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Things We Love About The Warriors: The joy of Stephen Curry, ‘the happy warrior’

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‘Things We Love About The Warriors’ is a summer series focused on traits we admire about the team as a whole, or individual players, that extend beyond the boundaries of the court.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five
“Forget the cherries, bro. These cupcakes will have rings on top!”
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stephen Curry certainly has reasons to smile — 201 of them, to be exact. But the man was all chuckles even before signing a “five-year, $201 million supermax deal,” making him the world’s “highest annually compensated athlete.”

It wasn’t even winning his second NBA championship in June. Curry is a human who is simply filled with joy and strives to live life to the fullest. Apparently, joy is contagious and Curry has infected the whole team.

It’s the only way to explain this:

Golden State Warriors v Chicago Bulls
The kind of laugh that gives you stomach cramps.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

And this:

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

And this:

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest 2016
Chuckle Brothers.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr has stated that Curry’s joy is one of the greatest gifts he brings to the team. The reasons are obvious. When players are joyful, they play free; when they play free, they play in a zone that leads to championships.

Kerr, after forgetting to mention Steph during his championship speech in June, said he told his star player: “Steph, I’m so embarrassed. I forgot to talk about you. You’re not that important to the team anyway.”

Because Curry’s greatness is accompanied by team-first humility, it is easy to imagine him laughing to tears at this. But Kerr went on to say the following about his oversight and the man he considers a son:

It was a horrible oversight. What he means to the franchise, I should’ve finished up with him. How in the hell could I forget Steph Curry? What I should’ve done is gone back up there and grabbed the mic. What I would’ve said ... is he makes this whole thing work. Everything revolves around him. The whole culture revolves not only [around] his talent, his unselfishness, but his joy.

The fragile egos of some NBA players ... or even, say, a president ... would not be able to withstand such an oversight. Many would throw a social media temper tantrum over a slight like this one that occurred on such a big stage. That Curry undoubtedly took this in stride, and likely laughed it off, is the mark not only of a strong man, but a contented one.

In a recent GQ article, Curry explained that Kerr’s trust in him to do things like take wild shots from wayyy downtown comes from knowing Curry’s joy is directly related to his confidence and ability to settle into the type of rhythm that results in the noted third-quarter Curry Flurry.

“I’m sure that Coach Kerr never thought he’d be cool with letting somebody shoot from 35 feet out without thinking about it,” Curry said. “But he respects emotion, and he’s made playing with joy one of our core principles as a team.” In agreeing to head the Warriors, Kerr stated that the individuality Curry’s joy represents is something he wanted “to spread throughout the organization.”

In 2017 America, it certainly seems to be more popular to be cynical and snarky than positive and kind. This does not mean Steph is immune to the occasional snarky remark. But an overall disposition of positivity and joy — especially in a testosterone-driven environment in which masculinity is defined by being “hard” and sleeping with lots of women — certainly is unique.

Steph’s joy apparently was cultivated at home, growing up in a devout Christian family headed by father Dell, a former NBA player and current Charlotte Hornets broadcaster, and mother Sonya, a former school principal, and shared with younger brother Seth, shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks, and sister Sydel, an Elon University graduate and dog lover. Here she is on graduation day with her “pawtner” Quavo:

Via Sydel Curry on Instagram.

But it is no secret that the three main squeezes in Steph’s life are his wife, Ayesha, and their daughters Riley (4) and Ryan (2). It would be hard for anyone’s heart not to be filled with joy in the presence of these glowing beauties.

Here is Steph on Father’s Day with Riley:

Via Ayesha Curry on Instagram.

And a beaming message from Ayesha to go along with it:

And Ayesha having fun with Ryan on parade day:

Via Ayesha Curry on Instagram.

And this glorious parade day family photo, with Riley having none. of. it.:

Via Ayesha Curry on Instagram.

(The fact that the word rile means “to make agitated and angry” cannot be overlooked.)

How to be a “happy warrior”

“The Revenge of Stephen Curry, the Happy Warrior” by Andrew Corsello (GQ, April 2017) is filled with day-in-the-life anecdotes that highlight the attitudes and traits Curry possesses that appear to make him a pretty happy individual. Throughout his rise to the pinnacle of sports history, Curry has made it no secret that he feels he was put on the planet to be an example to others.

This is not to say he’s perfect. Curry is human like every person on the planet and, therefore, prone to foibles, misdeeds and mistakes. However, in an increasingly callous, hostile society, it is more important than ever to emphasize and promote virtuous qualities. If contagions of violence and suicide can exist and spread, it stands to reason that humans also can become infected with joy, contentedness and peace.

Yet, Curry’s joy and other positive qualities often are discounted by what many identify as his privileged upbringing. It is true that he (or anyone) raised in an upper-middle class or wealthy home — with loving parents who instilled strong values about family and hard work — has an advantage in life over someone who begins in poverty with limited parental guidance.

Additionally, it certainly is easier for someone to sleep well at night when he or she doesn’t have to worry about how the mortgage will get paid or where the money will come from to buy school supplies for the kids.

But it is important to remember that money truly does not buy happiness, as there are many wealthy, unduly embittered individuals who bulldoze their way through life treating others like garbage. Truly happy people typically are not mean because they have no reason to be.

And then there are people who live in poverty but have found joy through other means, such as religion or meaningful work. Thus, money may make some aspects of life easier but it cannot bring contentment and peace into a person’s heart. By contrast, poverty may make a person’s mind weary with struggle, but their hearts can remain joyful and uplifted for other reasons.

However, U.S. society seems besieged by an unspoken mandate for people to be happy at all times. Yes, cultivating joy can improve one’s life, but everyone is not able to nurture joy. Life deals extreme hardship to many — often in the forms of grief, trauma and physical illness. To demand smiles 24/7 from people experiencing legitimate suffering not only would be unrealistic and inauthentic, but cruel.

Perhaps joy should come with a mandate that happy, fortunate souls show compassion and empathy towards those who are less fortunate.

Seeds of Stephen Curry’s joy

Stephen Curry exhibits specific traits that seem to be seeds that make up his garden of joy. If good things are planted and nourished, good things will grow. Here are some of the seeds the superstar shooter appears to have planted:

Gratitude: The man is aware of his blessings — from the talent that has provided him a platform to “shine a light,” to the beautiful family of origin that made him and the gorgeous family of his own he is making. He has interacted with people who live in dire poverty and knows his life is not the norm for most. He also knows his gifts result from something larger than his individual hard work.

Purpose: According to his good friend Chris Strachan, Steph “feels God put him on this earth to play, and he never wants to forget that that’s what it’s all about — play.” Playing with a strong sense of purpose obviously has led him to a successful basketball career and a platform through which he can demonstrate his values on a global scale.

Humility: Because he loves and cares for his family, Curry doesn’t appreciate being followed on the freeway for miles by overzealous fans in search of an autograph. But he genuinely seems to appreciate connecting with fans and is gracious with his time, stating, “I’d be sorry if people didn’t feel moved to come up and share a little bit of themselves with me.”

Service: “I'm not gonna pretend that I have some long history as an activist. But I’m definitely in the camp that when it comes to athletes,” Curry said, “whoever has a microphone in front of their face, they ought to use it.” In other words, he uses his platform to effect change and give to others. For Curry, these good deeds have included:

Perspective: For Curry, basketball is a part of life, but it is not life itself. Moreover, it is not the most important thing in his life, either. Wife, Ayesha, said it best: “Steph wants that championship as much as anybody ever could. But he doesn’t need that ring to complete his own sense of who he is and what he’s worth. Win or lose, he’s the same happy guy.”

Fun: When asked about his plans for the summer in his postgame presser following the Warriors’ 2015 NBA Championship, Steph stated that he planned to “just enjoy life” and “live life to the fullest.” A search through YouTube will provide myriad videos on the world’s best shooter singing, dancing, laughing and having fun. In most of these videos, he appears completely uninhibited and lost in the moment. This appearance on Carpool Karaoke is but one example.

What brings you joy?

Poll

Increasing/improving my __________ would enhance my joy.

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Gratitude
    (141 votes)
  • 29%
    Purpose
    (183 votes)
  • 9%
    Humility
    (59 votes)
  • 10%
    Service
    (64 votes)
  • 11%
    Perspective
    (73 votes)
  • 14%
    Fun
    (92 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (answer in comments)
    (17 votes)
629 votes total Vote Now