Steph Curry

Steph recalls his nerve-racking ankle surgery with Dell, agent

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Nearly 12 years ago, on Aug. 25, 2012, Steph Curry, his father Dell and agent Jeff Austin nervously awaited word about the Warriors guard, who was undergoing right ankle surgery for the second consecutive year.

Fortunately for Curry and everyone involved, Dr. Richard Ferkel of Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Van Nuys, Ca., took excellent care of his client. But the waiting and worrying for answers was strenuous for Dell, Austin and Steph -- before and after the then-24-year-old was anesthetized.

Anxiety lingered throughout the stressful day, as the trio did not know what the future had in store, as the injury-riddled Curry was in the third and final year of his rookie contract with Golden State. The three discussed the frightful memory Thursday on the debut episode of the “Heat Check with Stephen and Dell Curry” podcast.

“It’s me and Jeff,” Dell said. “[Ferkel] goes, ‘I’m taking Steph back. We’re going to open it up, look at it, and we’ll come out and tell you what needs to be done, and you guys can give us the OK or not.’ Fine.”

Dell, a television analyst for the Charlotte Hornets then and now, had the approval of the team to miss the last handful of games in the 2011-12 NBA season to be with his oldest son.

And Austin of Octagon Basketball, Steph’s agent for his 15-year NBA career, vividly remembers the day.

“Dell and myself would be outside the operating room when Stephen went in for surgery,” Austin said. "We had spent enough time with Dr. Ferkel to trust him -- that he would open up the ankle, see what he finds and he would make his decision on what needs to happen based upon when he gets inside the ankle. 

“He would consult with Dell and I, and he did not have permission from Stephen or Dell to do the reconstruction without stepping out of the room and explaining why he would have to do it.”

Simple enough? Not really.

What initially was supposed to be a relatively short viewing of the inside of Steph’s ankle turned into an overtime-game-long wait for Dell and Austin. While scared, they also became somewhat frustrated about being left in the dark.

“Hours passed,” Dell said. “Jeff and I aren’t saying much because we’re a little worried. Two hours [pass] and we’re like, ‘OK, what’s going on?’ Doc hadn’t come out yet.”

“We started thinking, ‘Oh my God, we haven’t heard from him and it’s taking a long time,’” Austin added. “‘Did [Ferkel] go ahead and do this reconstruction without telling us?’ ”

Ferkel did not reconstruct Curry’s ankle without warning. No restructuring was needed -- a massive sigh of relief.

But Dell and Austin didn’t know that was the case until they were told. And what was a multiple-hour wait still felt like an eternity.

“[After] two, three, four hours, [Ferkel] comes out and is like, ‘All right, we’re done,’ ” Dell added. “We’re like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, Doc. Done what? You didn’t tell us -- you never came out and told us what needed to be done.’

“He says, ‘Ah, it wasn’t bad. It was just a clean-out. I didn’t want to break up what we had going on to come out and tell you guys we were just going to clean it out and tighten it up.’ That was a nervous, intense [and] long day for surgery.”

Dell and Austin were thrilled to hear Steph endured the least invasive procedure possible and that the Davidson product hopefully would be done with the ankle issues.

Steph played in just 26 games that 2011-12 season, and he suffered at least five ankle sprains that fans were aware of. He also dropped from 18.6 points per game the year before to a mere 14.7.

Lost in Steph and Dell’s debut podcast episode was the emerging star’s memory of the time. He, too, was a nervous wreck.

“Y’all know how nervous I was?” Steph said. “Going through surgery, in general, is nerve-racking and the year before I did a full reconstruction, but I still wasn’t feeling all the way right ... But it just speaks to the trust of you and Jeff to be in the space. 

“When I went under, [the three possibilities were] clean it out, a pretty invasive operation or it’s going to be the big one that was going to keep me out for a long time. I went under the anesthesia -- those were my last thoughts -- ‘Please be option No. 1.’ I woke up, saw y’all, and I kind of came to my senses.

“I asked, ‘What’s the deal?’ and [Dell] said, ‘It’s the least invasive one. It’s the clean-out. Four months, [you] should be back out there.’ Thankfully, that was the last of the injury [or] ankle drama that I had to go through. I was nervous, but I can’t imagine y’all.

Steph joined Dell and Austin in being grateful for the outcome -- in 2012 and on Thursday. 

The procedure paid off in ways unimaginable, as Ferkel and the rest of his staff in Van Nuys, like most basketball fans, had no clue what feats No. 30 ultimately would accomplish.

In the season following Steph’s surgery, he put himself and the Warriors on the map. He averaged 22.9 points per game and carried Golden State to a 47-35 record after finishing 23-43 in the lockout-shortened season before.

Soon enough, Steph would become a two-time NBA MVP and four-time NBA Champion with the Warriors.

Steph Dell, and Austin never will forget the fear they had when a second ankle surgery stared them in the eyes.

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