The moment Stephen Curry’s brilliance heralded greatness


Sometimes you get lucky in this life, and by “this life” I mean the life of the sportswriter. Sometimes they let you in on a secret before anyone else does. Sometimes there is a glimpse of what is to come.

The scribes of the Providence Journal and the Hartford Courant surely saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as minor leaguers. Someone from the Oshawa News must have seen 14-year-old Bobby Orr play for the junior league generals. Maybe it’s not so obvious right now. But in hindsight: it was good to be there.

It was good to be in Buffalo in the early evening of Thursday, March 15, 2007. The first game of the 2007 NCAA Tournament paired the Maryland Terrapins and Davidson Wildcats, a 4-13 matchup that seemed to be one. two-sided affair. Sometimes you can afford to skip that game. But there was some additional interest attached.


A son of a famous athlete played for each team.

The most notable was DJ Strawberry of Maryland, son of Darryl, who over the course of four years had become an excellent ACC player, averaging 14.9 points in his senior year. A day earlier he had been besieged at a press conference at what was then known as the HSBC Arena.

“It has never seemed like a burden to me to call myself Strawberry,” she had said then. “I’ve always seen it as an honor.”

The other? That was Dell Curry’s eldest son. Dell Curry never achieved the level of fame, or infamy, in the NBA that Darryl Strawberry had achieved in the MLB, but basketball fans even then recognized that Dell had perhaps the sweetest shot hit of all time, one that allowed him to make 40.2 percent of his 3-point shots in 16 seasons with the Jazz, Cavaliers, Hornets, Bucks and Raptors, a career that had ended five years earlier.

Stephen Curry dribbles against DJ Strawberry in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
Stephen Curry dribbles against DJ Strawberry in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
fake images

“Do you want to hear a secret?”

Bob McKillop asked me those words. He had known McKillop for years, ever since he attended his summer camp at Long Island Lutheran. His was already one of Long Island basketball’s iconic runs, and this Davidson team, at the time, was his showpiece: 29-5, 17-1 in the Southern Conference.

“I love secrets, coach.”

(And yes, to the very end, McKillop was one of the few coaches I still referred to as “Coach,” as I always felt like a 14-year-old in his company.)

“Kid shoots better than his old man.”

That was absurd, of course, but I nodded politely. The next day, during warm-ups, I kept an eye on Dell’s son. His name was Esteban. He weighed maybe 160 pounds soaking wet, and when he turned to the side he practically disappeared, he was so skinny. Despite the strong bloodlines, he hadn’t been drafted, and that’s how he ended up at Davidson.

Curry shot from beyond the corner 3-point line, out of bounds. Whistle. He moved a few steps to the left of him. Whistle. He moved around the 3-point circle, staying a good 10 feet behind the line. He each made his first run, corner by corner. He each made his second run, back to the other side. When he finally missed one, he reacted as if he had forgotten his mother’s birthday.

It was, in a word, extraordinary.

Stephen Curry, left, and Bob McKillop
Stephen Curry, left, and Bob McKillop
access point

The game? Well, as you can imagine, the Terrapins didn’t treat Davidson’s Wildcats the way they might have treated, say, Kentucky or Villanova. Davidson was within 43-42 at the half. The Wildcats stayed in the game for a good part of the second half, but Maryland had too much and won 82-70. Strawberry Shortcake had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Curry scored 30, and while he wasn’t as perfect in the game as he had been before (5-for-14-for-3), every time it looked like Davidson was about to walk out of the gym, he made a shot, made a play.

“I feel like I belong here,” Curry said. “I know I have to prove it every day, but it’s okay. I’m not afraid of hard work.”

It was probably the last game Curry was in any way a dark horse. A year later, the Wildcats were one shot away from the Final FourReminiscing. As a junior, Curry was so unstoppable that one coach opted to play one triangle defense and two: the two defenders on him. And, well, you know what he’s done in the NBA, capped by his first Finals MVP award and his fourth championship this week.

Stephen Curry celebrates after winning the 2022 NBA Finals.
Stephen Curry celebrates after winning the 2022 NBA Finals.
NBAE via Getty Images

Turns out McKillop was downplaying it. The boy not only shot better than his father, but better than anyone who has ever played basketball. And he has been that way for a while.

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Bob McKillop was a great player at Chaminade and Hofstra, a remarkable coach at Holy Trinity (where he coached Matt Doherty) and Lutheran (where he coached Bill Wennington) and these last 33 years he led a master class at Davidson, winning 634 games and making it with a grace and dignity that honored his profession (and should have landed him the St. John’s job on at least four occasions). Here’s to a prosperous retirement.

Readers were quick to jump on a glaring omission from my list the other day of New York’s all-time offensive seasons: Don Mattingly, 1985: 35 home runs, 145 RBIs, 48 ​​doubles, 370 total bases, . 324/.371/. 567. Error in the scribe.

Don Mattingley
Don Mattingley
MLB via Getty Images

I mentioned this before when it started airing, but “The Offer” on Paramount+ was as good a limited series as I’d seen in years. Everyone in it is great, but a special mention to Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo.

Hit Vac again

Spencer Ross: Steph Curry was deservedly awarded Finals MVP. But without Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors don’t win that title.

Holidays: Spencer on hoops is like the old EF Hutton commercials: when he talks, people listen. Or at least they should.

Tim Doyle: Isn’t it illegal or unconstitutional or just un-American not to play baseball in New York on the 4th of July?

Holidays: It is all these things. How the Yankees, the Yankees! — having a day off that day is beyond explanation.

@gorevidal: As the Yankees play tougher opponents, the gravy train will be over. Again, who have they played?

@MikeVacc: Soon enough, the Yankees will need to schedule a friendly against the Yankees on the 27th to find opponents who don’t qualify as “easy.”

Alan Hirschberg: Lee Treviño famously said, “You don’t know what pressure is until you play for five dollars with only two dollars in your pocket.” The guys who took LIV money up front will never feel the pressure to win one of those fake tournaments. So if they don’t care who wins, why would a single fan care?

Holidays: That is a very fair question.