Golden State Warrior Steph Curry: Communication Is Everything

Written

Golden State Warrior Steph Curry: Communication Is Everything

The celebrity athlete talks family, religion, and vision on and off the court.
Close up shot of Wardell Stephen Curry sitting and holding his hands, looking off camera. Credit: Stacy Geiken
“When I come home, I’m Dad,” Steph Curry said during a recent appearance at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “It doesn’t matter how many points I score.” | Stacy Geiken

With three NBA championships, two NBA MVP awards, six all-star designations, and recognition by many as basketball’s best shooter ever, Golden State Warriors point guard Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry II is one of the world’s most famous athletes and celebrities — in part for his consistent hitting of unbelievably long-distance baskets.

Beyond basketball, Curry is active in philanthropy, film and TV production, and investing. In 2017, he launched SC30, the company managing his off-court businesses, with former college teammate and Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Bryant Barr. Their portfolio includes the production company Unanimous Media and the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, started by Curry’s wife, Ayesha, to promote nutrition and physical activity in children.

Curry was the featured speaker in a recent Stanford GSB View From The Top event, where he was interviewed by Stanford GSB student Tylon Garrett, MBA ’20.

A Foundation for Everything

Family has been a consistent theme in Curry’s life.

His father Dell was an NBA player (Charlotte Hornets), as is his brother Seth (Dallas Mavericks). “Family is everything,” Curry says. “The biggest thing my parents taught us was always to support each other, to have each other’s backs. Not everything is winning championships and riding on parade buses. Now Ayesha and I are trying to establish that with our kids.”

“When I come home, I’m Dad,” he continues, “and that’s the best thing in life. It doesn’t matter how many points I score.”

Religion, too, forms Curry’s foundation: “I made the decision myself in third grade to follow Jesus. I never knew I’d be able to impact people with the God-given basketball skill that I have. But I’m not the guy who’s going to bash people over the head with the Bible.”

Humble Beginnings

Though a major star today, Curry was overlooked by top Division I basketball programs, landing at lesser-known Davidson University after high school.

Curry says, “People said things like ‘You’re an NBA player’s son. You should be going to the ACC [elite Atlantic Coast Conference group of NCAA athletic programs].’ But to me there are no accidents in life. I got to be around Bob McKillop, one of the greatest basketball coaches. He helps you understand what a man is supposed to be on and off the court.”

On the court, Curry led Davidson on an unlikely run to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight in 2008, his sophomore year. Overnight he became a household name. But he was prepared for the instant fame: “As one of the original Hornets, Dad was a celebrity in Charlotte, and I got to see how gracious he was with his fans. Those lessons got ingrained in me. It could’ve been different if he’d been a different person.”

“If you buy into people telling you how great you are,” he continues, “that’s a recipe for disaster. You have to check yourself.”

A Warrior’s Journey

The Golden State Warriors drafted Curry as a first-round pick in 2009.

The team had gone 12 years without a playoff appearance. Curry promised Warrior fans by tweet that he would help “figure it out.” “The environment, the corporate culture on down, was bad,” he says. “But I could lead by example, by showing up every day at work to get better. My rookie year LeBron [James] pulled me aside after our first game against each other and said, ‘All you need to worry about right now is what you’re doing on a daily basis. What habits will set you up for success?’”

Curry took the advice to heart, and things coalesced for the Warriors. Six years later, the team made the NBA finals, with Curry firmly established as a team leader.

Collaboration on the Court

In 2011, on the way to becoming a championship team, the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson; he and Curry became known as the “Splash Brothers.”

“We both come from NBA families,” Curry says. “We both love to shoot. We would compete in practice, to make each other better, always trying to one-up each other. He’s the most selfless guy on the team, and I try to let people know how important he is.”

In 2016, an even bigger headline-grabbing duo was formed when the Warriors acquired Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant — meaning Curry had to share the spotlight.

Curry says, “I’d be an idiot not to understand his value to the team and to be afraid of being around other talented people. I knew that together we could push each other to heights neither of us could have imagined. But I overcomplicated it [working with Durant, Thompson, and other teammates] at the beginning. We worked through it and got two championships.”

If you buy into people telling you how great you are, that’s a recipe for disaster. You have to check yourself.
Steph Curry

After winning a second consecutive title in 2017, the Warriors opted out of the customary White House visit, instead visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture with local children. “You can have a powerful voice and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Curry says. “We wanted to stand against how the presidential office was being represented. I didn’t agree with the hatefulness coming out of that office, and it became a collective team decision.”

Beyond Basketball

SC30’s broad mission is to enhance opportunities for the next generation, Curry says of his social-impact portfolio.

SC30 comprises multiple branding partnerships, including one that offers Curry-branded athletic shoes and apparel through Under Armor. Unanimous Media, the film/TV production arm, creates content focused on family, faith, and sports. Breakthrough, the company’s debut movie, for example, depicts the true story of a teen who was declared dead after falling through ice but made a miraculous recovery. “We try to create content the whole family can bond around,” Curry says.

The Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation that Curry runs with Ayesha includes its pillars right in its name. According to its site, the organization works to unlock the “amazing potential of every child by fighting to end childhood hunger, ensuring universal access to quality education, and enabling healthy, active lifestyles.” That includes programs that feed hungry kids and families, and others that build playgrounds nationwide.

“Communicate, first and foremost,” Curry advises aspiring entrepreneurs. He and business partner Barr spent two years talking about what they would build: “It felt like all we had was business conversations during that time. We forgot the friendship part and had to reset, because we’d lost the personal part. Communication is everything.”

“I truly believe SC30 can be a game changer,” Curry continues. “We’re establishing processes and the team to set us up for success later, when the ball stops bouncing. But right now, I have to balance that with being the best basketball player I can be. I want to win three more championships.”

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.
Explore More

Insights

An illustration of a man walking, and his shadow shows the figure of a snake. Credit: iStock/dane_mark
April 30, 2020
Written

How Narcissistic Leaders Destroy from Within

When the person at the top is malignant and self-serving, unethical behavior cascades through the organization and becomes legitimized.

Insights

Veda Hrudya Nadendla, a marketing and branding specialist, works from her home after her office was closed due to COVID-19. Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abid
April 30, 2020
Written

Jeffrey Pfeffer: COVID-19 Changes Everything — and Nothing — about Managing Workers

For employers, best practices during a pandemic are no different than before: take care of your people.

Insights

Signs that read “suspend rent” and “fear causes racism” are pictured on a boarded-up business in Seattle during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Credit: Reuters/Jason Redmond
April 23, 2020
Written

Contagion, Xenophobia, and Leadership

Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 trigger both disgust and fear. Combined, those can trigger a misguided search for a scapegoat.