INSIDE STORY: Stephen Curry’s journey to the MVP

Jay Asser 11/05/2015
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Best in the business: Steph Curry blitzes past the New Orleans Pelicans defence last month.

For Charlotte Christian School basketball coach Shonn Brown, evidence of Stephen Curry’s greatness on and off the court didn’t start at the 3-point line. It started in a practice gym on an ordinary weekday.

In Curry’s junior season in high school at Charlotte Christian, Brown held offseason workouts at 06:00 that he labelled PTP – pay the price. If players showed up to every practice, they would get a reward, such as a t-shirt.

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Curry made it to each and every workout, all except one. Brown remembers his former pupil having a good reason to miss the practice, saying he was going to visit his grandmother.

Brown didn’t think much of it, but Curry didn’t let it go. He said he would make up for it and on a day between scheduled workouts, Curry showed up ready at 06:00.

“To be a high schooler saying, ‘coach I want to make this up, I’m going to be there,’ it shows a lot and shows why he’s really successful,” Brown, who coached Curry 2002-2006, told Sport360.

“You can say you’re committed, but for people to know you really have to show it. It said a lot about him as a person and the focus and goal he had in mind.”

From showing up to a workout at the crack of dawn, to showing out on the national stage, Curry is now the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and a household name. Yet no one could have predicted his ascension to basketball’s apex when his journey began.

“He always had a dream to want to play in the NBA,” Brown said. “Who would have ever known that it would be of this magnitude? I don’t think there’s anybody that could have said, ‘Yeah, I could have told you.’”

The son of former NBA player Dell Curry, Stephen was raised around basketball and attended his father’s games. But other than being an assistant on Brown’s staff at Charlotte Christian, Dell didn’t interact with the younger Curry in a coaching capacity.

As easy as it is to overstate the advantages an NBA player’s son receives, Brown believes basketball was never imposed on Stephen and everything he claimed was earned.

“Your parents can want something for you, but if you really don’t want it, then you’re not going to put in the hours upon hours of work and time to make it happen,” Brown said.

“I would definitely credit his parents for saying, ‘If it’s something you want to do, you’re really going to have to work at it.’ His parents were able to provide structure and opportunities for him to play, but I also feel the ball was in his proverbial court where he had to make some decisions and be in the gym every day. It says a lot about his work ethic.”

At Charlotte Christian, Curry didn’t initially make the jump to the varsity team in his freshman year, which hardly is ever the case for a player who goes on to reach the heights he has.

Brown felt it was best to have his young prospect develop and learn how to be the main man, but when Curry finally did get the call up to varsity and was taken to the state tournament, he gave Brown all the proof the coach needed.

“We put him in the game and he comes down, passes it, gets it back and hits a wide-open 3,” Brown said. “I remember looking at my assistant coach and saying, ‘Okay, this is the guy we’re handing the keys to our programme over to.’ We never looked back.”

During his high-school career, Curry was an all-state player as his team took three trips to the state tournament. But when it was time for colleges to come around, Curry was mostly passed over. The school he really wanted to attend – his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech – didn’t offer him a scholarship, but a walk-on spot instead.

There were few college coaches who felt Curry would make a major impact at the next level, but Davidson’s Bob McKillop was Curry’s biggest believer.

“I never thought about what other people thought,” McKillop told Sport360. “I thought what we thought and I thought he had a chance to be one of the great players in Davidson history, and it turned out that way.”

Coming out of high school, Curry’s remarkable shooting was evident, as was his playmaking ability, but where others only saw a thin, physically-limited teenager, McKillop saw more.

“He was resilient and tough as nails. He was thin, he was frail and boyish looking, but if he got knocked to the floor, he bounced up and continued to play,” McKillop said. “He had a remarkable ability to live in the moment and that’s a very special gift for an athlete.”

Curry was everything McKillop envisioned and more, finishing his Davidson career with a scoring average of 25.3 points and 41.2 per cent 3-point shooting.

His three years weren’t without trials, but they mostly featured captivating moments, including something McKillop had never seen before.

In a November meeting with Loyola in Curry’s junior season, the Davidson guard took over the game despite being held scoreless for the first time in his career.

Greyhounds coach Jimmy Pastos employed an out-of-the-box defensive scheme, which had two players guarding Curry at all times as Loyola essentially played four-on-five on one end of the court. The strategy failed as Davidson won 78-48 in a blowout, but Pastos didn’t relent after the game.

“Anybody else ever hold him scoreless?” Pastos said. “I’m a history major. They’re going to remember that we held him scoreless, or we lost by 30?”

Recalling the famous game, McKillop said: “That’s how much Steph would dominate a game, that he would get a coach to be that crazy.”

Having been drafted in 2009, Curry now dominates at basketball’s highest level and his stunning campaign, which included breaking his own record for most 3-pointers in a season with 286, culminated in MVP honours this past week.

He’s done it all from an individual perspective, but his Golden State Warriors, after finishing with a league-best 67 wins in the regular season, find themselves in trouble down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semi-finals. 

Whether Golden State go on to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy or not, McKillop isn’t sure Curry has reached his peak as a player.

“The most extraordinary thing about him is he thinks he is going to get better and will work to get better,” McKillop said. “I was there for the game he broke the 3-point record and he says to me after the game he’s got to do more work on his core and cardio because he was going to have to play 39 to 45 minutes a game in the playoffs after playing 32 in the regular season.

“Here’s a guy after 79 NBA gruelling games, knocking on the door of the MVP, leading his team and he’s thinking about his core and his cardio? Only people who have a destiny of greatness have that kind of attitude about work ethic.”

Stephen Curry has grabbed greatness with a strong hold, even if no one else thought he would.

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#360view: Outrage over NFL's Deflategate

Jay Asser 9/05/2015
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Tom Brady and the Patriots have come under criticism since the release of the Wells report this week.

Tom Brady is a cheater. The New England Patriots are cheaters. That’s the general consensus among NFL followers since the release of the Wells report this week, but it was also the thinking when Deflategate or Ballghazi or whatever you want to call it reared its ugly head back in January after the AFC Championship between New England and the Indianapolis Colts.

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People were so ready to have their initial belief affirmed that all it took was a report with no clear proof and circumstantial evidence that falls short of convincing to call for Brady’s head.

The Wells report itself states in deliberate language that it’s “more probable than not” that Patriots personnel deflated footballs and Brady was “at least generally aware” of it.

After nearly four months and using a whopping 243 pages, the report is fundamentally saying it presumes Brady is guilty based on the evidence gathered. That doesn’t sound so strong.

Spare me the law lesson. Yes, “more probable than not” is the standard for proof in civil cases. It’s also a lower threshold than “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which must be proved for criminal cases. The difference stems from civil liability being considered less blameworthy.

So if we go by the language used by the Wells report, it’s not black and white that Brady and the Patriots are in the wrong. 

There’s room for error, but the majority of people don’t want to take that into account. They want blood.

If someone asked if you wanted to meet for dinner and you felt there’s a 60 per cent chance you could go, but a 40 per cent you would not, you wouldn’t flat out say ‘no, I’m not going’. You would say ‘maybe, but probably not’. So why aren’t Brady and the Patriots being afforded the same grey area?

The answer is Spygate, the scandal in 2007 in which the Patriots were disciplined for illegally videotaping opposing teams. Once you have a strike to your name and have been labelled a cheater, you apparently don’t get any benefit of the doubt.

It doesn’t matter how much Spygate or Deflategate actually resulted in an advantage, they compromised the integrity of the game. Cheating is cheating is cheating.

If we want to go down that road, then fine. Let’s always hold up the integrity of the game, not just when it seems convenient in condemning a franchise that’s been the most successful in football this century.

A player taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Pumping crowd noise through speakers is cheating. Those offences receive their punishments, sure, but in the court of public opinion they’re swept under the rug.

How about we direct our outrage towards players who commit actual heinous crimes and the teams that continue to employ them, instead of focusing so much energy on the bending of rules for a competitive edge?

This is the NFL. It’s a bloodsport for entertainment which has proven over and over again that it lacks the morality we wish existed.

If a low-stakes issue like deflated footballs is what’s going to so collectively grab our attention, we need to rethink our priorities.

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Pope plays basketball with Harlem

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Pope Francis tries a basketball trick as he meets the Harlem Globetrotters at the Vatican.









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