There was every chance that the Warriors would crush Stephen Curry’s soul and destroy his career when he got here in 2009.
Every piece of evidence and at least one veteran player just about screamed it.
Back then, Curry was precisely the wrong player coming to precisely the wrong team at precisely the wrong time for anybody’s good.
Of course, five seasons later, we know: Curry didn’t break, he outlasted the insanity, he made himself the pillar and symbol of the new success, and on Monday he won the 2015 NBA MVP, with all his teammates onstage alongside him.
In a few weeks, he might lead the Warriors to their first championship since 1975, too.
So, when you trace the stunning rebirth of this team, you start it in the summer of 2009, period.
That was a year before Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the team from Chris Cohan, three years before Bob Myers took over as general manager, and five years before Steve Kerr arrived.
It starts in the summer of 2009 – when the Warriors were fortunate enough to draft Curry (despite the objections of his advisors), when Curry decided to dig in his heels and lead the renaissance, and when the seeds of 2015 were planted.
“It was a little rough my first few years, but I loved playing at Oracle,” Curry said Monday of his home arena.
“You look around the league and you see different arenas – that’s somewhere you want to play. I thought I could have a huge impact on changing the culture at the start – or end – of my rookie year.”
Remember, in 2009, this was a team that featured Stephen Jackson (who demanded a trade soon after Curry was drafted), Monta Ellis (who famously said he couldn’t play with Curry right as training camp started), and Don Nelson (who was starting his final coaching season).
Flash from that point to Monday’s ceremony and heartfelt Curry speech. If you add it all up, Curry essentially saved this franchise.
“He’s taken that team that we had at the time – frankly there was no future, there wasn’t anything that we could count on,” said Larry Riley, the team’s GM back then and currently the director of scouting.
“He’s taken this team – as well as the addition of a lot of good players around him … he’s taken this team to the point where we’re winners.”
It was stubbornness more than anything that kept Curry determined to stick it out with the Warriors, through the storms and his own bedeviling early career ankle injuries.
It was the stubbornness of a born star, really.
Where everybody failed – where everybody was meant to fail – Curry figured he could succeed.
“He said he didn’t know anything about the team or what was going on, but (agent Jeff Austin) and I, we knew what was going on,” his father Dell Curry said.
“We didn’t think this was the right fit.”
But once Riley and Nelson bypassed the wishes of the Curry camp, Stephen Curry accepted the twist of fate and embraced his new situation.
It wasn’t easy.
“He’s been a winner his whole career; hasn’t endured a lot of losing, so that was a tough year,” Dell Curry said.
“Being a rookie on a veteran team that hadn’t been so successful … it easily could’ve gone the other way.
“As a dad and a former player, it was important that I expressed to him that hey, you can be a part of changing the culture. So he just stayed the course.”
Curry went to camp knowing that Ellis and Jackson doubted him, and he convinced them he could play.
Curry kept to the plan while players came and went, then Lacob and Guber took control, then Jerry West and Myers came aboard, then Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, Mark Jackson, Andre Iguodala and finally Kerr.
As Curry noted Monday: Every season, the roster got better around him. He noticed.
Why did all those pieces fit so easily on this team? Easy: The Warriors had Curry, and the new management realized pretty quickly that if it built the team around him, he would hold up his end and more.
He could hold up the entire franchise.
Curry was the solitary spot of light when things were at their darkest, so when the Warriors’ situation brightened, Curry turned into a supernova.
Just ask Kerr how heavily Curry’s presence on the roster affected his decision to spurn the Knicks and come to the Warriors.
“Well, the two biggest factors were my daughter being here at Berkeley and Steph being on the team,” Kerr said, smiling. “And as I told my daughter, it was about 90 percent Steph and 10 percent my daughter.”
That was a joke, but a knowing one.
Curry endured one terrible season under Nelson, one terrible season under interim coach Keith Smart, and then one start-up season under Mark Jackson in 2011-12, before the Warriors made the playoffs in 2013.
Jackson is gone, but Curry is still here, and now he’s the franchise’s first MVP since 1960, when it was located in Philadelphia.
He’s the longest-tenured Warriors player, he’s the best and most stubborn, and he was the light in the darkness, before everything got very, very bright.
Do over, please?
Steph Curry was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. He would go much higher today:
Averaged 2.2 points in career; out of league
3-time All-Star, second in MVP vote
Rookie of Year has been solid, not spectacular
Injury shortened fourth NBA season
Started 90 career games; out of league
Best player on NBA’s best team