It might be impossible to find an elite athlete who plays with more joy than Steph Curry.
It might also be difficult to look beyond Curry’s playful smile and childlike enthusiasm on the court to see what really drives the Warriors’ star.
It’s tempting to view him as just a hard-working, gifted man chasing exuberance with every sprint around a teammate’s screen or launching of a difficult shot. His coach, though, can tell you there’s a lot less innocence to Curry’s game than most imagine.
Turns out there’s a good reason why, even at 33 years old, they still call Curry “The Baby-faced Assassin.”
“Steph’s competitive on a lot of different levels,” Kerr said during an interview on 95.7 The Game. “It’s one of the reasons Steph is as great as he is. It goes so far beyond just the skill. It’s the competitive desire. And the belief in himself that can follow through on that competitiveness.”
Although Curry didn’t say it, there was an unspoken challenge that probably spurred him to another eye-popping performance in the Warriors’ 127-113 victory over Atlanta on Monday night.
One could just sense it was time for Curry to shine as he matched up against Atlanta’s Trae Young, his would-be replacement someday as the NBA’s best shooter. One person, in particular, clearly saw this coming.
In a quintessential example of Game recognizing Game, WNBA superstar Candace Parker correctly predicted what Curry would do against Young and the Hawks.
“Steph is (gonna) have 50 tonight….Anytime you play against a young protégé you gotta let ‘em know,” Parker tweeted minutes before the game.
Curry then scored the Warriors’ first 10 points of the game on his way to delivering another of his jaw-dropping efforts and ended up doing exactly what Parker predicted, scoring 50 points against Atlanta. He buried nine 3-pointers on his way to his 10th career 50-point game, but Curry also dished out 10 assists to become the oldest player in NBA history with 50 or more points and 10 or more assists in a game.
“He finds ways to motivate himself. It’s not fake. It’s real,” Kerr said. “He wants to win a championship, he wants to beat the best teams, he wants to let the other players know in the league that he’s still got it. He’s going to take on the challenge, whether it’s LeBron (James) or one of the best players in the league.
“Or a younger guy like Trae, who’s up-and-coming, who maybe is following in Steph’s footsteps. All that stuff factors in.”
Nothing Curry does is surprising anymore to Kerr, who has long run out of superlatives to describe the two-time MVP.
“He was amazing. I want to say I’ve never seen anything like it but I’ve been watching it for seven years, so I have seen something like it and still it’s just incredible to watch,” Kerr said Monday night.
It hasn’t always been incredibly easy to coach, Curry, though.
Kerr conceded that when he first started coaching the Warriors it was sometimes hard for him to watch Curry’s long-distance shooting without wincing.
“He was taking shots that, in my basketball blood, every coach I ever had would have a heart attack watching those shots,” Kerr told 95.7 The Game. “I had to get over what was instilled in my brain about what was a good shot and what was a bad shot. With Steph, you have to understand, part of what makes him so powerful is that he’s going to steal the ball at midcourt and pull up from 40 feet.
“Even if he misses, there’s just this fear factor for the opponent and an excitement factor with the crowd — that you can’t coach better than that — there’s sort of an intangible that comes with him that’s just incredible to watch. As a coach, you have to allow that to happen. You can’t get in the way.”