Steph Curry: You Can’t Keep Your Eyes Off of Him
In a few short years, Stephen Curry has reshaped the way basketball is played, been proclaimed the best shooter in basketball history, and has been lauded by pundits as the best player on the planet. Stephen has been named the NBA’s most valuable player for the past two seasons, led the Golden State Warriors to its first NBA championship in forty years during the 2014-15 season, and opened his heart in such a way that America has fallen head-over-heels in love with him and his endearing family.
Likable, humble, soft-spoken, and living out his faith—using words only when necessary—Stephen Curry is one of those nice guys you’d want to meet or have your kids emulate. We feel like we’re on a first-name basis with the young man, so much so that he’s now known by the diminutive form of his first name: Steph.
In this fun, fact-filled biography, veteran author Mike Yorkey describes how Steph Curry has taken over a popular game that brings together a basket, a leather ball, and a flick of a wrist from beyond the three-point line—all the while with his family cheering him on.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Mike Yorkey, a former Focus on the Family magazine editor and author, co-author, or editor of more nearly 90 books, has written about sports for a variety of national publications. Mike is author of several other titles in the Playing with Purpose series and co-author of the internationally bestselling Every Man’s Battle books. He and his wife, Nicole, are parents of two adult children, and live in Encinitas, California.
Read an Excerpt
The Right Steph
By Mike Yorkey
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Mike Yorkey
All rights reserved.
HIS FATHER'S APPRENTICE
Whenever I write a sports biography, I like to focus on the family.
I don't say that because I was editor of Focus on the Family magazine for eleven years, although my time with the ministry founded by Dr. James Dobson greatly impacted my marriage and how my wife, Nicole, and I raised our children. I say it because the way parents bring up their children means everything to how their sons and daughters develop physically, mentally, and spiritually, and ultimately how they turn out as adults. The social upheavals and technological advances of the last twenty years have certainly made child rearing more difficult, but the ingredients of successful parenting — time, attention, and effort — never change.
Steph's parents, Dell and Sonya Curry, appear to have done everything right. Of course, we don't know what happened behind closed doors nor can we predict the future, but my confidence is high because we see the fruit of their parenting labors. As Matthew 7:16 (NLT) says: "You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act."
There's no doubt that Steph grew up in unusual circumstances. But they were unusual in a good way:
Steph has off-the-chart athletic genes because he's the son of a professional basketball player and an athletic mother who played volleyball at Virginia Tech, a Division 1 school. Sonya's kin, the Snell family, is "perhaps the most athletically decorated bloodline" in Virginia's New River Valley, wrote Travis Williams in the Roanoke Times.
Steph has an excellent spiritual foundation because Sonya, followed by Dell, committed their lives to Christ after Steph was born and reared him in the spirit of Proverbs 22:6 (nlt): "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."
Finally, Steph was raised in a wealthy home, a fact that few commentators mention. His father was in his third season in the NBA when Steph was born, so Dell was making big bucks. By the time Steph was eight years old, Dell and Sonya had enough banked to afford a luxurious, six-bedroom, nine-bath, 8,305-square-foot residence situated on sixteen leafy acres in Providence Plantation, thirteen miles south of downtown Charlotte. The custom crib inside a gated community came with a shimmering pool that was perfect for cannonballs, a relaxing hot tub, and a snazzy outdoor basketball court appointed with glass backboards and surrounded by lights for night play. The court, painted green, even had a lane and three-point arc — from NBA range, of course. (I'm sure the game room was awesome and there were tons of toys in the bedrooms, too.)
In addition to the creature comforts, Steph was the beneficiary of experiences that most kids can only dream about: jetting off to NBA road games during school breaks, playing on youth travel teams in faraway states, receiving private schooling and extra coaching, and going on family vacations to exotic locales.
Growing up privileged can be a blessing or a curse. Sure, it's nice to have all that stuff and plenty of options and opportunities, but some youngsters surrounded by such a gilded environment become spoiled and lazy, feeling entitled to the finer things of life. We've all seen how some children of wealthy parents lack a desire to work hard, blissfully unaware of how good they have it. But Steph Curry has his head screwed on right, which is a credit to Dell and especially Sonya, the main parent on duty since her husband's demanding career in the NBA made him travel so much.
"She's a strong woman," Steph said of his mother. "She did a great job with me and my siblings. She deserves a lot of credit for how we turned out." Sonya kept a chore list on a kitchen board, made sure the homework got done, and stressed academics. The role of disciplinarian generally fell on Sonya's shoulders, who set the tone for how Steph and his younger brother, Seth, and younger sister, Sydel, were supposed to act.
One time Steph decided to test the boundaries, as kids are wont to do. He purposely didn't do the dishes, one of the chores written on the kitchen board. Sonya warned him that he couldn't practice or play the next game if that happened. This is how Steph described what happened next at his MVP acceptance speech in 2015:
If we didn't handle that business, there were no privileges. I remember sitting out my first middle school game because I didn't handle my stuff at home. That's a pretty embarrassing moment if you go to your first middle school game and you have to tell your team, "Hey, fellas, I can't play tonight. I didn't do the dishes." They're like, What? What are you talking about? So just that lesson taught me there is more to life than basketball.
Lesson taken, lesson learned.
Sonya and Dell were intentional in the way they raised Steph, grounding him in family and faith. They taught him invaluable lessons in work ethic, respect for authority, treating others the way he would want to be treated, and looking people in the eye. These qualities come from a mother and father who modeled those traits themselves and weren't afraid to express their views.
For instance, one of his mother's pet peeves is athletes who wear sunglasses indoors. She's been around plenty of NBA players who won't take them off for anything, even while conducting postgame press conferences. To Sonya, sunglasses signaled to the outside world that the wearer is a rock star — and everyone else isn't.
"It says, Look at me, I made it, I'm going to let you look at me," Sonya told the Mercury News. "But there's no connection. It's the aloofness."
Steph heeded his mother's admonition not to wear sunglasses indoors — until the time he strolled into the Warriors offices wearing a pair of dark shades. This happened shortly after he learned he had won his first NBA MVP award in May 2015.
Here's what happened next, according to Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who told the story at Steph's MVP award ceremony. "About a week ago," Myers began, "I saw him enter our facility with sunglasses on inside, and I think that's always the beginning of going in the wrong direction. So I told him that. I said, 'Is this what we're doing now? We're doing this inside?'"
Chastened, the sunglasses came off. Good thing Mom wasn't around, or she would have grabbed Steph by the ear and set him straight first. Afterward, when Sonya heard what happened at the Warriors facility, she praised Myers for "calling out" Steph ... and that was the last time he wore his sunglasses indoors.
Sonya has been known to send her son a "Hey, watch your tone" text if she sniffs any arrogance in Steph's postgame TV interviews. She reminds her son of the importance of humility and to be mindful of why he's in the unique position that he finds himself in, on top of the basketball world.
"We believe God opened the door for Stephen for a reason — to be a light and example of God," she said. That's why connecting with the fans is important, which starts with looking others in the eye, signing autographs, and not forgetting who put him there. Of course, Dell had also modeled that behavior during his playing days.
You may be wondering if there was any grand plan on Sonya and Dell's part to raise Steph to become a professional basketball player like his father. But that wasn't the case.
"We decided early on that we wouldn't focus on that with our kids," Sonya said. "I watched so many other children of players, young boys who just thought this life was automatically expected, and then didn't know what else to do. From the beginning, ours knew [basketball] was Daddy's job. I tried to keep it normal and grounded."
That wasn't easy to do since most of Steph's childhood revolved around the rhythms of his father's basketball career. Dell played in the NBA from the time Steph was born until he was an eighth grader.
What a great experience that had to have been! From October through May, Steph hung out in his father's locker room before and after home games, which had to be on weekends since Mom felt school nights were problematic. Young Steph shot baskets on the main floor before the arena opened to the public, was a fly on the wall as players dressed and kibitzed before games, and got another shootaround after the final buzzer, while he waited for his father to shower and answer questions from the media.
During the game, from his seat inside the cavernous arena, Steph was like a carpenter's son perched on a four-legged stool at his father's woodshop. At an impressionable age, he soaked in everything about the game — watching his father put moves on defenders, whip passes to his teammates, swish his shots, and get back on defense — never realizing that basketball fundamentals were becoming second nature to him.
This is how Michael Kruse of Charlotte Magazine described it:
When Dell was with the Hornets, and Stephen was a boy, Sonya would sit next to her son at games and ask him: "See your dad?"
Stephen watched those games as a boy in a way that in retrospect was highly unusual. He didn't watch the ball. He watched his dad. What that meant was that he grew up watching the movements of a man who for a decade and a half was one of the world's very best shooters and users of screens. Stephen, of course, didn't think of it that way at the time. He was just a kid who wanted to watch his dad.
Nobody knew it then, but Steph would be the apprentice who grew up to be just like his father — and his mother. The three remain close today. During the last two seasons, when the Warriors were in the midst of their playoff runs for the NBA championship, it was a given that Dell and Sonya would be in the house, watching their son play. They're a photogenic couple, still youthful in their early fifties, and they appear to enjoy themselves. (Though that's probably easy to do when your son is winning a lot and shooting the lights out of the building.)
So who are Dell and Sonya Curry? How did they meet? And why do they have an incredible story to tell about bringing Steph into this world?
I'll start with Dell, who was born Wardell Stephen Curry on June 25, 1964. Dell grew up in Grottoes, Virginia, a quiet hamlet in the historic Shenandoah Valley that backs up to the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His father, also Wardell Curry, went by the name of Jack. His mother was named Juanita, but everyone called her Duckie.
Jack supported the family as a dayshift machinist at a General Electric factory in nearby Waynesboro, so they were a blue-collar family. (Duckie also worked shifts at the plant.) As a young boy, Dell was given chores that included tending to the family's large garden and keeping the rows meticulously straight and free of weeds.
Dell's father put up a basketball rim along a dirt road, securing a fiberglass standard to a splintery wooden utility pole with steel brackets that had plenty of give. Because the backboard and rim were so wobbly, the goal was unforgiving. Dell had to swish the ball through the net or watch his shot clang off the rim and skitter down the road. It was "make it or chase it" growing up, which has a way of concentrating your mind for the task at hand.
The story goes that during the summer, while his parents were punching a time clock at the GE plant, Dell's four older sisters — he was the youngest of five children — would herd him out of the house, toss him a basketball, and tell him not to come back until lunchtime. Then they'd lock the door and binge-watch TV sitcoms and soap operas.
Dell didn't have much else to do but shoot baskets and play "pretend" games against himself as he took shot after shot at the loose backboard. A respite came when his father arrived home from work to rebound Dell's shots and rifle him chest passes for the next jumper. And he would frequently offer a critique of Dell's shooting form.
When Dell got older, he started riding his bike to the rural property of the local high school basketball coach, Don Landes, who had a much firmer basketball rim inside his barn. The coach took an interest in Dell — and who wouldn't after seeing how much this youngster wanted to practice? Dell was given a key and the freedom to go to the barn anytime to work on his shooting. When Coach Landes was there, he worked with Dell to square up his shoulders, form an L with his shooting elbow, and snap his wrist on the follow-through with the ball coming off the fingertips. Dell told himself that he couldn't leave until he made 500 shots.
That barn became Dell's laboratory, a place where he could practice in the fall and winter when rain, sleet, and snow drove everyone indoors. Shot after shot, swish after swish, Dell developed his shooting stroke, holding his follow-through until the ball hit the floor. The quick release, the moves off the dribble, and the penetration of the lane were fundamentals that were honed by countless hours of practice.
As Dell started playing organized basketball, showing off his deadeye shooting skill, folks told the youngster that he had a gift — and he had to nurture it. Dell began thinking that maybe basketball would be his ticket out of the Virginia countryside. Or maybe baseball pitching since he was also quite a moundsman growing up. He hoped either game would provide a college scholarship and a brighter future than being a machinist like his dad.
Basketball was Dell's sport, though. There was no three-point line when he played at Fort Defiance High School in the early 1980s, but he could fill a bucket from anywhere. Dell grew into the perfect size for a guard, at 6 feet, 4 inches. Being named as a McDonald's All-American in 1982 led to Virginia Tech offering him a full-ride hoops scholarship, but Dell's ability to hurl a baseball prompted scouts to show up at games during the spring of his senior year. Even though the Texas Rangers knew basketball was his first love, they tossed a 14th round draft selection at him, just to see if he would bite. Dell said no but became one of those rare two-sport athletes during his four years at Virginia Tech, playing basketball in the fall and winter and turning out for the baseball team when the hoops season was over.
Playing at the Division 1 level was an eye-opener. If Dell was going to succeed at Virginia Tech, he needed an even quicker release. "I could always shoot because I worked on it, but ... I wasn't the fastest guy, couldn't jump the highest, so I knew I had to get my release off quicker," Dell said.
Dell worked on getting his knees bent and feet aligned with the basket a split second before he caught the ball, eliminating wasted movement in his shot delivery, and releasing the ball just before the top of his jump, all the while keeping his eyes locked on the rim.
His dazzling jump shot is why the Utah Jazz took Dell in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft, the 15th player selected. (Baseball's Baltimore Orioles had selected Dell in the 14th round of the 1985 draft, but basketball was always going to be his game.)
As Dell left Blacksburg for Salt Lake City and the NBA, his heart pined for a Virginia Tech volleyball player named Sonya Adams. They would remain in contact.
A Melting Pot
Sonya Adams Curry is more of a mystery than Dell. Various newspaper clips and Internet musings say that she's part African-American, part Haitian, and part Caucasian. Others have said she's African-American Creole, which can be a mix of African-American, Spanish-American, French American, and Native American peoples — a real melting pot.
There's no doubt that she's fairly light skinned, which is where Steph gets his complexion. Sonya grew up in Radford, Virginia, a college town of 15,000 in the New River Valley and home to Radford University. I mentioned earlier that she is part of the famed Snell family, noted for its athletic prowess. Her cousins, Sidney Snell and Donald Wayne Snell, were top receivers on the Virginia Tech Hokies football team in the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively.
Sonya's mother, Candy, comes from the Snell line. She married Cleive E. Adams and had four children that included Sonya, who was born May 30, 1966. Cleive and Candy divorced when Sonya was young, so she basically grew up in a single-parent home.
Sonya first laid eyes on Dell — or at least his picture — when she was in high school. Her mother happened to bring home a program from the Virginia Tech basketball team, and one of the players caught her eye. "He's the kind of man I'd like to marry," she said, pointing to the head shot of Dell Curry.
Sonya was a standout volleyball and basketball player at Radford High, so it was a natural for her to follow in her cousins' footsteps and play for the home state Hokies. Sonya was only 5 feet, 3 inches, a disadvantage on the basketball court but a good height for being a setter on a volleyball team. She enrolled at Virginia Tech in August 1984 and went right into practice for volleyball, a fall sport.
The volleyball team shared a practice gym with the basketball squad. Perhaps Sonya and Dell bumped into each other at the water fountain during a break from practice. Maybe it was a glance from across the gym, but somehow, the two connected. It's not difficult to imagine that Dell was smitten with a gorgeous young woman. And Sonya was certainly attracted to Dell, two years older and wearing a cute mustache. When they went out on a date and found out that they had each grown up in the New River Valley, the comfort level likely shot up several notches. They continued dating, becoming an item on campus.
Excerpted from The Right Steph by Mike Yorkey. Copyright © 2016 Mike Yorkey. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. His Father's Apprentice,
2. Shooting from the Hip,
3. Hello, Basketball World,
4. Trying to Take a Bite of the Big Apple,
5. Breaking Out,
6. From Air Jordans to Curry Ones,
7. On His Knees and On His Guard,
8. A Routine Worthy of Broadway,
9. "I'll Take Steph for $400, Alex",
10. A Season to Remember, a Game 7 to Forget,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Steph curry is my favorite
Reviewed by Tshombye K. Ware for Readers' Favorite The Right Steph is a sports biography written by Mike Yorkey that centers around Christian athletes, playing with purpose in the NBA. After extensive research, the author was only able to come up with a small percentage of athletes who live their faith. Among the few are two in particular; Jeremy Lin and Stephen Curry, the son of the former professional basketball player, Dell Curry. The author shares valuable insights that became the fuel of Stephen Curry's faith, in which he displays the biblical scripture of James 2:17 - "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead..." A entertaining read about the faith of athletes from cradle to stardom. The love for basketball will always be in my heart, so this book was exactly what the doctor ordered. The author has taken the time to put together an exhilarating book about one of the NBA's most beloved players. This book captures everything you'd want to know and more! All Stephen Curry's fans will be thrilled that a work of such magnitude exists. This book takes you up close and personal with one of the most beloved basketball players, from conception to the pinnacle of his illustrious basketball career. Stephen Curry is a brand of faith, centered on one of the largest platforms in the world. This book made me appreciate Stephen Curry, not only for his basketball prowess, but for his journey toward stardom, the gestures of faith he employs, and the character of humility he displays. Mike Yorkey's book has touched the fibers of my faith, as I beheld a fellow believer, living in the light of his gift without denying the God who endowed him with it. I would recommend this book to all sport lovers, and to anyone who loves a good, extensive biography of faith, celebrating one of the NBA's prolific shooters, Stephen Curry.