How Steph Curry Punched Hall of Fame Ticket Well Before His 30th Birthday

[CSNBY] How Steph Curry punched Hall of Fame ticket well before his 30th birthday
Monte Poole

He came to town in June 2009 scrawny and hungry, drafted by a coach with one foot facing retirement, barely bothering to guide a team going nowhere. It was a match made in NBA hell.

The resident team leader, or the closest thing to it, quickly made it known that he and this rail-thin rookie could never be successful as teammates, much less starting in the same backcourt.

Barely a year later, the coach, Don Nelson, had gone off to Maui for good.

A little more than two years after that, in March 2012, the former putative team leader, Monta Ellis, was shipped to Milwaukee.

A little more than three years later, Stephen Curry, the skinny kid who entered the NBA with more skeptics than believers, was holding a championship trophy in one hand and the MVP trophy in the other.

Curry's drive and talent, along with committed new ownership, combined to form the dual forces that turned a team on the outskirts of the NBA into a global phenomenon. The hot pocket of hell had transformed into a slice of heaven, which for Curry and the Warriors can be described as three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and two championships.

Though he turns 30 on March 14, Curry is in many ways the same guy the Golden State Warriors drafted seventh overall in 2009. He still acknowledges and supports Davidson College, which embraced him when big-name schools ignored him. He still maintains symmetry between humility and audacity, still clowns with teammates, treats fans with respect, signs autographs in every arena he visits and, of course, routinely makes shots most other players wouldn't dare attempt.

What's different about Curry? He is about 15 pounds heavier and capable of growing something close to a full beard. Married since 2011, he is living the full suburban family experience, with his wife, Ayesha, two children and a third due this summer.

Curry is an A-list celebrity, a two-time MVP who plays golf with two-term president Barack Obama. The leader in NBA jersey sales three years running, Curry's global appeal spans generations, surpassing that of any athlete in Bay Area sports history.

The road to the top had some scary turns, though, mostly involving ankle woes that for a time left Curry and others wondering if he'd ever have a productive career. He had stabilization surgery on his right ankle in 2011, only to require another surgery on the same ankle barely a week after the 2011-12 season.

Spending the better part of two years coping with surgeries and rehabilitation allowed dark thoughts to occasionally filter through Curry's mind, including the possibility that he might never play again.

With Curry out of options to his rookie contract, the Warriors approached the 2012-13 season facing a difficult decision. Do they assume the risk? Did they still believe? They answered twice in the affirmative and, with their point guard facing an uncertain future, signed him to a four-year contract extension worth $44 million.

It was, for most of those four years, the most team-friendly contract in the NBA.

Curry has stayed mostly healthy and now, in his ninth season, is at the peak of his basketball powers. Barely three weeks removed from starting his fifth consecutive All-Star game -- this time as a captain, based on popular vote -- he is the focal point of a team that has rewritten so many records it may as well create its own book.

Meanwhile, Curry the individual has done quite well. He owns the single-season record for most 3-pointers made, with 402. He is the first player to post six seasons with at least 200 3-pointers. He has the record for most 3-pointers in a game, 13. He has led the NBA in scoring and in steals.

So valued is Curry to the Warriors that when he became a free agent last July, there was no need for negotiations between general manager Bob Myers and Curry's agent, Jeff Austin. Giving Curry the maximum, $201.2 million deal over the next five seasons was a formality.

Nelson, the Hall of Fame coach that jumped at the chance to draft Curry, occasionally watches the team that twice employed him and still enjoys the exploits of his last great draft pick. They have TVs on Maui.

Ellis, the longest-serving member of the Warriors at the time Curry was drafted, made his way through three more NBA teams before drifting out of the league after last season at age 31.

Curry has survived the fire of failure and affliction to lift himself and the Warriors to heights previously beyond fantasy. He already has punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. And he did it before his 30th birthday.

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