Stephen Curry's hard road to stardom

Stephen Curry's hard road to stardom
February 14, 2014, 7:45 am
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Stephen Curry is averaging 24.6 points, 9.0 assists and 37.7 minutes per game for the Warriors this year. (USATSI)

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NEW ORLEANS -- They all love him now. They all praise him in hindsight.

They all watch Stephen Curry and marvel at what he has become: the first Warrior to start an NBA All-Star Game in 19 years -- garnering more than 1 million votes -- and the most popular guard in the league.

Curry's father, former NBA guard Dell Curry, remembers what it was like a few years ago, when his oldest son wasn't so popular. When the college recruiters would glance at Steph, shrug and walk away.

"He was 6-foot, 145 (pounds) out of high school," the elder Curry says. "He had good skills, could shoot the ball, could always pass and dribble but got pushed around a lot. He was not real physical, hadn't grown into his body. His game was far beyond what his body type was.

"A lot of recruiters and a lot of coaches looked at that and thought, 'He's a good player, but because of his size he just can't play on our level.'"

Well, now, this weekend, barely four years after his NBA debut and seven after he reluctantly accepted a scholarship at Davidson College, Curry will play on the highest possible level. He'll start at point guard for the Western Conference All-Star team. He'll also participate in the 3-point shootout.

[RELATED: Check out Curry's 'Voodoo' All-Star shoes | jersey]

Three inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and countless hours of practice later, everybody knows. Curry is here partly because of genetics -- Dell was a terrific shooter -- but mostly because he developed an edge that was further sharpened by rejection.

Stephen recalls "not getting the ACC looks" and even being criticized coming out of Davidson. Yes, he was a collegiate star. But it was, well, Davidson. Was he big enough? Fast enough? Tough enough? He heard it and felt it. The doubt of others clung to him, seeping inside, settling in his gut.

"He didn't have a chip (on his shoulder)," Dell says, "but it was a motivational tool."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is among the college coaches that ignored Curry now longs to coach him with Team USA. Coach K says he blew it. That's not true. Truth is, he saw what he saw and wasn't impressed. He didn't imagine what Curry would become.

How could he? How could anybody? Even Dell wasn't sure.

"After his freshman year in college, I thought maybe he had a chance to be a professional player," Dell Curry says. "I didn't know whether here or overseas.

"But I don't think anybody could have envisioned where he is at right now."

Stephen Curry grew up watching his dad play, even attended All-Star Weekends with Dell, who never was selected to the team but participated in several 3-point shooting contests. He was just the skinny son, along for the show.

Now 25, Stephen Curry is an NBA star, the engine that drives the Warriors and a popularity that exceeds their credentials.

Miami superstar LeBron James says Steph is "the best shooter the NBA will see."

Heat star Dwyane Wade says, "There's nothing you can do when that guy is on fire."

Coaches around the league simply rave about Curry's shooting and some have noticed that, um, he also leads the league in assists per game.

[RELATED: Stephen Curry career stats | game logs]

Warriors coach Mark Jackson inherited Curry from Don Nelson, who saw what Krzyzewski did not see. Nelson, who coached a young Steve Nash, visualized Curry as capable of taking that same path.

Curry also sees the parallels with Nash, particularly the small school stigma, the modest athleticism and the insane work ethic.

Jackson, the beneficiary, sees on a nightly basis the evolution of Curry. Jackson knows his story and has an appreciation for it.

"I'm truly blessed and honored to have the opportunity to coach him," Jackson says. "I'm thrilled to death with the success that he's able to experience, the recognition that he's been able to acquire. Well deserved."

Curry says he hasn't arrived, and he's right. No truly ambitious star athlete arrives until he adds championship jewelry to his personal trophy collection. Steph is working on that.

Meanwhile, he has not forgotten where he came from.

"I'm blessed," he says diplomatically, "to have gone through some ups and downs."