OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry spent the day after Christmas feeding 400 needy families in the Oakland area.
The thing people remember about that occasion is not Curry writing the big check. It’s that when the firemen showed up to start delivering the food, Curry was the first one lugging boxes out to the trucks.
Curry, the former Charlotte Christian and Davidson star, has this doing-well-by-doing-good thing down to the T. He’s the most popular Warrior since Chris Mullin left the Bay Area in 1997. The talent – he averages 24.5 points and 9.0 assists this season – is obvious, but he’s also likeable in a way many pro athletes never get.
“He’s a loveable guy,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “You look at him as a husband, a father and a teammate, and he’s an all-around good guy. People appreciate the way he goes about his business.”
The Warriors were an afterthought in Bay Area sports for most of the past decade. That’s partially because they lost a lot, partially because they’re in Oakland, when San Francisco is viewed as the sexier city, and partially because no one player gave fans a compelling reason to cross the Bay Bridge and check them out.
The Warriors fan base was remarkably patient and loyal through that span. Now Curry is putting up crazy numbers – he scored 44 points and made eight 3-pointers against the Utah Jazz in his last game – and Golden State is a contender in the West at 29-19. More than a million fans voted him into this month’s All-Star Game in New Orleans as a starter.
Sorry, Bobcats fans, but the Charlotte kid called the Bay Area his “new home” Monday while getting ready for Tuesday’s game against the Bobcats. He loves Northern California and Northern California sure loves him back.
Lew Marsten, a San Francisco-based sports marketer, ranks Curry third in popularity among Bay Area athletes behind Giants catcher/first baseman Buster Posey and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Marsten said for the longest time, ranking a Warrior among the most popular athletes would have sounded laughable.
“The NBA is big here, but it’s not the Niners or the Giants. So him being that big in the Bay Area says a lot,” said Marsten, director of sales for VIP Sports Marketing.
“He gives a lot back. He’ll always go on the air with (Warriors flagship station) KNBR. Win or lose, he’s always the guy who comes back out and signs autographs. He’s the classic clean-cut American kid in a market where many of our guys have had problems off the field.”
Marsten said it’s telling that every Warriors fan seems to know Curry went to Davidson, the small, academically elite college north of Charlotte.
“He’s very proud of his roots, very proud of Davidson. Warriors fans understand about that,” Marsten said. “If you asked them where (Warriors forward) David Lee played, I don’t know that they’d know. And he won two national championships at Florida.”
This works because it’s not an “image.” It’s who Dell and Sonya Curry raised their three kids to be.
“Regardless of your profession, your personality is what it is. I’m blessed to play this game in front of a lot of people, to impact people whether it’s in person or not,” Curry said after practice.
Then he quoted Richard Sherman, the bright and sometimes edgy defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks: Be yourself, whoever that is.
“That’s how I was raised,” Curry said of his good-guy approach. “How much success you have or what have you, that shouldn’t change.”
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell