Stephen Curry pulled into River Run Country Club on Monday morning and started the routine.
He signed a handful of autographs for anxious fans, posed for photos, shook hands with old friends, met with the media and joked with his father, Dell, before beginning the fourth annual Curry Celebrity Classic benefitting the Ada Jenkins Center.
That type of day isn’t unusual for a star athlete coming home for an event, but it’s how many times Curry has done it, and will do it, this summer that makes it unique.
After an NBA playoffs run that catapulted him into the national spotlight, the former Charlotte Christian and Davidson standout has found a new level of stardom. It’s one that comes with more requests, more autographs, more “no, thank yous” and more importance on finding a balance for a busy offseason schedule.
“You feel like you have a lot of time, but when you start committing to events and you start committing to different opportunities, it really flies by,” Curry said. “You really have to be conscious of how much you exert yourself. Even though it might seem like going to a golf tournament or NBA TV, it seems small but it is a big commitment. And you don’t want to wear yourself out but you want to have fun, and it’s the balance you have to figure out.”
The face of Davidson basketball after leading the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008, Curry has been on the national radar since before joining the Golden State Warriors. But the 2012-13 season was unlike anything he, his wife or his father, a 16-year NBA veteran, have seen.
He scored 54 points against the New York Knicks in February in Madison Square Garden. He broke future Hall of Famer Ray Allen’s single-season 3-point record with 272 made 3-pointers. Then he and his Warriors teammates made for must-stay-up TV as they went to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Those close to him say he’s still the same guy, but things have changed.
“Yeah, it’s been a little bit more and we’re still taken back every time it happens,” said Curry’s wife, Ayesha, on autograph requests.
Along with Curry, former Charlotte Hornets guard Muggsy Bogues, Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert and former Bobcats guard Brevin Knight were among the celebrities playing in the 32-team field. And Monday’s golf event was just the start.
Since being ousted in the playoffs, Curry has done TV appearances with NBATV and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” From now until the end of August he’ll be playing in charity golf tournaments, hosting his skills camp, helping with All-star guard Chris Paul’s camp, shooting a Foot Locker commercial and going to Africa to help with “Nothing But Nets,” a campaign aimed at fighting malaria.
By design, Curry hasn’t been back on the court since losing in six games to San Antonio in May. He played 90 games this past season, and he wanted to give his body a rest immediately following the year.
“I’m really proud of that (90 games played) with the way the last three years has gone,” said Curry, who’s had ankle surgery each of the past two offseasons. “To be able to play a full season and stay on the court, I felt like I could do a lot of good things if I could just work on my game and not whether I’d play or not.
“So it’s also a big thing this summer that I don’t have any surgeries, I can get back in the gym and capitalize on the success we had this year.”
Dell Curry said his son’s offseason looks nothing like what his used to a decade ago. His eldest son is going through a balancing act he never had to do.
“He could have had every week or weekend taken up with some type of appearance or endorsement,” Dell Curry said. “He understands he’s got to get away from it, but there’s no comparison to what he’s going through and the type of tension he has on him compared to when I played.”
But Stephen Curry’s focus remains on the court. He’d rather be playing in the NBA Finals than tweeting about it. He’s probably signed more basketballs than he’s dribbled during the past month.
He’ll continue to navigate his offseason schedule and soon he’ll be back on the court preparing for next season.
“He’s had two summers in a row where he’s had surgeries, so with him actually able to work on his game this year he should be a better player,” Dell Curry said. “But he’s still focused and he knows he’s got to rehab and get stronger. The way he played and the amount of minutes he played your body is going to wear down.
“He understands he’s very popular right now and a lot of people want his time, but he’s got to concentrate and still focus on his job.”