Home sweet home

Fans adore War­riors’ Curry in North Carolina city that shaped him

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTING GREEN - By Con­nor Le­tourneau

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — It didn’t take long for War­riors as­sis­tant coach Bruce Fraser to un­der­stand the depths of Stephen Curry’s Char­lotte roots.

In Novem­ber 2014, four months af­ter he joined Golden State’s staff, Fraser was work­ing Curry through his pregame shoot­ing rou­tine at Char­lotte’s Spec­trum Cen­ter when a larger-than-nor­mal crowd gath­ered around the court. Dur­ing a pause between drills, Curry saw his child­hood den­tist and ex­claimed, “Hey, Dr. John­son!”

“I could feel the close­ness Steph has to that com­mu­nity just through that warmup,”

“No mat­ter where I go, hav­ing been out in the bay for 10 years, (Char­lotte is) still pretty close to my heart.” Stephen Curry

Fraser said. “He was en­gaged with them as much as he could be. They were proud of him, and he was equally as proud to be as­so­ci­ated with that city.”

The Char­lotte Hor­nets are the of­fi­cial hosts of All-Star Week­end, but Curry might as well be the city’s un­of­fi­cial am­bas­sador. Over the past 10 years, as Curry blos­somed into a global icon with the War­riors, he made a point not to for­get the friends, rel­a­tives, neigh­bors, teach­ers and coaches in Char­lotte who helped him reach the NBA.

In ad­di­tion to com­pet­ing against his younger brother, Seth, in Sat­ur­day’s 3-point con­test and start­ing Sun­day’s All-Star Game, Curry in­tends to cel­e­brate the re­la­tion­ships that made all of this pos­si­ble. His itin­er­ary in­cludes a stop at his high school, Char­lotte Chris­tian; the un­veil­ing of a re­fur­bished com­mu­nity cen­ter; a game at his alma mater, Davidson Col­lege, and a cer­e­mony hon-

or­ing his father Dell’s con­tri­bu­tions to the city.

“I’m go­ing to do what­ever I can to show­case the city and high­light what it meant to me and my fam­ily,” said Curry, who has ar­ranged tick­ets for close to 100 fam­ily mem­bers and friends in Sec­tion 121 of Spec­trum Cen­ter on Sun­day. “I’m just go­ing to em­brace the week­end, em­brace the fun.”

Curry was 3 months old when his father, who had split his first two NBA sea­sons between Utah and Cleve­land, was se­lected by the Hor­nets in an ex­pan­sion draft. Some of Curry’s ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of Hor­nets equip­ment man­ager David “Big Shot” Jo­vanovic babysit­ting him in the locker room while his dad took his postgame shower.

Dur­ing ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, Curry watched the clock ea­gerly on days Char­lotte had home games be­cause of what awaited af­ter that fi­nal bell rang: rides to Char­lotte Coli­seum with Dell. Be­fore the crowds ar­rived and play­ers be­gan their warm-up rou­tines, Stephen and Seth played games of H-O-R-S-E, heav­ing shots as their dad re­bounded.

When the Curry broth­ers tagged along with their mother, Sonya Curry, to a salon or gro­cery story, they were of­ten greeted by a friendly stranger say­ing, “Hey, you’re Dell’s kids!” Sonya and Dell went to great lengths to en­sure that their three chil­dren — Stephen, Seth and daugh­ter Sy­del — stayed grounded.

The fam­ily was ac­tive at Cen­tral Church of God, a Pen­te­costal mega-church cur­rently boast­ing more than 6,000 mem­bers. It was at one of the church’s youth groups that Stephen met his even­tual wife, Aye­sha.

All three Curry kids at­tended ele­men­tary and mid­dle school at the Montes­sori school founded and run by Sonya be­fore en­rolling at Char­lotte Chris­tian. A self­de­scribed “home­body,” Stephen chose Davidson — the small lib­eral-arts col­lege just 20 miles north of Char­lotte — over a walk-on of­fer from his par­ents’ alma mater, Vir­ginia Tech.

“Char­lotte def­i­nitely has a lot of South­ern charm,” said Michelle Bain-Brink, a close fam­ily friend of the Cur­rys. “The head­quar­ters of ma­jor banks are there, but you get this small-town, su­per South­ern hos­pitable vibe. It’s a slower pace, for sure, which I think suits Steph re­ally well.”

For a bas­ket­ball-ob­sessed city, Char­lotte has en­joyed min­i­mal suc­cess on the hard­wood.

Nei­ther the Hor­nets (1988-2002, 2014-present) nor Bob­cats (2004-14) have reached the con­fer­ence fi­nals. As the lo­cal NBA team spent much of the past decade toil­ing in medi­ocrity un­der Michael Jor­dan’s own­er­ship, many Char­lot­teans took to cheer­ing Curry.

His No. 30 jer­sey of­ten out­num­bers Kemba Walker’s No. 15 at Golden State’s an­nual game in Char­lotte. Even with Curry open about his plans to play his en­tire ca­reer with Golden State, some Hor­nets die-hards still hold out hope that he’ll some­day don the teal and pur­ple.

Re­gard­less, the Cur­rys will con­tinue to con­sider Char­lotte home. Dell — a color an­a­lyst for Hor­nets tele­casts — and Sonya still live there. Last spring, Stephen tried to help put to­gether a group to buy the NFL’s Carolina Pan­thers. A stop in Char­lotte is part of his an­nual sum­mer sched­ule.

“Just a lot of great mem­o­ries,” Curry said. “No mat­ter where I go, hav­ing been out in the bay for 10 years, it’s still pretty close to my heart, for sure.”

“I’m go­ing to do what­ever I can to show­case the city and high­light what it meant to me and my fam­ily.” Stephen Curry, who will have close to 100 fam­ily mem­bers and friends at Sun­day’s All-Star Game

Bob Leverone / As­so­ci­ated Press 2015

Stephen Curry “pounds the drum” be­fore an NFL game in Char­lotte, N.C. He tried to buy part of the Pan­thers a year ago.

Jeff Siner / As­so­ci­ated Press 2015

Above: For­mer Davidson Col­lege All-Amer­i­can Stephen Curry poses with mem­bers of the Davidson men’s bas­ket­ball team. Left: Curry greets stu­dents af­ter a half­time cer­e­mony at his for­mer high school, Char­lotte Chris­tian.

Chuck Bur­ton / As­so­ci­ated Press 2017

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