The secret to Stephen Curry's stardom

Watch all 54 of Stephen Curry's points at MSG

The secret to Stephen Curry's stardom
February 28, 2014, 11:30 am
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Last year at Madison Square Garden, Stephen Curry scored 54 points, making 11 of 13 three-pointers. (USATSI)

Programming note: Warriors-Knicks coverage tips off today at 4:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

From long-distance shots going up in a variety of trajectories and dropping in from multiple angles, to the exuberant head-shaking and full-body shimmying, the memories won't fade. We never, ever forget the sight of a star being born.

Stephen Curry's express rise to stardom began 366 days ago, when he stepped upon basketball's most fabled stage and delivered a command performance that energized America's biggest city. New York was abuzz about the baby-faced kid from California.

Curry began the night of Feb. 27, 2013 as an amazing shooter, respected by players and coaches throughout the NBA and beyond. By the time the Warriors point guard left Madison Square Garden, though, he was so much more. Upon Curry's return to the Garden on Friday night, when the Warriors face the Knicks, anything less than the spectacular will be disappointing. The people want a show. The people always want a show.

[REWIND: Breakdown: Curry's 54-point night]

And the people also know that no matter what LeBron James or Kevin Durant might deliver, there is no show quite like Curry's. There is absolutely no package that compares, which is why over the past year, he has evolved from pure shooter to transcendent sports figure -- all without getting even halfway to a championship.

For as much as Curry's appeal is connected to his shooting and to the relative success of his team, there are other components that set him apart from so many of his NBA brethren -- first and foremost being his underdog status.

We love underdogs, and as a "little" man in a big man's league Curry qualifies. Even if you don't know the backstory -- lightly recruited out of high school, forced to attend a small college for a full three years, greeted by skepticism by draft experts -- you surely see the slight body and the baby face. And you likely know, and understand, why he has had to battle being labeled "fragile."

We marvel at LeBron's combination of size and speed and quickness, knowing it's unprecedented. We gawk at KD's elongated physique and elastic body, the way he shrinks the court. We remember Michael and Magic and Larry and Charles and Hakeem, all of whom became famous for performing feats that defy typical human capability.

Curry, by contrast, falls well within the range of normal human capability. He's not particularly fast or strong or quick. He doesn't have an absurd vertical leap. There is no awe to his physique; his legs are thin, his shoulders ordinary. He's 6-foot-3, wears a size 13 shoe and is able to walk into Macy's and buy off the rack.

Curry is, well, Just Like Us -- except he can shoot the rock like nobody else.

Though surely blessed with genetics -- his father, Dell, was a superb shooter during his NBA career -- Steph is a product of his own inner drive, his unyielding need to excel. He is, in a sense, Jeremy Lin -- only able to sustain the sensational for years, rather than weeks.

Less than one year after his Night at the Garden, which came two weeks after he was left off the All-Star team, Curry received more votes than any guard in the 2014 All-Star balloting.

Credit his stellar work on the court. Credit his underdog status and mentality. Credit his humility and likeability. The factors are many, but the formal introduction of Stephen Curry came under the brightest lights and biggest banks of cameras.

Madison Square Garden is not Curry's home. It is, and always will be, the birthplace of his stardom.

 

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