NBA free agency started with a bang Saturday when the Golden State Warriors signed star point guard and internet gawd Steph Curry to the richest contract in NBA history — $201 million over five years.
But here’s another reaction that shouldn’t be overshadowed: Inspiration.
And no, not just inspiration for those who dream of being Uncle Scrooge-level rich one day. Rather, Curry’s mega-deal includes a healthy dose of inspiration for those who dream of achieving true greatness — be it in sports, music, academics, or any other endeavor — but for whom that greatness right now seems discouragingly far away.
It’s worn-out by now to describe Curry as an “everyman” or “underdog” NBA star. But what casual basketball observers might miss is that this isn’t just because Curry is rather short (6-foot-3) and skinny (190 pounds) by NBA standards. While most NBA stars enter the league after having been scouted and touted by talent agents since their early teens, Curry took a different path.
Curry’s old page on the college sports recruiting site Rivals.com shows him unranked nationally, unranked in his state, and unranked at his position. Despite growing up in the backyard of college hoops powers Duke and North Carolina, Curry’s list of scholarship offers was decidedly unimpressive, with only a single one from a school in a top sports conference.
He went on to become a college basketball sensation at Davidson College, but still was seen by many as a fringe NBA starter. Four guards were picked ahead of Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft before the Warriors snatched him up with the 7th overall selection.
Even then, greatness was far from foretold. In his third season, 2011-2012, Curry averaged just 14.7 points and played in only 26 games because of ankle problems. His first All-Star appearance was still two years away.
But he kept working, kept grinding, wouldn’t get discouraged. Since 2015, Curry has won two MVP awards and two NBA titles while reviving a once-moribund franchise. Sure, he didn’t need a record contract to validate his greatness — but money, like it or not, is how we validate greatness in America. And now Curry has that validation.
Five years, $201 million is a lot of money, breaking down to $76 per minute, every minute of every day. That’s insane. Those numbers and what they reflect about the culture at large might turn you off, but they also represent a tidy end point to Curry’s remarkable basketball journey.
Considering Curry’s career arc, his new deal should be enough to bring a tear of inspiration to the eye of anyone dreaming of the day when their hard work will both pay off and be recognized.