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The 2015 Game Haus Sportsman of the Year

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 4: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors speaks at the KIA 2014-15 Most Valuable Player Player Award Press Conference on May 4, 2015 at Oakland, California. Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 4: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors speaks at the KIA 2014-15 Most Valuable Player Player Award Press Conference on May 4, 2015 at Oakland, California. Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Winning awards has become something of a commonplace for most professional athletes. They were usually multi-sport athletes in high school, typically excelling at anything they tried. They’ve won a lot of trophies. They’ve been nominated to a seemingly unlimited supply of all-star teams and won first team all-league, all-district, or even all-state. Most professional athletes have had careers filled with nothing but success. Most professional athletes received scholarships from countless colleges and universities. They’ve been on top of the world for their entire life.

Some athletes, however, lead many different upbringings. Some stars fight their way through the challenges of being a foreign player, like Steve Nash from Canada. Some stars fought through a tough time in academics, like Karl Malone after being ineligible his freshman year of college and missing the opportunity to play at big schools. Willis Reed, also a former MVP, couldn’t find a scholarship because of unwillingness to allow black athletes to play in the south. They all had to overcome obstacles to get to where they ended up, NBA MVPs.

Still, others have to fight a different battle. The eye test. This is essentially the gut instinct of every recruiter in all athletics. Does the player look the part, feel like a star, or have the passion needed? Often recruits will lose out because they fail in at least one of those areas. That’s the case for Steph Curry.

Curry was undersized and baby-faced. At 6-foot-1 on a good day, he doesn’t look like an elite talent in basketball. With the face of a 14-year old, he doesn’t have that killer stare like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, he’s not going to scare a kid on the playground. But what revisionist history now teaches us is that gut instinct so many recruiters had been entirely wrong.

The Baby-Face Bomber
Curry came from an NBA-background. His father, Dell Curry, was a prolific three-point shooter. Playing on five different teams, he would finish 40 percent from beyond the arch. In 1998-99, he led the NBA shooting 48 percent from deep. His younger brother, Seth Curry, would eventually be a highly sought after recruit. He would attend Duke University and is now in the NBA playing for the Sacramento Kings. But you would think he was the one that attended Davidson College, not his older brother. Seth has bounced around since coming to the NBA and hasn’t made much of an impact. A former star from Duke, he had huge expectations. For his older brother to be the star, you would’ve thought he was a former Blue Devil as well. You would have thought that he had once dominated D-I schools and had been the star everyone wanted. But he wasn’t.

When Steph Curry came out of high school, he had wanted to play at Virginia Tech. That’s where his father played, that’s where he wanted to go. But he says that he never received an offer from the Hokies. There was hardly anyone who wanted him. Curry played his high school ball in North Carolina, right in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke, UNC, Va Tech, so on and so forth. They all turned a blind eye to the deep threat.

Only one school from the Carolina’s really saw what value the young baby face had, Davidson.

Bob McKillop, head coach at Davidson, told Yahoo Sports that at a booster luncheon he said, “Wait until you see Stephen Curry.”

Curry spent his three years at Davidson making ACC teams look silly for passing up on him. Credit: Dave Hogg
Curry spent his three years at Davidson making ACC teams look silly for passing up on him. Credit: Dave Hogg

Curry continued to have hope that someone in the ACC would fall in love with him. He wanted to play near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and those ACC schools were all so perfect.

Nobody fell in love. Nobody saw the diamond that was Steph Curry.

He continued to hope, and would ultimately never get the offer. Most schools didn’t even want Curry to walk-on. They just didn’t see much in such a short, skinny rail of a basketball player.

With the location of Davidson in North Carolina it gave them an extra boost and eventually, in November of 2005, Curry would commit to the Wildcats. He never thought about backing out, and he would move to prove himself at the college level. It may have been the chip on his shoulder that pushed him to where he is today.

The Run to the Elite Eight and the NBA

The college career Curry put together was incredible. He would increase his point totals in each of his three years, from 21-points-per game to 28-points-per game as a junior. It all culminated in his sophomore year when Curry would lead the Wildcats to a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Curry would will the team, along with putting himself in the national spotlight, all the way to the Elite Eight with wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. They were a close two points away from upsetting eventual champion, Kansas, and advancing to the Final Four.

That run featured Curry’s 30-point second half against Gonzaga to erase an 11-point halftime deficit. He scored only five first half points against Georgetown and the team trailed by as many as 17 points. A 25-point explosion in the second half led them past the Hoyas. He would then score 33 against Wisconsin and become only the fourth player to score 30+ in their first four NCAA Tournament games.

Curry would be named second-team All-American, and won the Most Outstanding Player of the Mid West Region, becoming the first player to win the award without making the Final Four since 1994.

His encore came in his junior season when he would average 28.6 points per game. The team would fall in its conference tournament and miss the NCAA Tournament. But Curry was named a consensus First Team All-American as he led the nation in scoring.

He would forgo his senior season and make the move for the NBA.

The Warriors Take a Gamble

With the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors selected the second generation three-point wizard. He would sign a deal worth $12.7 million over four years.

Curry would finish second in rookie of the year voting and was a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie First Team.

In 2010-11, Curry would win the All-Star Skills Challenge as well as the NBA Sportsmanship Award for the athlete who most exemplified the idea of sportsmanship on the court. He would break the Warriors record for free throw shooting, converting on 93.4 percent of his attempts.

In 2011-12, the lockout year, Curry would battle through an ankle injury and have a tough year. He would play in less than half of the teams games.

Still baby-faced and without playoff experience, Curry gave signs of his ability as a rookie for Golden State. Courtesy: IBGM
Still baby-faced and without playoff experience, Curry gave signs of his ability as a rookie for Golden State. Courtesy: IBGM

He agreed to an extension of his rookie deal on OCT. 31, 2012. Another four years, $44 million. The 2012-13 season would be the year that Curry started to arrive. He dropped 54-points in a losing effort against the New York Knicks in February while draining 11 three-pointers, the NBA record was 12. He would finish the season by breaking Ray Allen’s three-pointers made record with 272, topping the record by three.

The team made the playoffs as a six-seed and would win the first series over the Denver Nuggets before losing in six to the San Antonio Spurs. It would be valuable playoff experience for what was to come.

The following season Curry played well once again. He would be named to the All-NBA Second Team. But his team would lose to the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs.

It would be the final year that we looked at Stephen Curry as a good player.

The Ascent To Greatness

The 2014-15 NBA season would turn out to be one for the ages. LeBron James is one of the greatest players we have ever watched. And now James was back at home with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was returning to bring a championship to his hometown after learning about playoff basketball, and winning two championships, with the Miami Heat.

It was supposed to be James’ year. It was supposed to be at least. Until a baby-faced assassin arrived on scene to claim his crown.

Curry would have one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. He became the fastest player to 1,000-three-pointers, in fact, he did it in 88-fewer games (369) than the previous quickest (Dennis Scott). He beat James in All-Star votes, being named the top vote-getter. He won the NBA Three-Point Challenge, beating teammate Klay Thompson among others.

Curry finished the year with 286 three’s, breaking his own record of 272 made three’s he set two years prior. He led the NBA in made three pointer’s for the third straight year (and currently leads this season).

On May 4, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He led the NBA in three’s, free throw percentage, and steals with 163. Most stars focus on offense, not Curry.

Curry and teammate Klay Thompson have become known as the "Splash Brothers," thanks to their three point ability. Courtesy: The Big Lead
Curry and teammate Klay Thompson have become known as the “Splash Brothers,” thanks to their three point ability. Courtesy: The Big Lead

On May 13, he became the fastest player with 100-made-three’s in the playoffs, needing only 28 games to reach the mark. He bested Ray Allen’s mark of 35-games. He became the only player with six steals and six three’s in a playoff game.

Curry would advance the team to the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets and fellow star James Harden. Curry would maneuver the series while setting a record for most three-pointers in a single playoffs making his 59th three. It took him only 13 games. Reggie Miller, the previous record holder, needed 22 games to make 58 in 2000.

The team would advance to the finals to play James’ Cavaliers. It started off looking bad as the Warriors would get behind 2-1 after three games. But they would rally to win three straight in convincing fashion. The Warriors won 103-82, 104-91, and closed game six out with a 105-97 victory over the Cavs.

Curry finished with 42.5 minutes per game shooting 44 percent from the field. He averaged 26 points, 6.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game over the course of the six-game series.

He was unable to secure the NBA Finals MVP; that award went to Andre Iguodala. However, he left his mark on the Finals and was able to dethrone James and end the year that was supposed to be his.

This season Curry is already off to a fury of a pace. The team is 23-0, an NBA record for a start to the season, and looks poised to continue the run. They are chasing the Bulls all-time best season of 72-10. That mark is daunting but appears reachable for a team that went 67-15 last season.

Chef Curry is leading the charge as he goes for his second MVP. He’s shooting 53 percent from the field and has the most field goals and three-point field goals made and attempted. He’s on pace for over 400 made three pointers; nobody has ever touched 300. Paul George has made 69 three’s; he’s in second, Curry has made 119. Curry owns the record with 286 last season. He’s attempting an insane amount of three’s, but it’s made his percentage better; he’s shooting over 46 percent from deep this season, last year he shot 44 percent. He’s second in the association with 52 steals (Kyle Lowry has 57). He’s ninth in assists with 138. And lastly, he leads James Harden by 115 points for the scoring title, with 741.

The pace Curry is on this year could see him win, not only the MVP but most improved player as well. He’s got better since last year.

*All Stats for 2015-16 are as of 12/9/15

Steph Curry is on a tear for the Warriors in '15 as his career continues to trend upwards. Credit: Noah Salzman
Steph Curry is on a tear for the Warriors in ’15 as his career continues to trend upwards. Credit: Noah Salzman

Curry Gives Back

Often celebrities give back to their communities and the world. Curry is no different. Unlike some athletes, Curry’s giving is more covert. He doesn’t push a big PR campaign most of the time. But he’s been a consistent giver since joining the association.

Curry gives to three predominant charities according to the website “look to the stars,” which monitors celebrity charitable works.

The Animal Rescue Foundation, Nothing But Nets, and United Nations Foundation are the three charitable works that can be pinned down on his résumé.

Nothing But Nets is a foundation in which Curry has long pledged to give three, life-saving, malaria nets to the UN Foundation for every three-pointer he makes. That’s quite a few nets! This has been something Curry has been passionate about for a long time.

“Nets aren’t just used in sports – they can save lives,” said Chris Helfrich, director of Nothing But Nets. “I’m thrilled Stephen continues to inspire others to join him to protect refugees from malaria. He has witnessed firsthand how devastating this disease is to their families.”

He has also co-hosted a golf outing with his family to support the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, NC.

One of the more publicized events of Curry’s career came last season when Curry wore Deah Barakat’s name on his sneakers during the NBA three-point contest.

The Warriors snapped a close up of Curry's sneakers. Credit: GS Warriors
The Warriors snapped a close up of Curry’s sneakers. Credit: GS Warriors

Barakat was a victim of the Chapel Hill shooting and a huge Curry fan. Being so close to home in North Carolina, Curry took this to heart. Barakat wore Curry’s number 30 on his intramural basketball team. Curry found out about the tragedy via the family reaching out and making him aware of Barakat’s fandom. He said that he hoped the television cameras would catch the name as he took center stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Barakat described himself as “an aspiring splash brother,” the nickname Curry and fellow three-point specialist and teammate Klay Thompson has garnered for the numerous “splashes” they make while raining three’s during games.

Curry would send the shoes to the family after winning the three-point title during the All-Star festivities. He used his platform for good. Typically he would write bible versus on his shoes, but when he found out about the tragedy and that the young man was a fan, he found a way to make that family have a sense of hope. People were listening, people cared. Curry used his platform to help ease the pain on a family during a tragedy.

Curry's tweet to the family of Deah Barakat.
Curry’s tweet to the family of Deah Barakat.

The Curry Craze

Curry signed an extension through 2024 to stay with Under Armour. They took the gamble on Curry two years ago, outspending Nike as the “just do it” franchise couldn’t just give Curry a $4 million deal. The best $4 million bet a company has taken in a while as it turns out. The new deal hasn’t been disclosed, but it does include part ownership in the company. That’s a good thing for Curry seeing as he has UA sitting at a record high on the stock market. Curry’s debut shoe, the Curry 1, has helped bring about a record high of $153 million in shoe sales in the last quarter, up 40 percent since his debut hit the shelves. With the Curry 2 fresh out, and love of Curry only increasing, that number should continue the upward ascent. The company projected shoe sales would account for 22 percent of its projected $7.5 billion in sales next year. When Curry signed the deal, he said that Under Armour felt like family, much like Davidson, they were the only one’s who really wanted him.

On playgrounds everywhere kids are lofting three’s, trying to find a quicker release like Curry, while wearing his blue and yellow shoes. They aren’t trying to dunk anymore. Most kids know they’ll never be LeBron James, but they can visualize themselves as Steph Curry. Why? Because he’s barely 6-foot-tall. He isn’t freakishly athletic. He’s got a baby face. He can’t give you the death stare like Bryant or Jordan. He chews on his mouthpiece, never keeping it his mouth. He is a “Splash Brother,” not a “King.” He’s the kid we can all be with enough practice. Hit three’s, learn how to pass it with exceptional preciseness, be a team player, and be fun. Everyone gets it. There’s little mystery to what Curry is. But at the same time. There is. In theory we can all learn how to pass well or nail three’s, it’s repetition, right? But why can’t we all do it? Because it takes incredible talent.

While it’s easy to see why James is so good, it’s a little more difficult to understand Curry. He’s the mystery man that you have to think about to comprehend. Steph Curry is a legend in the making. He’s just close enough to an average man that it makes us feel closer to him. But he’s closer to superhuman than you give him credit.

Go to a junior high basketball game, there are more Curry’s than James’. There are kids chewing mouthpieces and hoisting three’s. Not a lot who are flying to the rim and banging blocks off the backboard. There are more steals than highlight dunks. These fundamental things are now at center stage thanks to Curry. It’s cool to be fundamentally sound.

Don’t get me wrong, dunking and physical prowess will always have its place in basketball. I doubt we see a rash of barely 6-foot-1 basketball players take over the NBA. But that’s the beauty of the whole thing. There is only one Steph Curry.

It’s with great pleasure we announce Stephen Curry as the 2015 Game Haus Sportsman of the Year. 

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