All-Star vote continues rise of Curry, Warriors

All-Star vote continues rise of Curry, Warriors
January 23, 2014, 8:45 pm
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To have a starter (in the All-Star game) makes a statement on how far the organization has come. We should be extremely proud.
Mark Jackson

Programming note: Timberwolves-Warriors coverage begins Friday at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)

In the hours before the announcement came Thursday afternoon, Stephen Curry's acknowledgment of being more anxious than nervous was just one more indication of how vividly he sees the big picture.

And when the fifth-year Warriors point guard received official word, via TNT telecast, that fans around the world had voted him to start the NBA All-Star game next month in New Orleans, Curry was typically humble and grateful.

"When I saw my name it was . . . a real emotional kind of experience," he said during a conference call from his Oakland home. "I'm glad my wife (Ayesha) and daughter (Riley) were here to watch it with me."

That Curry went from being snubbed last season to receiving more votes (1,047,281) than any other Western Conference guard indicates this is more than one man's climb up his professional ladder. As much as this achievement means for Curry, and it is a career highlight, it's even more consequential for the Warriors.

 

It means the Warriors, primarily through one baby-faced player, have at last achieved a positive and meaningful global presence.

And here in the digital age, that's big enough to touch anybody who works for or roots for the Warriors. It's big enough to reach anyone who cares about basketball.

"To have a starter (in the All-Star game) makes a statement on how far the organization has come," coach Mark Jackson said. "We should be extremely proud."

It has been 19 years since any Warrior was voted into the All-Star Game. That's roughly a generation of invisibility on the international sports marquee. And while some of irrelevance stems from being the only NBA franchise whose geographical identity can't be found on any map, the club invited the era of insignificance by mistreating an irrationally loyal fan base to some historically atrocious basketball.

That is the natural product of egregious ownership/management, misled by the recklessly misguided and frighteningly thoughtless former owner Chris Cohan.

This is the franchise where, shortly after Cohan took control, a brash rookie named Chris Webber clashed with a stubborn coach named Don Nelson, with disastrous results. This is where a tightly wound veteran guard named Latrell Sprewell grabbed and choked a coach named P.J. Carlesimo. This is where a disengaged veteran Mookie Blaylock once skipped a game to hit the golf course. This is the place that delivered 12 consecutive losing seasons, including four in which they lost three of every four games. Coaches were changed as often as most folks change underwear.


And, of course, this is where two owners, a decade apart, were subjected to boos from home crowds. Current co-owner Joe Lacob was blistered for several reasons, not the least of which was the inability to lash out at his inaccessible predecessor.

Curry's face, smooth as a baby's butt, and gorgeous jumper has changed all of that. He has had some help, to be sure. Jackson's presence makes a huge difference. Winning makes a bigger difference. Winning with palatable, marketable players utilizing an uptempo style can be a formula for lasting success.

But it's Curry who drives the new Warriors. It doesn't hurt that he's boyishly handsome, but he's also articulate and gracious and so consistently cordial you wonder if he'll someday embrace his magnitude and allow his ego to sprout wings.

"It means so much because I know Stephen Curry," Jackson said. "I know the work he's put in. I know the tough moments he's had. And he's been an incredible player, an incredible example, an incredible leader.

"He deserves this. He's a better person than he is a basketball player."

Curry was raised in an affluent two-parent home with Christian values. His breadwinning father, Dell, spent 16 seasons in the NBA, gaining a reputation for great outside shooting and being a gentleman. In their father-son conversation Thursday, Stephen heard a rare tone.


"He's not an emotional guy," Stephen said. "(But) when I called him, his voice was a little shaky. I could tell how proud he was. He had probably been thinking about it, probably more than I have."

So, naturally, Curry was more anxious than nervous. He thought he'd be voted in as an All-Star starter but his bedrock principles don't allow haughty presumption, even as the rest of us couldn't imagine him not being voted in.

But I'm not sure anybody projected Steph to sail pass Bryant in the voting – even though Kobe, conceding his sidelined status, openly deflected voters elsewhere.

"To go over a million votes, that's crazy," Curry said. "I have to thank the fans for their support and show them some love, because this is all because of them."

That's the power of a man greeted by skeptics at every step, of overcoming a history of injury, of raining down spectacular 3-pointers under the brightest lights, regular season and playoffs. That's the power of a shooter who charmed China, of a man whose physical vulnerability is as visible as his extraordinary basketball skill proving he can lead a team on the rise.

Stephen Curry is on a journey. He's taking his team with him. Any anxiety should be understood, even appreciated.

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