(Note: This is an updated version of a story that was first published on USAB.com last March.)
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has three gold medals under his belt as a member of USA Basketball, first as a member of the USA U19 National Team at the 2007 Global Games, then in 2010 with the USA Basketball Men’s National Team at the FIBA World Championship and most recently as a member of the 2014 USA World Cup Championship Team.
When Stephen was a kid, it didn’t hurt that his father, Dell Curry, was himself a professional basketball player. But having a dad who played 16 seasons in the NBA doesn’t guarantee anything – especially if you are smaller and maybe not as athletic as others. According to Dell, who was with the Charlotte Hornets when Stephen was a child, Stephen became the NBA star he is today because he was a student of the game and he worked at it as hard as he could.
Now a six-year NBA veteran, Stephen was named the 2014-15 NBA MVP. Dell, who is a broadcaster for the Charlotte Bobcats, took time out to tell us more about Stephen’s early basketball experiences:
USA Basketball: What was Stephen like as a child?
Dell Curry: He was energetic, always paid attention to what was going on, eager to learn. He tried several different sports, not just basketball. He played football, baseball, a little soccer. He was always very intuitive of what was going on around him. He just soaked it all up.
He was a very good baseball player, then he found golf. He must have hit a really good golf shot when he was playing a round with me and decided that’s the way he wanted to go. He used to play golf with me when he was 6 or 7. I had a putter cut down and I’d take him with me. He’d ride in the cart, watch us play, and then when we got to the green he’d chip and putt.
USA Basketball: How did he become active in the sport and develop his skills?
Dell: I guess we started him probably when he was 6 or 7, in a rec league. He had been around it his whole life, obviously, with me playing in the NBA, so it was nothing new to him. But he started at a very young age and we just tried to make sure he got the proper skill set, the proper teaching of skills and fundamentals so that he grew and developed his game. He knew how to play and learned about the game and knew how to develop his skills and how to go about working at it.
USA Basketball: When did you realize Stephen had what it takes to play at a high level?
Dell: It depends on what level you’re talking about. He always had good ball-handling abilities and could shoot the ball. He was always the smallest kid on every team he played, but he was one of the hardest workers. So I would say it was the opportunity to play high school and be a pretty good player there. By the time he was in high school, I could tell he’d play in college somewhere. And then his college coach, Bob McKillop, told me after his very first tournament at Davidson College that he would be a pro player.
It wasn’t something that we saw right away. Working at his game and developing, we had an idea he could continue to go from level to level. But you never know as a young kid how far he’ll go – whether he’ll stay interested, whether he’ll continue to work, whether he’ll get burned out. There’s a lot of factors that go into what level he’ll be able to get to.
USA Basketball: As a kid, what challenges did he have to overcome?
Dell: Learning how to play without being the most athletically gifted or biggest guy. Being around NBA players really helped him because it taught him the game. He was at all the practices. He watched and learned how to play the game the right way, how to use his teammates. There was a process. Being around guys that you see are the best in the world really helps youngsters stay positive about the game. And it tells them that if they do love the game and they work at it they can reach new levels.
USA Basketball: What advice do you have for the parents of young basketball players?
Dell: Just be supportive. Don’t push because that will take the fun out of a game. If your son or daughter decides to play a sport, try to give them as many resources as you can for them to be the best they can at it. I’ve told my kids, you can play any sport you want, but once you decide to play you’re going to give it your all, 100 percent. Because if you don’t, it’s going to reflect on you and your team. Don’t try to live your dreams through your child because it’s not going to work. It will only last for so long and then other problems will come. Just be as supportive as you can and give them as many resources as you can to develop their game and be as good as they can be at their sport.