Stephen Curry’s NBA career outpaced his father Dell’s long ago.
Even before the Golden State Warriors legend won his fourth NBA title and first Finals MVP award on Thursday in Boston, Dell Curry’s eldest son was known to be the best basketball player in the family: Better than brother Seth, a Brooklyn Nets guard, better than brother-in-law and Warriors teammate Daimon Lee, and even better than dad, the former sharpshooting guard who helped popularize the 3-point shot in the 1990s.
‘He’s definitely better than I was,’ Dell Curry told GQ in 2016. ‘I had a two-dribble limit. He’s probably best off the dribble. His range is definitely farther than mine was. But it’s a different NBA. I would never take 35-foot 3-pointers with 17 seconds on the shot clock.’
But while Stephen’s Hall of Fame career outshines Dell’s 16-year tenure, the humble, role-playing father was very much his basketball inspiration.
‘I saw my dad and how he carried himself as a professional and it helped me transition into the NBA,’ Curry told an audience on a promotional tour in 2018.
Stephen Curry poses for pictures alongside his father, Dell, as well as the Larry O’Brien and Bill Russell trophies
(From left) Dell Curry of the Charlotte Hornets and his son Stephen Curry sit with Mitch Richmond of the Sacramento Kings and Drazen Petrovic of the New Jersey Nets as former NBA player and then-Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson looks on from behind
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dell Curry drives into the lane against Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird in 1988
Stephen was born in the same Akron, Ohio hospital as the city’s favorite son, LeBron James. At the time, in 1988, Dell was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but would go on to make a name for himself with the Hornets in the 1990s while winning NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors.
Dell ultimately finished his career in Toronto, where Stephen would often be seen hoisting up shots alongside his father and younger brother Seth at what was then known as the Air Canada Centre.
The family, along with mother Sonya and sister Sydel, moved back to the Charlotte area after Dell’s retirement in 2002, and Seth became a high school standout at a local Christian school with eyes on following in his father’s footsteps to Virginia Tech. (Sydel is now married to Warriors guard Daimon Lee, while Sonya has recently filed for divorce from Dell)
The problem was, for all of his shooting ability, Curry’s release point was far too low for the college game. A shot coming from his waist could easily blocked by taller players in the NCAA, so the slender, 160-pound guard was forced to rework his shooting form at a time when college recruiters were scrutinizing his chances at the next level.
He and Dell spent the summer before his sophomore year reworking his jumper from the inside out with a seemingly endless regimen of drills. Consequently, Stephen struggled in summer basketball camps.
‘[It was] the most frustrating summer for me,’ Stephen told Sports Illustrated in 2013.
‘I really couldn’t shoot outside the paint for like the first three weeks,’ Stephen continued. ‘All summer when I was at camps people were like, ”Who are you, why are you playing basketball?” I was really that bad for a month and a half [before] I finally figured it out.’
Stephe Curry (center) after being drafted by the Warriors in 2009. He’s pictured alongside his parents, Dell and Sonya, the latter of whom has recently filed for divorce
Dell Curry is best remembered for winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award with the Charlotte Hornets in 1994
Seth Curry (right), who now plays for Brooklyn, has the highest career 3-point percentage in the family (43.9 percent) followed by Stephen (42.7 percent) and father Dell (40 percent)
Curry is pictured after the Warriors clinched the Western Conference Finals alongside his family: Wife Ayesha and children Riley, Ryan and Canon
Curry (left) poses alongside his teammate and brother-in-law, Damion Lee, and his nephew, Daxon Wardell-Xavier Lee
There was also an issue of selfishness with Stephen, or lack thereof. As Dell saw it, his son wasn’t assertive enough with the basketball and was deferring to his teammates too often.
‘He always wanted to make sure his teammates were involved, probably too much so,’ Dell told the Warriors’ local NBC affiliate in May. ‘In high school, we had to get on him to be more selfish with the ball.’
Without much buzz, Stephen was offered only a walk-on spot at Virginia Tech, and ultimately took a scholarship offer from tiny Davidson — an unheralded basketball program surrounded by powerhouses like Duke and the University of North Carolina.
It could have easily been the last anyone heard from the Curry family, but instead, the suddenly 6-foot-3 point guard finally started hitting 3-pointers just like his father before him. First he hit 40.8 percent from deep as a freshman, before improving to a remarkable 43.9 percent as a sophomore while setting an NCAA record for most 3-pointers made in a season (162).
And while his junior year mark of 38.7 percent was a step backwards, he still led the nation in scoring at 28.6 points per game.
It was when Steph was at Davidson that Dell first realized his son’s potential: ‘He was a good shooter. But when he started shooting against the best in the world, that’s when I knew, ”Oh, okay.”’
Curry was seen embracing his wife, Ayesha, after winning his fourth NBA title on Thursday
Stephen Curry was ready for some sleep after winning his fourth NBA title and first Finals MVP
Curry would be picked by the Warriors with the seventh selection of the 2009 NBA Draft, and was soon joined by Klay Thompson, his fellow Splash Brother, as well as Draymond Green and, in 2014, head coach Steve Kerr.
Under Dell’s watchful eye, Stephen has helped revolutionize the game by sinking more 3-pointers than any player in NBA history (3,117), and making the shot an essential piece of every successful team’s arsenal. (Brother Seth has the highest NBA 3-point percentage in the family with a 43.9 percent mark; Warriors coach Steve Kerr holds the all-time record at 45.4 percent).
Steph has eight All-Star selections, two NBA MVP awards, four NBA First Team nods, and is considered by many to be the greatest shooter in NBA history, if not one of the greatest ball handlers as well. And if the awards aren’t impressive enough, he’s also earned $254 million in salary from the Warriors, and has four years and roughly $210 million remaining on his current contract.
Fast forward to Thursday night, when an exhausted, overwhelmed, and relieved Stephen tearfully embraced his father in the final moments of Game 6.
He had scored a team-high 34 points and was on the verge of his first Finals MVP award after the 103-90 Game 6 victory; but even with every camera at Boston’s TD Garden fixated on the future Hall of Famer, Curry found a way to escape the madness for a brief moment.
‘I blacked out for a second,’ Curry, 34, told reporters.
Surrounded by a sea of green-clad Celtics fans, the elder Curry was easy to spot along the baseline with his cigar in hand in preparation for his son’s fourth NBA title.
Steph, who had grown up watching Dell play from the sidelines, has shared these sorts of embraces before, both as the supportive son and later as an NBA champion.
But coming off of two disappointing seasons, the final moments of Thursday’s Game 6 just felt different.
The Warriors dynasty was thought to be derailed after Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn as a free agent in 2019 and Klay Thompson was sidelined for two seasons by a pair of career-threatening injuries. Golden State finished in the NBA’s basement in 2020 and was eliminated in the play-in tournament before the 2021 postseason.
But if his previous three titles proved Seth was a Hall of Famer, his fourth league crown and his first Finals MVP award cemented him as one of the game’s most resilient champions. Longtime teammate Andre Iguodala said Curry has proven he’s ‘best point guard of all-time,’ while head coach, Steve Kerr, characterized the 2022 Finals as Curry’s ‘crowning achievement.’
Those accolades were undoubtedly appreciated, but in his proudest moment, as the final horn sounded on his fourth NBA title, Steph Curry was just happy to be in his father’s arms.
‘You know, out there on the floor, I didn’t even know he was down there, to be honest with you,’ Stephen said. ‘I saw him and I lost it, and I knew the clock was kind of running out. I just wanted to take in the moment because it was that special.’