OAKLAND — There they sat, Warriors general manager Larry Riley and Davidson star guard Stephen Curry.
The interview was part of the pre-draft camp in Chicago in late May. He was a bit concerned, perhaps even nervous. Wanting badly to make a good impression, the questions raced through his head. Is he even interested? Does he even know who I am or how good we can be together?
But the uncertainty, the concern wasn't on the part of the 21-year-old college junior. He had already nailed his first impression. The fret belonged to the 64-year-old first-time NBA executive.
"I did a sales job," Riley said. "I was concerned that he might not be as interested in us as he should be. . . . All the other guys we interviewed, I was asking a lot of questions. We did do a lot of questions (with Curry), but I went in and I made statements. I felt like I was recruiting a college kid for a college team."
Curry is used to people falling all over him. The Warriors not only drafted a star with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's NBA draft, they got a guy who is comfortable with stardom. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound combo guard can bench 185 pounds 10 times, but that's nothing compared to the weight he's aptly carried the past year and a half.
Television and radio interviews. Hanging out with celebrities, such as LeBron James. Photo shoots. People clamoring for his time, attention. People expecting him to come through. That's been normal for Curry since
And his celebrity status is about to take another leap. The pressure is about to clamp down harder.
But one of the reasons the Warriors love him, one of the reasons those close to him aren't the least bit worried, is that Curry seems to be unfazed by it all. On the court and off, he isn't bothered by the popularity or expectations or the challenges.
"That run in the NCAA Tournament, that's big stuff," Riley said. "I understand, you're only playing in front of maybe 6,000 at the Davidson games. But he steps on the big stage at the NCAA Tournament and handles it. Then he goes to Madison Square Garden this year and handles the Garden. He can handle it."
A few things explain Curry's ability to manage the fame. Primarily, his pedigree as the child of a pro athlete gives him the perspective to handle it. Being around his father, Dell, who played 16 seasons and was the 1993-94 Sixth Man of the Year, exposed Curry to the hype, glitz and glamour of the show. He watched his parents juggle the highs and lows of adapting to life as a millionaire in the spotlight.
"I'd say its innate just watching my dad," Curry said. "I've seen media exposure, following him, shadowing him. You see the cameras coming and how he handles it."
He also had parents who gave him a sturdy foundation. His mother, Sonya, always told them — Curry has two younger brothers, Seth and Will, and a younger sister, Sydell — their father's money belonged to their father, meaning they had to get their own career and money one day. They constantly heard words such as "responsibility" and "accountability" and other religious values.
Getting a "B" wasn't celebrated when an "A" was possible. They didn't have to get summer jobs, but they had to be doing something. Usually, it was sports, but they had chores as well.
Another factor was the huge family presence in his life. The Currys, who hail from Charlotte, are the typical southern family — massive and down-to-earth. Curry has no shortage of aunties and uncles, cousins and family friends to keep him grounded.
To them, he isn't the baby-faced Davidson rock star, or the answer to the prayers of NBA franchises such as the Warriors and the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns. He's just Wardell Stephen Curry II.
"He ain't changed one bit," said Warriors second-year guard Anthony Morrow, who has been friends with Curry since the two played against each other while at rival Charlotte high schools. "Not even exaggerating. He is the same Steph from when he was in high school. Great kid."
His mom kept expecting Curry's hat size to increase, expecting for the influence of his growing stardom to surface. But the flock of girls never arrived. He never adopted the flashy style and swagger, still hooked on the comfortable khakis.
"I've been around the NBA," Sonya said, "so I kind of expected at some point for him to give us something to get on him about. And he never did. I think that's when I looked at him and said, 'Wow, he's making it.' That was my barometer of success how well can he handle this. And if he didn't handle it well, then we need to pull out, pull back, figure out something."
No doubt, Curry will need to draw from that foundation.
He's about to be a millionaire (he'll likely get the maximum $5.6 million guaranteed over the first two years, followed by two team options worth $7.1 million total). Plus, the expectations will be through the roof.
The Warriors will likely have, in essence, turned down a chance to get All-NBA power forward Amare Stoudemire so they could keep him. Coach Don Nelson — who is reputed for being tough on rookies — has put Curry ahead of sliced bread, calling him the next best thing since Hall of Fame-bound point guard Steve Nash and predicting Curry's immediate contributions.
"I'm no stranger to pressure and handling that on the big stages," Curry said. "I can take that experience and turn it into confidence going onto the next level. I'm up for the challenge."
Riley has no doubts. He was convinced on Dec. 20, 2008 in Indianapolis.
Wanting to see how Curry did when embedded in difficulty and things weren't going well, Riley went to see Davidson play against Purdue's stifling defense. Curry finished with 13 points on 5-for-26, including 2-for-12 from 3-point range in Davidson's 18-point loss. Riley walked away sold on Curry.
"He never dropped his head through the worst of adversity and did everything he could to try to keep them in it," Riley said. "Some guys go out and make a double-bogey, it ruins their day. Not this guy."
Contact Marcus Thompson II at firstname.lastname@example.org