besides earning his second All-Star berth and directing an offense that led the league in scoring, field-goal percentage and point differential, he averaged 7.7 assists and led the league in free-throw percentage for a team that collected a franchise-best 67 wins.
And about that leadership quality. Particularly since winning the Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend, the North Carolina native fills out his jersey like someone who has come to terms with his greatness. He fills a room with his matter-of-fact, often witty analysis, and he dictates the tempo on the court with his clever playmaking, superb shotmaking and unmistakeable charisma. At practices, he often remains long after his teammates have departed. With coach Steve Kerr seated nearby on a stool Friday, Curry stroked jumper after jumper, oblivious to anything but the ball and the basket, his concentration that of a master craftsman at work.
During Monday’s televised news conference in Oakland, he was not so cool. He became emotional while speaking about his father and his family and overcoming ankle injuries that threatened his career.
“There were obviously good times and bad times,” he said. “Times I wanted to shut it down. It just made me realize how blessed and thankful I really am to be in this position.”
In his sixth season, Curry, 27, has emerged along with No. 1 pick Blake Griffin as the prize of a bountiful 2009 draft. Anyone needing a reminder the draft is more art than science is re-directed to the list. After the the highly publicized Griffin went to the Los Angeles Clippers, Hasheem Thabeet, Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn were taken before then-Warriors general manager Larry Riley and coach Don Nelson landed their guy.
The Kings, who passed on Curry after Evans physically dominated him in a predraft workout, shouldn’t feel too bad; Evans is a quality player. Several other clubs passed on DeMar DeRozan (ninth), Jrue Holiday (17th), Ty Lawson (18th) and Jeff Teague (19th).
Curry, though, is something special. He oozes that unteachable intangible – presence, charisma, star power – and becomes more appealing by the game. With 190 pounds of smoothly chiseled muscle, he punctuates wicked crossovers, deep three-pointers in transition, jaw-dropping drives and behind-the-back passes with grins, fist pumps, arm motions and chest thumps. His style is the prototype for NBA Entertainment: wildly entertaining without being excessively wild.
“Steph still looks like a kid enjoying a new toy,” said Vlade Divac, the Kings’ top basketball executive and Dell Curry’s former teammate with the Charlotte Hornets (1996-98). “I remember him coming to our practices, waiting for us to finish, then running out there and making all those crazy moves. He was so small, like he is today. But he knows when to take a shot, when to pass, and he not only is a great leader, he makes the game fun.”
With a laugh, Divac added: “I am really proud of him. The only thing I don’t like is that he makes me realize how old I am.”
Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.
NBA MVPs SINCE 2000
2015: Stephen Curry, Golden State
2014: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
2013: LeBron James, Miami
2012: LeBron James, Miami
2011: Derrick Rose, Chicago
2010: LeBron James, Cleveland
2009: LeBron James, Cleveland
2008: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
2007: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
2006: Steve Nash, Phoenix
2005: Steve Nash, Phoenix
2004: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
2003: Tim Duncan, San Antonio
2002: Tim Duncan, San Antonio
2001: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia
2000: Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers