That was then.
This is now: LeBron James twice bounced out of Cleveland. Kevin Durant is on his third team, as is James Harden. Tom Brady left New England. Aaron Rodgers wants to leave Green Bay. Staying is not particularly fashionable.
Nine superstars, four in the Hall of Fame, five on the way. Every one of them, by rule or voluntarily, experienced a detour.
Which brings us to Stephen Curry.
He is 12 years deep into his career with the only NBA franchise he has known. No superstar in the league is so permanent. The belief is that the franchise brain trust appreciates his presence, that if it were allowed, CEO Joe Lacob and team president Bob Myers would present a contract in which Curry not only signs but also fills in the amount and the number of years.
As it is, all the Warriors can offer Curry this summer is four years at $215.4 million. A discount, in effect.
“I don’t see any reason not to be optimistic,” Myers said this week. “He seems like he’s motivated, we’re motivated. I would say pretty confident we’ll get something done.”
As well they should. No active athlete in American sport is more deserving than Curry because none has done more for a franchise.
Curry has been consistent in saying he wants to be a Warrior for life. He knows what it means and realizes how rare it is. Dirk Nowitzki will enter the Hall of Fame after 21 years in the NBA, all with the Dallas Mavericks. Tim Duncan entered the Hall this month after 19 years in the league, all with the San Antonio Spurs. And, of course, the late Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted, in the same class as Duncan, after 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
No doubt this resonated with Curry. He surely took note, particularly regarding Kobe. (Check his Twitter profile pic.)
Curry means more to the Bay Area than Kobe did to greater LA. The Lakers have been the most beloved sports team in LA since Magic Johnson’s arrival initiated the “Showtime” era. Kobe was the next generation, taking the Lakers back to the top. And, boy, is he revered. Sixteen months after his tragic death, SoCal continues to grieve.
But Curry is the key presence that lifted a franchise out of the mud. In the pre-Steph decades, fans were ecstatic if the Warriors made the playoffs. Post-Steph, if the Warriors aren’t winning 70 percent of their games, fans are griping about roster composition and coaching decisions.
For all the finances arranged by Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber, and all the backroom machinations required of former COO Rick Welts, Chase Center wouldn’t be there if the Warriors still were on the fringe of the league. It stands because the Warriors suddenly became so fashionable that even stubborn San Francisco knocked down barriers and cleared a path.
A Curry statue won’t be enough. Curry should have a job with the Warriors for as long as he likes, whether active or retired. I’ve heard that’s a possibility.
If the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame ceremony of 11 days ago were held within 100 miles of Los Angeles, there wouldn’t be a venue large enough to properly convey the region’s love for Kobe. They couldn’t build one, either, as not even Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has visualized a stadium that can accommodate 10 million.
The Buss family, representing Lakers ownership, understood the presence and significance of Kobe. Though there were moments when Kobe had opportunities to go elsewhere, he never really wanted to leave. And ownership, even during the wayward years, wouldn’t dare incite the violence sure to follow if he had been traded.
The Warriors are a smart group. They know the value of the gift they inherited. Curry is a certified civic treasure. Through good times and bad – see the last two seasons – he has been beyond loyal. If they make the right moves this summer, Curry can exhale, knowing wasted seasons are a thing of the past.
When an athlete and fans of the team stay together through times good and bad, sharing the best and worst moments, all the joy and heartbreak, it forms a beautiful eternal bond. It’s Jeter in New York, Timmy in San Antonio, Dirk in Dallas, Kobe in LA.
It’s Steph in The Bay.
A glance around the American sports landscape would reveal Curry is a member of a vanishing breed, a winner of multiple MVP awards a dozen seasons into his career without once casting a wandering eye toward another town.
One more way in which this dude is special.