Stephen Curry was anxious all day. But when 4 p.m. finally rolled around Thursday, and he sat down with his wife and daughter to watch the All-Star announcement on television, he didn’t have to wait long to see his name.
The first name announced, Kobe Bryant, his 16th berth.
Next up, Stephen Curry, his first berth.
“It was surreal,” Curry said an hour later in a phone call with reporters. “I grew up watching my dad in the NBA. Every February we watched the All-Star Game. I’ve been to a few as a kid, when my dad was in the three-point contest. I understand how big it is to be selected.”
After the announcement, the phone calls and texts started pouring in. Including a call from Dell Curry.
“He’s not an emotional guy,” his son said. “But his voice was a little shaky. He told me how proud he was. He was probably thinking about it more than I was. He knows how cool an experience it is for his son to be in that situation. Like a dream come true.
“He was more emotional than I’ve ever heard him.”
The conventional story line is that Thursday was the best All-Star announcement day for the Warriors’ franchise in 19 years, since 1995. That was the last time they had a player voted in by fans as a starter. Sure, the fan vote is a league gimmick, but it is also a barometer of a team’s popularity and importance.
In truth, the Warriors had an even longer wait. Thursday, when Curry earned more votes than any other backcourt player, was actually the best day since 1992, when Chris Mullinwas voted in as a starter.
That’s because Curry is more than just an All-Star-caliber player. He’s the face of the franchise. A player the Warriors have built around and will continue to centerpiece.
“It’s a win for the good guys,” head coach Mark Jackson said. “He deserves this. He’s a better person than a basketball player.”
Curry, 25, is the kid who got constantly overlooked and underestimated. The regular-sized human in a league of giants, David shooting threes over Goliath on a nightly basis. He’s also a player who understands the big picture, a great ambassador for the sport and the team, a young man who makes his franchise – like his dad – swell with pride.
That wasn’t the case with Latrell Sprewell in 1995. The Warriors’ last All-Star starter was an immense talent but was a contentious member of an imploding team. One who had already come to blows with teammates and alienated others. Who, after his daughter was mauled by his pit bull three months before he was voted an All-Star, was weirdly unemotional (“That stuff happens”). Who would choke his coach two years later and have his contract voided.
Sprewell was not a player you could build around. Instead he became an emblem of the curse of the Warriors. Of everything going horribly wrong.
Then, many years later, along came Curry. The anti-Sprewell. A Boy Scout with ice in his veins. The sign of blue skies ahead.
The 1,047,281 votes that Curry received are partially thanks to the ballot-stuffing prowess of Bay Area fans (hello, Buster Posey!), but also from national recognition. Curry received just 169,083 votes a year ago. The extra 900,000 votes are the result of his play last season after the All-Star snub, including big moments on the national stage and his elevation in the playoffs. And also because Curry is a player fans can relate to, someone they’re eager to see. He’s wildly popular, not just at home but on the road.
All the Warriors have noticed it.
“Yeah, especially when the fans push us out of the way to try to get to Steph,” Jackson said. “It is a humbling experience.”
–Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle
Now that 49ers fans (well, some of them) have moved on past last week’s bitter playoff defeat, we can all get excited about watching the Super Bowl.
In fact, if you like the way football is played today, you should definitely enjoy the Super Bowl as much as possible. Because the game is going to change over the next decade or two — in ways we probably still don’t fathom. That’s because the issue over concussions and player safety is not going away.
My chief witness on this subject is Leigh Steinberg. You surely know his name. He’s the famed sports agent on whose career the film “Jerry Maguire” was based. Last year, Steinberg wrote a magazine piece for Forbes about how “the looming specter of concussion consequences puts the future of the sport at risk.”
Steinberg is not backing down from that notion, even as the NFL has shown itself again to be not just America’s most popular sport but also the nation’s most popular television show. Sunday night football ratings topped “American Idol” and all other prime-time programming. Playoff game viewership is through the roof.
So how’s the game at risk?
“What will happen is, football won’t die,” Steinberg said this week. “But the socio-economic demographics of the game will change, so that the same people who play will be those people who choose to box and pursue other such sports.”
The focus on football’s “concussion crisis” has centered on football at the NFL level. Steinberg, though, is peeling back the issue to the youth and high school levels. The frightening new information about the way football can damage the brains of young people is scaring the wits out of moms and dads from coast to coast.
The response, Steinberg says, will be that those parents in upper- and middle-class homes will steer their kids toward less injury-prone sports. Ultimately, the pool of football players will be less diverse and full of more desperation. That won’t be healthy for anyone, on several levels. And it could seriously harm the game’s public appeal.
Steinberg calls this “the existential threat to football.” And whether you agree with him or not, it’s refreshing to have his voice so solidly back in the game. After well-documented struggles with substance abuse and a successful path back to sobriety, Steinberg is once more fully engulfed in the sports representation world.
– Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News
Heard enough of Richard Sherman?
There will be more – Sherm The Shouter is just warming up. Prepare for an avalanche of sound bites from the Seahawks cornerback next week in the lead-up to the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.
We’ve unearthed the roots to why Sherman seems to lead the free world in trash talking.
His father. True story.
Kevin Sherman drove a garbage truck on some of the worst streets of Los Angeles County. He’d park his ride outside his son’s bedroom window, idling at 3:45 in the morning, a reminder of his hard labor.
Sherman was motivated to have a better life. He was second in his graduating class at Dominguez High School in Compton, missing the top honor by a fraction, and it still fuels him. Had he been tops in his class, Sherman would have spoken at his graduation as the valedictorian. He’s been chirping since.
Sherman played angry at Stanford, and he competes with rage now.
There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by a cause, but sometimes athletes’ words are too much. We’ve heard too many athletes at all levels – high school, college and professional – spout this tired line after a victory: “No one thought we’d do it.”
– Joe Davidson, Sacramento Bee