Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are no strangers to being the underdog. In 2021 they’ll have the chance to prove everyone wrong once again.
The ESPN power ranking for the soon-to-start 2020-21 crowd-less NBA season has the Golden State Warriors pegged as the 14th best team in the Western Conference. That’s 14th out of 15 teams — as in second to last. As in not going to make the playoffs and calling the league’s most expensive roster complete trash.
You’d think they would know better than to count against any team that is led by Steph frickin’ Curry. However, Steph being the calm, collected, confident guy he is, isn’t fazed by all the non-believers.
"“I hear [the noise],” Curry said in this latest pre-season press conference. “It doesn’t sink home at all…I didn’t get big-headed when they picked us first and I won’t get overwhelmed wherever they have us this season…I love the opportunity and the challenges of what it takes to be successful.”"
It seems that many basketball experts are heavily relying on short term memory to make their pre-season predictions. Steph played only five games in last year’s truncated season, missing almost all the season with a broken hand. And in his four games prior to the injury, he looked a little lost and out of rhythm, to be frank.
However, people who have followed Steph’s career know that he is used to being the underdog. It’s actually how he has been viewed nearly his whole life.
Steph, a scrawny, rail-thin point guard and son of NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, wasn’t recruited by any major colleges. He settled on playing at a small school called Davidson just a jaunt down the road from his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Steph lit college basketball on fire, carrying Davidson on his shoulders to an improbable Elite 8 appearance, displaying a dizzying arsenal of nationally-televised shooting that few had ever seen before.
I’m sure a few of the top college recruiters were kicking themselves on not having seen this diamond in the rough earlier.
Steph went on to solidify himself as a first round NBA pick, but the naysayers followed him to his professional career.
His skills wouldn’t translate to the NBA, they said.
He was too small, not dynamic enough, they said.
He couldn’t handle the physicality of the NBA, they said.
Minnesota was such a staunch believer in his inabilities that they selected not one, but TWO point guards (Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio) before him in the draft.
The Warriors felt they had struck gold selecting him with the 7th pick in 2009.
However, the Warriors were known as one of the league’s most dysfunctional franchises. Golden State was a team that had only seen the playoffs once in the past 12 years, couldn’t attract any big-name free agents, and had squandered opportunity after opportunity to be banished to an eternity of mediocrity.
Steph, being the humble man that he is, didn’t complain once when he was shipped out to Northern California. All he had was a promise for basketball fans in the Bay Area (queue up foreshadowing music):
Even as Steph began to prove that he belonged in the NBA, all while changing the perception of what was previously thought possible shooting a basketball, the Warriors took the league by surprise in the 2014/15 season.
Curry and a scrappy, young Warriors squad once again proved everyone wrong, embracing the role of underdog and very much so enjoying robbing King James of another ring.
It’s been from 2015 on that people learned to not count out Steph. The underdog status had been removed for good — or so we thought.
Now the Warriors find themselves in familiarly unfamiliar territory — if that makes sense.
They are the underdogs despite being led by Steph Curry and Draymond Green, a duo that proved lethal in 5-straight finals appearances from 2015-2019.
Only three players remain from that original underdog 2014/15 squad: Steph, Draymond, and Klay Thompson, who will miss the season with an Achilles tear.
Now they have a different cast of talented, yet underdog players which include a few former lottery pick who never lived up to their hype, some G-league journeymen, and a 19-year-old rookie center who could be the next Dwight Howard or the next Greg Oden for all we know. Also, let’s not forget Draymond’s entire career as a late 2nd round pick is an underdog story.
However the season plays out, the storyline is certainly set up for future ESPN documentary specials if they can really make things happen.
Steph, a two-time league MVP and three-time NBA champ, somehow finds himself in a position where he ‘needs’ to prove himself once again.
Despite the strong takes against Steph and the Dubs, I can calmly say that they’ve been here before. With my bias as a Warriors fan set aside, I don’t think it’s smart to count them out so soon.