On November 11, 2009, Stephen Curry was still only 21 years old and just seven frustrating games into his NBA career when everything started going straight to hell.
The Golden State Warriors’ roster had quickly become a petri dish for little more than in-fighting and public displays of frustration. Curry had started the first six games but was benched for the seventh, scored a mere six points in 21 minutes and, according to one beat writer’s observation, “feigned enthusiasm from the bench.” After losing to Indiana on the road, the Dubs were now a lousy 2-5 and headed for an even lousier 26-56 mark that would cost Don Nelson, the all-time winningest coach in NBA history, his job. Stephen Jackson, the biggest single source of discord on that team, said after losing to the Pacers, “It is what it is,” to which that same beat writer elaborated, “What it is could be defined as garbage.”
So Curry tweeted. What else could he do? In a locker room full of overpaid veterans and disgruntled former stars, he was in no position to stand up, grab the wheel and steer to calmer waters. All he could do was send out a promise to the still-growing contingent of Warriors fans who believed, as he did, in a better future. “Promise to all the Warrior fans,” Curry wrote, “we will figure this thing out…if it’s the last thing we do we will figure it out.”
Last night, six years later, Curry delivered on his promise. He had delivered all season (an MVP award) and all the way through the postseason (an all-time record 98 three-pointers). He made shots that seemed impossible and he carried this franchise to its first title in 40 years. He did so while contending with the greatest singular performance in the history of the NBA playoffs. For that, he had Andre Iguodala. For everything else, Curry was a savior, and now he is legend, for all time in the Bay Area. His career legacy, which is swiftly turning toward the end of the spectrum marked legendary, is in full ascension. He is both the last surviving member of that putrid Warriors team from 2009 and the team’s bridge to a lasting dynasty they seem poised to build.
That these Warriors, who might have been the best non-Jordan team in the history of the NBA, managed to take this season by storm and run wire-to-wire as the league’s top dog is an astounding result. The Western Conference was supposed to be a meat grinder for elite teams, but the Dubs emerged almost unscathed, a couple of knocks to the heads for Curry and Klay Thompson notwithstanding. Then, against a Cavs team that quite literally did nothing without LeBron James on the floor, Curry led a charge that neutralized the best player on the planet just enough to keep the Warriors ahead late in enough games to take the title in relatively comfortable fashion. He wasn’t superhuman like LeBron, but his 25 points and 8 assists were more than enough to lead his team in the clincher. Curry was always there when the Warriors needed him. He averaged 14 points per game in the playoffs on three-pointers alone. And a player who can basically drop five threes a night at will on the sport’s most stressful stage is someone who is probably not going to win just one title.
But for now, fans here in the Bay Area are delirious with pride. The Warriors car flags have been protruding from people’s windows for weeks. You can’t walk through a supermarket without seeing someone wearing a yellow STRENGTH IN NUMBERS shirt that the team gives away at every game. This morning, I had to drive around to five stores before I found one with any copies of the San Francisco Chronicle.
I think it resonates deep here because the fans always did believe it would happen; so long as Curry stuck around and was healthy, the hope lived on. And now, six years after his arrival, the promise was fulfilled.
At 3:57 a.m. Pacific time this morning, Curry tweeted again. If he had slept at all after the postgame party, it was barely anything. This time, it wasn’t another promise to be made.
Instead, Curry only tweeted out a long, beautiful string of trophy emojis. No words could do the moment justice, but there was also nothing left to say.