OAKLAND, Ca. — After Oracle Arena’s 20,000 fans emptied out after Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, the postseason celebration hit the streets.
But for Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors, the celebration had just begun.
Encircled by teammates in the blue-and-gold locker room, he clutched the Larry O’Brien trophy with two arms, and with every exhale let out a scream of elation. As champagne littered the air and the players soaked up the big victory, reality started to sink in: the Warriors are the NBA champions.
“It was chaos,” head coach Steve Kerr said of the celebration at the postgame presser. “Pure joy.”
Curry’s feelings were surely along the same lines, as he capped off the ultimate season for any player. He added the title of “NBA Champion” to his prestigious MVP label, and after a long road to the Association, having it all pay off must be pure bliss.
Steph shouldn’t be in the NBA. He went to Davidson, one of the nation’s smallest Division 1 schools, because coming out of high school, no one else really wanted the undersized guard.
“At Charlotte Christian, Stephen was 5’6” as a freshman, 5’8” as a sophomore, 5’11” as a junior,” said sports journalist Michael Kruse. “His jersey hung on his slender shoulders as if on a wire hanger in the corner of a closet.”
But his icy handles and slick jump shot got him a full ride to Davidson, and his junior year, he carried the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament. With the nation on pulse, he had big game after big game en route to the Elite Eight.
NBA scouts took notice, but Steph still remained just another undersized, mid-major guard in the eyes of most fans. Golden State selected Curry with the seventh-overall pick in 2009, but with Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce still going strong, as well as LeBron James hitting his stride, it has taken a while for Curry to steal the spotlight.
So when the final buzzer sounded on Tuesday night, there was no surprise that Curry was on top of the world. Not only did he finally reach his ultimate goal—being an NBA champion—he paved the way for so many others.
There is no shortage of mid-major college stars with NBA potential. What there is a lack of, though, is a roadmap for them to succeed. When you don’t have “Kentucky” or “Duke” plastered on your player card, it’s a lot harder to get attention from scouts and fans alike. But becoming elite at a certain aspect of the game, as well as being a likeable and genuine person, can get any player on a roster.
Curry is a novelty when it comes to mid-major stars. Not many more MVPs will likely come out of Davidson, nor will the face of the NBA soon be an Atlantic 10 alumnus. But Steph has whipped up the roadmap for any mid-major star to make a living in the league—his recipe for success.
No wonder he’s called Chef Curry.
Samuel Benson is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.