He transcends his sport, his name synonymous with incredible talent in an unimposing physique and an image so wholesome that even now, nearly a decade into a soaring NBA career, some question its authenticity.
Where does Stephen Curry, comfortable with his celebrity and armed with a contract worth more than $200 million, take his star?
Does he fall into the benign complacency that defined Michael Jordan during his fabulous career? Does Curry take more of a David Robinson route and focus primarily on a specific element -- education -- in hopes of making a difference? Does he choose the Magic Johnson approach, investing in communities often shunned by the wealthy?
Or might Curry follow the path of the late Arthur Ashe -- who spoke softly, sensibly and with absolute dignity on human rights -- and stick his toes a wee bit deeper into the treacherous sea of sociopolitical activism?
The global impact door, and its floor, is as open to a sports superstar now as it may ever be. And here is Curry, an athlete of such universal adoration and insane national popularity that everywhere he goes folks hang on his mere presence. A generation after kids wanted to be like Mike, the young dream of emulating Steph.
Curry senses this. Moreover, he is affected by it. One month after becoming the highest-paid team athlete in American history, with an average annual salary of $40.2 million over the next five years, his mind is filled with relevant questions about his next steps, including one that speaks of his well-documented selflessness and clear understanding of his status:
How can I help others?
Curry’s concern along those lines was apparent this week in Walnut Creek during his SC30 Select camp for some of the nation’s top prep players.
“I don’t want to get too deep into it, but for the last couple years I’ve been trying to figure out how I can make the most impact off the court, on a consistent and impactful basis going forward,” Curry said.
“Obviously keying in on the Bay Area, specifically, to hopefully leave a lasting impact for all the good that has happened in my life and to my family since I’ve been here over the last eight years, and over the next five to really impact the community for the better,” he added. “And use my platform -- not only just dollars -- but my platform and connections and ideas to make that happen.
“The contract does put more of a responsibility on myself to make that happen. And I’m obviously aware of that.”
Curry, 29, already has created and supported numerous charities and causes that help the less fortunate, including his Nothing But Nets campaign, the Animal Rescue Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and work with the NBA Cares program. The 2013-14 NBA Community Assist award winner, he is scheduled to participate in the fourth annual Athletes vs. Cancer flag football game this week in Burbank.
Oh, there is plenty more that stands as testimony to Curry’s character and intentions. For five years running, he personally appeared at an Oakland church to provide food and more for hundreds of underprivileged families through the Feed The Children foundation. We’re but a few months removed from Curry auctioning off two pairs of autographed shoes for $45,201, with every cent going to survivors of the December 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
Make-A-Wish? Of course, as well as seriously ill children unaffiliated with that particular foundation.
We know where Curry’s heart is. We see it all the time.
We also know Curry will go nowhere near the naked self-absorption that trapped Floyd Mayweather, or the willful isolation that often separated Barry Bonds as he smashed the game of baseball. Curry is too committed to his faith to allow himself to fall victim to such vanity.
What we don’t yet know -- and what he himself is trying to determine -- is how involved and on what scale. How far does he wish to extend his reach?
Though Curry tends to be careful with his public comments, he will speak out on issues about which he feels strongly. He has, for instance, made it clear he is not a fan of the current president. He has expressed his dismay with the so-called “bathroom bill” in his home state of North Carolina.
The implication, for now, is that Curry, for now, is thinking first of the area he calls home. It’s where his star took flight. It’s his comfort zone. He is a spectacular basketball player who goes beyond the game yet yearns to do even more.
“I have a great team around me that’s going to help me do that,” Curry said. “There’s a huge opportunity and potential to not only win championships and give our fans amazing memories, but also do some really, really good in the community -- more than I’ve done up until this point.”
Curry’s everyman appeal and common touch allows virtually unlimited influence. He will be involved. He will help people. We’re about to discover just how much.