SAN FRANCISCO – NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul are both over 35 years old and still playing at an elite level. Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s father, Dell, played in the NBA until the age of 37. And Tuesday, Stephen Curry himself joined the esteemed 35-and-up NBA club on his 35th birthday.
Curry could ask his father and several other current and former NBA players for words of wisdom on how to grow older elegantly in this league. But instead, the 2022 NBA Finals MVP sought advice from future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady (45) and Aaron Rodgers (39).
“My real but fake goal was reaching my dad, who played 16 years in the league,” Curry told Andscape following the Warriors’ overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks on March 11. “But now, you get to this point where you realize that at 16 years, he was 37. I remember the last three years of his career he had a back spasm problem in Milwaukee. I just remember all the work he had to do to play those last three years. Times have changed in terms of what your prime is.
“How I feel right now is not how I thought I’d feel at 35. That number sounds crazy, but in my head, I feel like I got a lot left. The work I put into this I still enjoy. Who knows how [the future] looks? I talked to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and other guys who have been on the other side of the halfway point. I know quarterbacking is different, but you can check yourself [mentally] into not fast-forwarding too far. They really did a good job of disciplining themselves for what is happening in real time. They’re 40 feeling like they can still play. I’m trying to stay in that mode. Thirty-five is a big milestone, but the next one is 40. The way I feel right now, who knows?”
Curry was born on March 14, 1988, in Akron, Ohio. The two-time NBA MVP was selected by the Warriors No. 7 overall in the 2009 NBA draft. Curry has gone on to become a four-time NBA champion and a nine-time NBA All-Star. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is also widely considered the NBA’s greatest shooter of all time and is the league’s career leader in 3-point field goals made.
Curry joked in recent years that his dad told him that you know you’re getting old as an NBA player when you start having “old man injuries.” Stephen Curry has missed 26 games for the Warriors this season due to injury. But when the NBA 75th Anniversary Team member has been on the floor this season he has been sensational, averaging 29.6 points, 6.3 assists, a career-high 6.3 rebounds and 5 3-pointers made per game.
“He’s definitely the best conditioned athlete I’ve ever been around in the NBA,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “No one combines the work ethic with the skillset and the ability to put that all together in this package of incredible endurance and quickness. Every time he comes back, I watch him work.
“He is a guy who is going to age well. He is still playing at really high level. It is incredible to watch him work.”
Curry and Draymond Green are longtime Warriors teammates who have won four NBA titles together. Green still marvels at Curry’s accomplishments and described him as “one of the most impactful” NBA players ever.
“It’s incredible. Because of what LeBron has done after 35, people have taken for granted what that age means in the NBA,” Green said of Curry to Andscape. “Especially, a guard [Curry’s] size. You’ve seen players a little bigger go longer, but not at his size. I think it is so special and impressive what he is doing. The attention to detail to what he is doing on a daily basis puts him in position to be as great as it is. It is the most incredible thing to me. To just watch him at that size, dominate at this age, we’ve never seen anything like this.”
What also can be remarkable for Curry at his age is the company he would enter by winning a fifth NBA championship. NBA icons with five or more championships include Bill Russell (11), Bob Cousy (six), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan (six), Scottie Pippens (six), Magic Johnson (five), Kobe Bryant (five) and Tim Duncan (five). While the Warriors are in the midst of a challenge just to make the playoffs this season, Curry said the goal is to still win a fifth title this season.
“It would mean everything, because at one point it was believed that we were done even before last season,” Curry said of winning a fifth title in a recent interview through Under Armour. “So, it’s just a matter of feeling like you can get greedy, and you obviously understand every championship that you get, you put yourself in another echelon of legends that have won at the highest of high levels. Obviously, Bill Russell, nobody’s going to catch that. But to get to Jordan winning six and Kobe winning five, the [San Antonio] Spurs’ Tim Duncan. So, all that stuff is about the inherent legacy that you’ll continue to create even though we’ve done a lot and that’s why we still work tirelessly to make that a reality again.”
Twenty years ago, Curry was an unheralded high school basketball player at Charlotte Christian High School (North Carolina) who would go on to star at nearby Davidson College. It was at that time that Under Armour had a famous Protect This House ad campaign in which football player Eric “Big E” Ogbogu gave a call to action to his teammates by yelling, “We must protect this house!” It became a catchphrase for athletes across the country when playing home games.
Curry is now the face of the Under Armour brand and also part owner. Also on his birthday, Under Armor is launching a new Protect This House campaign to “once again reshape the sports landscape by helping today’s young athletes protect everything they are and everything they’re going to become.”
Curry fondly recalled the old Under Armour campaign he saw in high school and is excited to bring back the slogan.
“It’s like one of those iconic soundtracks, but even the visuals just kind of gave me a little bit of goosebumps on just that raw energy,” Curry said. “And then obviously the tagline and the call to action. Everybody was imitating Big E’s voice in the locker room, and it became your home court advantage chant. And now it’s kind of embedded in the sport lingo of rallying the troops to make sure you know what it means to embrace [home court]. With this generation of athletes, when we bring it back, it’s about what it means to embrace team and be a part of something bigger than yourself. We have a reinvigorated energy around the campaign. So, to know 20 years later it was going to have hopefully a similar impact, it’s dope to be a part of.”
Curry has been a long proponent of women’s sports, particularly in high school and college basketball. His elite prep basketball camp now includes the nation’s top girls players. Curry was regularly seen this season at Stanford University women’s basketball games supporting center Cameron Brink. Curry’s parents, Sonya and Dell, were college roommates of Brink’s parents, Michelle and Greg, respectively, at Virginia Tech.
While Under Armour has several NBA clients, including Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, the new Protect This House campaign includes Curry, Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum and University of South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston.
“It speaks to how the landscape has changed,” Curry said. “It speaks to how important it is to have representation across the board of what it means to be a top-tier athlete and champion. All three of us have won at our highest level. So, I think it’s dope. It’s something that kind of expands the breadth of what we do at Under Armour first and foremost. But also, just in terms of sports in general, how the game is continuing to change and the ability for these amazing women to be front and center of a campaign like this speaks for itself.”
Curry and the Warriors have been able to protect their house, as they entered Monday’s game against Phoenix with a 28-7 record at Chase Center. On the road, however, it is a different story for the reigning NBA champions, who are 7-26. Golden State has lost eight road games in a row and last won away from San Francisco on Jan. 30 in Oklahoma City. The Warriors’ next road game is Wednesday against the LA Clippers.
“It is an interesting yin and yang kind of experience when it comes to how we play at home and how we play on the road,” Curry said. “There’s a certain level of pride that comes with not letting people walk off your home court feeling good about themselves. You’re not going to have to be perfect every night, but we seem to be able to find that little extra gear, that grit that helps us pull some of your games out at home. We obviously got to find that when we’re on the road if we’re going to try to do anything meaningful this year.
“But at least you could point to some positive. Even though we’re just around .500 in the standings, we’ve shown that protecting our house is important and we can do it. We got to be able to take that on the road and find some type of identity outside of Chase.”