March 3, 2024

Stephen Curry on ‘Hot Ones’: Warriors star credits his small college experience for unique NBA career

NBA star Steph Curry is known for his hot shooting on the basketball court, but he can also hold his own when it comes to hot sauce. 

The Golden State Warriors superstar appeared on this week’s episode of “Hot Ones” where he discussed multiple topics, including his recent hole-in-one at the American Century Championship, the most memorable compliments that Kobe Bryant ever paid him, and his recently released documentary, “Stephen Curry: Underrated.”

Of course, when it comes to Curry’s underrated background, his Cinderella story was introduced to the masses when he nearly single-handedly led mid-major Davidson College — after being overlooked by all the major programs — to the Elite Eight in 2008 in what was one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs in history. 

Curry was asked about his college experience by host Sean Evans, and whether he believes he would’ve turned out as the same NBA player if he’d traveled the more traditional route to a major college instead of the one that led him to Davidson. 

“That’s a great question,” Curry said. “I don’t think so, because the brand of basketball that I play now was predicated on a system that Davidson College [and] coach Bob McKillop mastered, and the only reason I think I’m successful at it is I got to learn with reps. So, [if I had] gone to [Virginia] Tech or Duke or whatever, maybe I would ride the bench my freshman year, and maybe I don’t get that experience. So I don’t know if I’d be the same player. 

“It’s kind of a message of go [to college] where the best fit is for you,” Curry continued. “As much as you might want to have the pedigree or the resume to say I played in the ACC, I played in a power conference, that’s all cool, but myself, Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, guys who went to mid-major colleges, they’ll find you wherever you’re at. So I wouldn’t change that experience [at Davidson] for anything. I’d rather play that just sit on the bench and say I’ve got a power conference school on my chest.”

Curry makes a couple great points. First, he’s right, if you can play, with the sophistication and resources of scouting today, the NBA is going to find you no matter where you’re playing. Second, playing is always the best way to go. Experience cannot be replicated in practice, and indeed, a big part of what has made Curry so special as a professional is his unparalleled ability to dominate a game as a shooter and scorer both on and off the ball. He got the opportunity to do both at Davidson. 

During the aforementioned Elite Eight run, Curry played as a shooting guard while one of the best table-setters in country, Jason Richards, ran the point. Go back and watch those films. That entire Davidson system was designed around Curry running through an endless maze of screens and using impromptu relocations to free himself for catch-and-shoot jumpers. 

Every one of Curry’s college teammates was in perfect tune with both where he was, and, most importantly, where he was going. It was anticipatory. Whatever bucket Davidson managed to score that Curry didn’t put in the basket himself was almost always a direct result of the attention Curry demanded, opening the floor for others. In spirit, these are the same instinctive, inclusive principles that have won the Warriors four championships. 

During Curry’s junior season at Davidson, after Richards had graduated, he graduated to the role of point guard, where he got the opportunity to begin shaping his talent as a self-creator. His ability to do both of these things, to create space and shots off movement and the dribble, is what has made him not just the best shooter of all time, but the most versatile. 

None of this happens without the opportunity to put these styles of play into practice and play through mistakes. Curry got that chance at Davidson, where he committed 13 turnovers in first career collegiate game but was still afforded the green light to keep firing away. 

That kind of freedom to explore, so early in his career, clearly paid major dividends, and there is surely no guarantee he would’ve been given that same kind of opportunity at a major program where, even had he gotten on the court early on, it would’ve been difficult to design an offense entirely around one player with so many other talented players to utilize and satisfy. 

So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say Curry’s experience at Davidson, which he has credited on more than just this occasion, largely shaped the player he has ultimately become. It’s not to say he wouldn’t have been successful on any other path; he’s an extremely talented, committed and competitive athlete who likely would have succeeded under any circumstances. But to Curry’s point, the unique, revolutionary brand of basketball that he plays may not have come to fruition had his collegiate roots been laid elsewhere. 

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