OAKLAND, Calif. – Somehow kids got wind that Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was at the new outdoor basketball court that he had built at the Manzanita Recreation Center here, even swishing on one of the new rims. A socially distanced Curry would later pass out 100 signed yellow basketballs to fans of all ages. And just like Warriors fans used to do at nearby Oracle Arena, the crowd clapped loudly in appreciation.
Curry, who won three NBA championships in “The Town,” hasn’t forgotten where it all started for him in the NBA. Even though the franchise relocated to San Francisco last year, the two-time NBA MVP continues to give back to Oakland.
“This is our adoptive home,” Curry told The Undefeated. “There’s been a lot of change in the last couple of years, and we knew that it was coming sooner than later. But when it comes to the support that I’ve felt since I’ve been out here, since ’09 and for me and my family, my teammates that have been through Oracle and playing in it for The Town and feeling that energy, you can’t ever leave that. Or I should say that you can never forget it.
“And I think for us, and anything that I want to do in terms of the community, Oakland is first.”
Curry stands on his court built at Manzanita Recreation Center in Oakland.
Curry and his wife, Ayesha, have stayed connected to the area, including through the couple’s “Eat. Learn. Play.” foundation, which will fund Oakland’s Town Camp during the summer. Nnow Curry and Under Armour are opening a new court in Oakland through the Curry Brand, which officially launched on Monday.
Curry and Under Armour considered several sites before selecting Manzanita. The first of what the brand hopes will be many refurbished basketball courts is numbered 001 with a blue and yellow colorway along with backboards designed by Hueman, a local artist, who was inspired by the graffiti she saw on the Oakland railroad station. Curry Brand is also providing equipment and partnering with Positive Coaching Alliance to train coaches and administrators in Oakland Parks, Recreation & Youth Development.
“This is a symbolic day, in terms of being able to have a court refurbishment right here in the community, for two reasons,” Curry said Nov. 23 during the court dedication. “One, this is where I grew up as a basketball player in the NBA, been playing 10 years in Oakland, and all the success we had on the court as a team and what Oakland means to me and my family and our organization. But now being able to celebrate the launch of my brand with Under Armour and understanding that it’s all about purpose and impact and what we can do to support and celebrate the community that has done so much for me, to be able to have a court refurbishment here and give the next generation a safe space to play, a community to gather and celebrate that, is special.
“So this is hopefully the first of many. But to do it right here in Oakland, it means a lot to have a full-circle moment.”
Curry talked with The Undefeated about his past year, the new-look Warriors, who lost Klay Thompson to an Achilles injury earlier this month, and the social justice movement during the upcoming season.
You’ve played in 112 career playoff games. Now that you’ve had this long layoff, how are you feeling?
I definitely took advantage of the time off. Looking forward to this new year, getting back out there, understanding that we still have a lot left in the tank. And despite the unfortunate situation with Klay, we still feel like we’re a threat to be dealt with, and we got to go out and prove it. So I’m excited about it. Watching the bubble was hard, obviously, not being able to play, but the rest was appropriate. It was good.
How is your hand?
I’m feeling good. I think that one game I played in March felt like I had a good rehab and all that. And obviously, over this extended offseason, I’ve had time to focus on the things that needed attention. So when I get back out on the court, it should be just getting familiar with the new guys, understanding that we have a lot to accomplish and a lot to learn quickly with the condensed season.
What was your reaction to the news that Klay Thompson will miss the season?
I think Klay is universally liked around the league, and understand he’s just the greatest dude. He just loves basketball. That was a tough call to get. Obviously, the excitement for us leading up to the draft and him coming back healthy, Draymond [Green] coming back healthy, myself coming back healthy, having the second pick. And now, with James Wiseman, some of the other guys, we really felt like this was a great opportunity for him to reassert himself as the best 2-guard in the league.
So, to get that call was a gut punch for sure. A lot of tears, a lot of you don’t really know what to say, because a guy like that is having to go through two pretty serious rehabs now. But at the end of the day, we have to have his back.
What are your thoughts on the Warriors signing Kelly Oubre to help with Klay’s loss?
It speaks to our organization’s commitment to try to put the best roster out there. I knew we were going to be aggressive in free agency even without Klay’s injury. But it became more of a sense of urgency to find the right talented guys.
Kelly, he’s been around five years now, and I think he’s hungry to take that next step. Hopefully we have the culture and the structure to unleash him. With him, with Wigs [Andrew Wiggins], with James Wiseman, E.P. [Eric Paschall] coming back … I could go down the whole roster, but everybody’s locked in on the opportunity, and I think that’s what we’re calling it. It’s a huge opportunity for a lot of guys. Me and Draymond are ready for a leadership role and to be who we are as players, but it’s going to look different, and I think we’re going to feed off of that energy.
How does it feel to see Wiseman and rookie guard Nico Mannion go from being attendees at your camp to a teammate?
That might be the only thing that makes me feel old. It’s funny, him and Nico Mannion were two campers two years ago and three years ago. It’s wild, man, to think they went through college, and now they’re suiting up as teammates.
That familiarity will help for sure. And hopefully they’ll trust in me and Draymond and our other vets to teach them all that we know, and put them in a position to be successful and add immense value to what we do. So I’m excited, man. It’s the Curry Camp alumni. I told them they might have to bring their Curry camp jersey to training camp before they can step foot on the floor.
Draymond told me he thinks Wiseman can be special. What do you think?
I think his demeanor – you can look at his physique and the raw, natural talent that he has, but when you talk to a guy that just has that look in his eye, like, ‘I’m just ready to learn, I’m ready to work’ – I don’t think he’s afraid of the challenge. That says a lot. He obviously has to go out and prove it, and we’re going to be tough on him early to put him in the right mindset, what it takes to be successful in the NBA. But he’s got it.
I’m excited, man. He could be a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent in terms of what he can physically do on the court and how he sees the game. It’s going to be great for us.
What are your expectations for this shortened 2020-21 season?
Knowing what the top of the West looks like … with obviously L.A. winning the championship and reloading … you look at the Clippers, you look at Denver, Houston, Portland, Utah, Dallas, Phoenix, Sacramento, there’s so many talented teams that are looking to take that next step. We’ve been there before, so we know what it takes, and we’re going to rely on that for sure. But we’ve got that nice, perfect balance of experience and youth. And when it comes to a playoff matchup, when we’re in there and we’re locked in, we know we’re tough to beat.
Come playoff time, whenever that is, we know we’ll be there, we know we’ll be a force to be reckoned with on that front.
What was it like to watch the bubble from the outside and ultimately see LeBron and the Lakers win the title?
I think not being a part of the bubble at the beginning was hard. There’s 22 teams on there that are grinding and getting ready to do the restart, and we’re sitting at home. Then it kind of died down a little bit until the playoffs started. And that’s when I just missed being in that fight, and in that competition, and playing with the best teams in the league every year. So it was tough watching. I haven’t watched the playoffs at home in six years. So it was definitely weird.
L.A. played amazing. Like LeBron, AD [Anthony Davis], I was happy for them, obviously. When you know what it takes to win a championship, whether you’re in the fight or not, you appreciate that final moment when a team accomplishes their goal. And it’s almost inspiring and motivating for us to get back and look forward to this year. And then, obviously, you include just what it took to get the bubble off and what that sacrifice was being down there for however many days. I’m glad they got through the season. I’m glad it worked. And L.A. did what they had to do and got it done.
What did you think about the work stoppage after Jacob Blake was shot by a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin?
I thought it was a situation where guys used their platforms to speak on an issue that needed attention. And you can nitpick how Milwaukee handled it with [the] Orlando [Magic] and the other locker room not knowing, or the 48 hours after where guys are really trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. At the end of the day, a lot of good came out of that. Attention was shed on Jacob and his family and the situation. There were a lot of different initiatives and support and resources committed to from the league, from different owners, from different teams on opening up facilities for voting. …
Going into the bubble, there was an importance and an intentionality around keeping that conversation going, despite basketball games being played. … So I shout out all my NBA brothers for taking advantage of the spotlight that they had down in Orlando and using it wisely.
You have three children, two daughters and a son. How did recent events impact you as a Black father?
All of these conversations in our community, whether it’s supported by national media or not, it’s always a conversation that’s being had. This summer, it’s just felt different. There’s a lot of different, unfortunate situations that you’re dealing with, from Breonna [Taylor] to George to Jacob to you name it. But in terms of finding real momentum of what can we do to truly change this, this can’t just be a talking point anymore. This can’t just be a narrative. What are we actually trying to do?
And you look at the election, you look at voter turnout, you look at what’s happening in Georgia with Stacey Abrams and what she’s leading down there. There’s real change happening. Will we see it in our lifetime? Hopefully. But I think we’re trying to all leave a legacy and a new reality for our kids and their kids. I don’t know how they’re going to write this in the history books, but this is a very meaningful, influential time right now. Everybody has to play their part.
How do NBA players keep it going this coming season?
It’s going to be on each individual … the collective awareness of how we continue to leverage our platforms in a meaningful way. Whether that’s our social channels, whether that’s using our interviews and media availability, whether that’s what we do in the community. Even if it’s not a microphone or a camera there, there’s so many different ways that guys can continue that momentum and leverage resources, awareness, support to changing the tide of our society.
We won’t have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the court, but you’ll still be able to speak on what’s important in terms of how sports brings people together. And that should be the connective tissue with everything that we do.