During warmup before the Warriors’ victory over the Knicks last week, Stephen Curry donned a pair of custom-made, one-of-a-kind Under Armour “Oakland Strong” basketball shoes to honor those who lost their lives in the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire.
On Twitter, he posted a photo of a pair of graffiti-inspired “Oakland Strong” Under Armour kicks, with a message stating the shoes would be auctioned and the proceeds donated to Oakland Fire Relief — a YouCaring crowdfunding effort started by the Oakland Athletics (and later joined by the Warriors and Raiders). Curry’s auction undoubtedly will bring in large sums to support grieving families during a time of unspeakable tragedy. But his Ghost Ship shoes are about more than raising money.
Etched around the heels of both pairs of shoes are the initials of the deceased. In the Warriors’ first home contest following a grinding road trip, Curry scored an uncharacteristic eight points in 34 minutes of playing time against the Knicks — a sobering single-digit number on a somber night of remembering the dead: those who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire and Craig Sager, who died that day following a long cancer fight. Surely, fans will forgive him this poor performance, given his usual greatness and the circumstances under which he racked up those eight points.
Chances are high that Curry did not know any of the victims and it is unlikely that his path would have crossed theirs in the Bay Area or elsewhere. Still, he wore the initials to recognize each life that was cut short — each unique firecracker overtaken by a raging inferno.
The events of December 2nd at the warehouse space are all the more tragic considering that the all signs suggest it could have been prevented, if not for municipal shortcomings — if not outright neglect or wrongdoing rising to the level of criminal activity under the law — and a housing market governed by unbridled greed that leaves many hardworking adults unable to afford safe places to live.
In wearing the initials, Curry was acknowledging that each person mattered to someone — that these were radiant, productive lives ended in the most horrific way possible. Each victim was someone’s spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend; someone’s child; someone’s sister or brother. Many were musicians or artists; there was a scientist, a writer, a teacher, a film producer, and a lawyer; some were gay, lesbian or transgendered.
In an interview earlier in the year, Curry, a noted “Believer,” stated: “I've always been a believer that the Lord has put whatever talent in you, [and] whatever gift He has put in you, He wants you to get the most out of that. He wants you to succeed.”
Curry obviously saw good in the people who died — individuals who lived authentically and were using their talents to pursue various passions. People who were creating art in myriad forms and putting much-needed beauty into a world that often could be considered an ugly landscape.
It is fitting that his “Oakland Strong” shoes feature graffiti art.
With any hope, Curry’s show of respect for the artistic community — those killed in the Ghost Ship blaze as well as those left behind — will increase respect for artists, musicians, writers and other creative types, across society.
And, how magnificent it would be if everyone could earn a living using their God-given talents to create and disseminate into the world beautiful, thoughtful or spirit-tingling things. What a wonderful world it would be if everyone had access to affordable, safe housing, and the need to risk injury or death for a place to sleep was eradicated from society.
Meanwhile, the Raiders, NFL and Oakland officials negotiate a new stadium estimated to cost $1.3 billion, making clear that many in society — especially policy- and decision-makers — have much to learn about values and integrity.
A glance at Stephen Curry’s Ghost Ship shoes and the contributions that each victim made to his or her community would be a good place for them to look and learn.
Donations in support of victims of the Ghost Ship fire can be made HERE.