Unassuming brilliance

Every aspiring athlete, regardless of sport or skill set, should become familiar with Stephen Curry’s story.

Study it. Emulate it. Know it by heart – because that’s what this journey is all about.

The NBA’s freshly-minted 2015 Most Valuable Player wasn’t blessed with natural size, strength, quickness or even skill. He’s as close to a self-made standout as there is in the professional ranks today.

And judging by his comments during Monday’s acceptance speech, Curry plans on keeping things just the way they are – even as super-stardom continues to beckon.

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the baby-faced kid from North Carolina would someday become a household name. Every major Division I program passed on Curry, who was 6-feet flat and a generously-estimated 160 pounds as a high school senior. Even after he morphed into a dominant figure during tiny Davidson University’s surprising sprint to the Elite Eight during the 2008 NCAA Tournament, there was very little indication that Curry would become this good, this fast.

We all know this isn’t the first overlooked athlete, however, to defy logic and explode onto the scene. A tireless work ethic and dogged determination to kick down closed doors helped Curry become an All-Star, but that’s been done before and will be done again.

I’ve always argued that sustainability is far more difficult than obtainability in sports. The rise to prominence is far from easy, but every year, athletes and teams find a way. The motivating factors are everywhere.

Once the naysayers are quieted and adversity has been conquered, then what? Fame and fanfare often mutates an athlete’s personality, whether they realize it or not. The challenge is to stay true to the inside, even as the outside world tries to force a different narrative.

Very few actually pull this off. It becomes easy to give into temptation, or money, or attention – or a combination of the three. The ego starts making decisions that adds value to the persona while whittling away the actual person.

Curry made it a point in his press conference to remind everyone where his loyalties lie. Beating the odds and becoming a college basketball icon didn’t change him. Beating the odds and becoming an NBA lottery pick didn’t change him. Beating the odds and becoming a rookie standout didn’t change him. Beating the odds and becoming an All-Star didn’t change him.

Winning the MVP? You get the picture.

Curry reminds me a lot of another quiet – yet transformational – basketball legend: Tim Duncan. I’ve often wondered who will follow in the footsteps of Duncan, who I consider to be one of the Top-10 NBA players of all time given his accomplishments on the court and his professionalism away from it.

Kevin Durant is there. And Curry – despite his physical limitations – has arrived as well. This sport is in capable hands when the good guys make it big without the baggage. Fortunately for the NBA, Curry’s moral compass simply won’t have it any other way.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net