Heart of a Warrior

Tone Lee_Online

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“MVP. MVP. MVP.”

Deafening chants shake Oracle Arena as Steph Curry, chewing on his mouth guard, walks up to the free throw line. This season, the Warriors — lead by their unanimous MVP — have earned their place among the NBA’s Pantheon. However, their rise to prominence has been comprised of more than just a few lucky draft picks. This unprecedented success was a long time coming, and it began when they chose Steph Curry.

My mom has always loved basketball, feeding off the energy and exhilaration from every game. With each three-pointer and slam dunk, she would whoop and holler — often frightening my brother and me. Though she didn’t manage to catch every game, she always made time to watch our home team: the Golden State Warriors.

I was therefore raised on losses. Pre-2010 was just a tough era to be a Dubs fan, and for most of my childhood, the Warriors were a well-below-average team. My mom was always a believer, though. Despite its dismal 29-53 record in 2008, her love for the team never waned. Her excitement was infectious, and I, too, was soon screaming for the Warriors, despite the continual heartbreak.

But, with the seventh pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Golden State selected Stephen Wardell Curry: a 6-foot-3, 185-pound point guard from Davidson. Deemed as too small, too slow and too mediocre by most, Curry definitely didn’t look the next Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan — generationally great players that the struggling franchise so desperately needed.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, that scrawny kid from a small North Carolina school began his journey. Despite losing his first NBA game, Curry poured in 14 points. But it was Curry’s adorable face and cheesy grin that instantly captured my mom’s heart.

With every three-pointer or crossover, I felt a growing respect for my new favorite player. He was an ordinary person — not ridiculously tall, no bulging muscles. He was the embodiment of hope for all the other little guys struggling to make it in basketball, including myself. His impact on me extended from the hardwood however, as he proved time and time again that hard work and dedication alone are all it takes to achieve success.

At school, my friends would always sing praises of Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. I told them to just wait and see how good this Curry kid would be. They would tell me off and laugh, but I remained adamant.

Steph continued to improve as he earned more playing time, eventually finishing second in the Rookie of the Year vote. But the Warriors still posted an embarrassing 26-56 record. But still, I kept my head high and proudly repped my 30 jersey in the face of my friends’ mockeries.

But ankle problems would soon rain on my hero’s parade, as he was forced even more into the national spotlight. Nobody believed that he could fulfill his promise of bringing a championship to the Bay. But where others saw weakness, I saw strength. Where others saw mediocrity, I noticed potential. Where people saw a skinny kid that shouldn’t be playing basketball, I realized a future global icon.

And then the world began seeing what I saw, too. Suddenly, Curry jerseys were soon everywhere I went — whether it was school, the mall or even my math tutoring class. Curry continued to defy reality, drain impossible shots, break all sorts of records and ultimately become Golden State’s Golden Boy. Soon enough, Stephen Curry was the only name that anyone in the basketball industry could talk about.

Despite their first-round loss to the Clippers in 2014, the Warriors and their fans still had high hopes for the following season. However, my life aside from basketball would soon sour.

In the span of five months during my sophomore year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide.Though I refused to accept it, the loss took a dramatic toll on my daily life and completely destroyed my power to believe. I masked my pain each day and forced a fake smile, but miserably broke down once alone at home. The only thing that I still found enjoyment in was the game of basketball. I spent my free time watching Steph Curry highlights, trying to model my game after his. And only then — while grinding in the gym — was I able to distract my sorrows, find my peace and ultimately get better.

Falling in love with Steph Curry has been the biggest roller coaster ride of my life. Despite the flurry of emotions he’s given me over the years, I just want to say thank you to Stephen Curry for fulfilling his promise and bringing a championship to the Bay. Win or lose on Sunday, Steph has brought me more happiness than I could have ever asked for.

Thank you for all the nights you had me up late doing my homework because I chose to watch you play instead. Thank you for inspiring me to work harder on not only my basketball game, but also on myself as a person in general. But most importantly, thank you for teaching me to believe again.

Contact Tone Lee at [email protected].