Steph Curry

Why Warriors, Bay Area's bond with Steph must forever be cherished

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Two notable occurrences in the sports world this week, one solemn and the other joyous, served reminders that truly special relationships are to be cherished. Forever. Such as that the Warriors and the Bay Area have with Stephen Curry.

Jerry West spent 40 years making the Los Angeles Lakers the most widely treasured team in California, but the cold war between him and the franchise still was in place Wednesday morning when he died.

To which the Lakers responded with a relative blip of condolence.

A few hours later, across the country, 60,000 folks were celebrating an event that should ensure the relationship between Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would not meet the same fate.

Brady, the essential element of the winningest NFL franchise of the 21st century before an icy parting in 2020, returned to New England for the retirement of his No. 12 jersey and his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame.

Which brings us back to Curry and the firm belief that civic treasures should be treated as such.

In the two months since the inglorious end of the Warriors’ season, there has been a glut of opinions about how the franchise should proceed. Some even suggest the front office should explore trading Curry.

His value is high, but he’s 36 years old. Look at all the Warriors could get to start, ya know, a rebuild.

Banish the thought. Golden State CEO Joe Lacob is too savvy to authorize such a move. General manager Mike Dunleavy is too smart to risk life, limb and reputation. And any soul daring to convince coach Steve Kerr that the Warriors would be better off without Steph would leave the discussion with an “L” stamped on their forehead.

The Warriors have been in the Bay Area since 1962, and they’ve never experienced the kind of passion and popularity that accompanied Curry’s rise to superstardom as the engine of the team’s rise to the top of the NBA.

Remember what it was like in these parts before 2013? I do. Curry does. And he addressed it on the “Heat Check with Steph and Dell Curry,” a new podcast venture for the father and son that was released Thursday.

“There was a lot of changeover from the ‘We Believe’ team in 2007, to two years later when guys are demanding trades and there’s turmoil upstairs in the front office,” Curry said, recalling his arrival in the 2009 draft. “The ownership had started the selling process, putting the franchise on the market for a new owner.”

The Warriors were the biggest annual mess on the Bay Area professional sports scene. A rabid fan base was stuck with a disengaged owner and a petty team president. Dysfunction at the top undermined success. Only twice in the previous 16 years, with nine different coaches, had they posted a winning record. They went 13 seasons without placing anyone on the All-Star team. The Golden State franchise was the NBA’s outhouse.

A group led by Lacob and co-executive chairman Peter Guber completed the purchase of the Warriors in November 2010, 17 months after Curry was drafted. New ownership, placing a priority on winning, raised standards across the board. Curry already had begun the process of changing the culture.

There was, after a 2-5 start in his rookie season, his now-famous tweet: “Promise to all Warrior fans . . . we will figure this thing out . . . if it’s the last thing we do we will we figure it out.”

Promise kept. Two seasons and one ankle surgery later, having added draft picks Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors were making their second playoff appearance in 18 years. After a first-round series victory over the Denver Nuggets, the bandwagon began to rumble.

“Dub Nation, the Warrior fan base, they had an amazing reputation of bringing passion and energy, that unconditional support even through some rough times,” Curry said. “It's funny. When we made the playoffs in 2013, my fourth year in the league, we beat Denver in the first round. We lost to San Antonio in six games. I got an e-mail from the mayor of San Francisco at the time. Mayor Ed Lee, and they wanted to give me the key to the city.

“I was like, that's an amazing honor, but wait – all we did is get to the second round of the playoffs.”

That was enough. At the time. Run TMC – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin – generated excitement in their two seasons together, but never advanced beyond the second round (1991). Same with the “We Believe” squad in 2007. Local fans, thirsty for success, were quick to glorify any Warriors team that made the playoffs.

Then came 2014-15. New coach. Curry’s first MVP award. First championship in 40 years. Euphoria raised the tides of the Bay. A legend was created.

A bond was formed.

On the court and off, Curry has given the Warriors and the Bay Area more than they imagined. One NBA Finals MVP award. Two regular-season MVP awards, including the only by unanimous vote. Four championship parades. Rebuilt basketball courts. Toiletries. Books. Computers. Food for the hungry.

Steph, as he is known in households around the Bay, not only has earned the privilege of being untouchable in Golden State trade talks but also representing the team in retirement. One jersey. One franchise.

Curry is a celebrity on a global scale, an institution in the Bay, where never shall the bond be broken. Or the affiliation strained. As Kobe Bryant will forever be in Los Angeles. As Dirk Nowitzki is in Dallas.

As 60,000 people filling Gillette Stadium celebrated a bond reformed.

As Jerry West, before he left us, should have had, in Los Angeles. As a Laker.

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