Steph Curry is a unique superstar in a unique position. He isn’t a vocal leader, that would be Draymond Green. Nor is he an especially physically gifted athlete with awe-inspiring physicality. That designation belongs to Kevin Durant. Yet, Curry is thrust into a leadership role by virtue of his court prowess and game-changing shooting. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes’ reporting delved into Curry’s evolving leadership style.
In the aftermath of Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain in March, Curry appeared to tap into a mode that his teammates had never seen. While outsiders and media were questioning whether Curry, who struggled for portions of last season, could carry the Warriors until Durant was cleared to return.
“You just saw him practicing and he started becoming more aggressive,” David West recalled to ESPN. “When we were going 5-on-5, he was going 100 miles an hour and everybody is like, ‘Oh s—. This m—–f—– is serious.’ And that was also at shootaround. He got everybody going. It was during that stretch that he became a little bit more vocal, more demonstrative about the urgency we needed to have to keep the season alive when you lose somebody like KD.”
Durant noticed the change in Curry, too.
“Hell yeah, I saw it,” Durant said. “As a leader, as one of the best players in the league, you see one of your teammates go down, you feel as though you have to pick up the slack. … Mentally, he was just locked in and he’s been that way ever since. That focus carried us to a title last year.”
Curry is never going to be the type to light a fire under his teammates. Curry’s tranquil disposition can make him appear emotionally detached at times. There are a plethroa of leaders who inspire with meretricious words, but don’t follow through with action. Curry leads through example and has occasionally in spurts he’s clearly proven he is adept at leading with actions and words.
Curry also addressed an incident involving a young autograph-seeking fan whom he appeared to snub before a late November contest. Curry received moderate social media backlash after the mother used some choice language when a video of the 2-time NBA MVP shunning her child went viral.
Steph’s wife, Ayesha, subsequently blasted his critics on Twitter by explaining Steph’s actions. Behind the scenes, Curry went the kid a video of encouragement and his reason for doing so, provided a glimpse into Curry’s own childhood growing up around NBA players.
Before Curry was nearly universally respected, he was hanging around NBA locker rooms. Curry recounted to Haynes, how it felt to be brushed off by players he lionized, revealed how harshly he thought of the ones that snubbed him and how it affected his interactions with young fans.
“I have a different perspective on kids. I was in that position where I was around NBA athletes all the time and I knew which ones were a–h—s or not,” Curry said. “That actually affected me as a kid. My dad’s teammates or the people he played against, if I sat in the hallway and I said ‘hey’ and said ‘what’s up’ to them, if they even said something back to me, that made my day. If they just cold-shouldered me, that hurt. It wasn’t a lasting effect, but in the moment, that means a lot.
“So, for kids to come to our games and if they go out of their way to try to connect with me, I do feel a responsibility for the kids for sure because that might make or break their confidence or their spirit on that specific day. That’s my only opportunity to impact them in person. But I’m only one person and I can only do so much. So I’ve got to make sure I keep that balance.”
Curry also discussed his views on being a role model, but cautioned fans from using him as their benchmark, instead advising them to use family members and peers as inspiration.
“Obviously, nobody’s perfect and stuff is going to happen but I am who I am and I don’t feel any extra pressure to live up to people’s expectations,” Curry said. “They make comments saying, ‘Thank you for being a great role model.’ That’s a great compliment, and I get where parents are coming from when they’re looking at athletes in general to find people for their kids to emulate and parents need those kinds of presence to maybe connect with their kids, but for me, the biggest thing is that can’t be the benchmark. You have to have a consistent presence from family and parents based on real-life stuff, not just what they see on TV. That’s how I approach my life with my kids.”