If you haven’t watched Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors play, you’re missing out on one of the purest shooters the game has seen. For those avid college basketball fans, we knew him best playing in the 2008 NCAA Division-I Men’s Basketball Tournament.With mixed reviews, the negatives coming from teams they beat, Curry made an impact on our lives long before stepping foot onto an NCAA branded court. Wardell Stephen Curry II received all-state rankings as a senior at Charlotte Christian School, in North Carolina, but received zero offers from any major Division-I college. ZERO. Hard to imagine. He did receive offers from smaller schools including VCU, Winthrop, Davidson, and Virginia Tech. Tech, his father’s alma mater expressed interest, but only as a walk-on. In retrospect, it’s unthinkable. Despite his small frame, despite the fact that his jersey often looked three sizes too big, despite being the “runt” of the group, he chose to stick around his hometown and felt becoming a Wildcat was the best fit. Representing Davidson College (@DavidsonWildcat), a small, private liberal arts college located in Davidson, N.C., was once known as a university that had graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars. It has now been put on the map as a pioneer in mid-major universities, leaving an imprint in the future of Division-I college basketball and athletics.
Will Bryan (@wbryan08), a Davidson graduate, is currently the Associate Director of Athletics Communications at the College of Charleston. He and I had a chance to talk about Stephen Curry’s journey and offers some great insight into his career and where it’s headed. Attending Davidson from 2004-2008, and staying in the Charlotte area through 2009 (Curry’s last year), Bryan still remembers the buzz Curry received when he first arrived on campus.
“He was like our hidden gem up until the 2008 NCAA tournament,” Bryan said . “He did things in non-televised games that we went nuts about. Moves and shots that we knew [even then] was beyond ‘Davidson’ ability. Our success up until then had been team defense, outside shooting, and no mistakes. Curry penetrated. Could shoot off the dribble (even though he did less, then), and he had the Duke ‘nail in the coffin’ sense about him. Until that NCAA tournament, we felt like he was our secret. Only losing to Duke by four, UNC by two, UCLA by four and NC State by only one that year. There was this fear that we not only had something special, but it wouldn’t be special enough to have a lasting impact. At least that’s what I thought. ”
Bryan continued, “Whenever the team was on a run and (the) crowd started working into a frenzy, he would blow the roof off (of the 5, 223 seat John M. Belk Arena), with a three. We used to call them ‘Curry timeouts’ When teams spent timeouts on account of him.”
Prior to Curry, Head Coach Bob McKillop had won two Southern Conference tournaments in 2002 and 2006, and zero NCAA wins. Starting in 2007, Curry’s freshman year, Four NCAA tournaments (2007, 2008, 2012, 2013), one NIT (2009), and three tournament wins. Mind you, Davidson College had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1969.
“I always thought of Curry’s play in a wider context. He made games fun…an experience. Before him, there were science labs of picking apart an opponent. Curry turned them into rock shows,” Bryan said. “There were people in my graduating class that got jobs because of that run. Because the résumé was attractive. Because employers distinguished Davidson. Hundreds of us owed a lot to him, including myself. Now, we gather at night together. It’s pretty incredible to watch my Twitter feed during Warriors games.”
Bryan also shared that his college friends still get together online to watch and talk about Curry.
“We love getting the chance to experience what we did in 2008 and still be in awe of him,” Bryan said. “Even now, there are still chills and tingles when national writers and celebrities are just now catching on.”
Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson made the statement, “Those guys are just coming to the hospital, the baby has been born already. We’ve been watching it all year long.” referring to newcomers to the Curry bandwagon. Bryan adds, “We feel like we were there at conception. I can’t tell you how many times I jump up when he shoots in the third quarter. Like how many times do you jump when a guy shoots in an NBA third quarter? But it’s Curry and it’s going in. ”
Why wasn’t there more buzz about him prior to this season, though? Sports fans in general, as many can be, are skeptical and consistently questioned his defense, his durability, his passing. You cannot deny, though, that his story is intriguing with many stereotyping him as an underdog. Too small in high school, too small of a college to be recognized, too small in the NBA, too fragile because of previous injuries.
Why is it that we set expectations of players extremely low? Do we do so on purpose just enough for him to exceed it or should it be higher? Makes you think. Stephen had the shooter gene early on in his life thanks to his father. (The son of NBA three-point specialist Dell Curry who is currently 13th all-time in NBA for three-pointers made. His all time stats and awards list. “Stephen SHOULD be one of the best point guards of our generation … a 10-time all star. Elite talent and can win a championship with a more veteran team around him that accepts his leadership role.” Bryan says.
Davidson set the precedent for other mid-major schools (a term used to distinguish between athletic conferences that are not among the major six conferences including the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 10, XII, and Pac 12); paving the way for others to follow suit. Schools like Butler, BYU, St. Louis, VCU and George Mason all took their turns in the spotlight. This year was no different with schools like Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, and Colorado State.
In his final year at Davidson, Curry led the nation in scoring with 28.6 ppg and received first team All-America honors while setting a notable list of scoring records. Even despite the ‘Patsos game‘ and being a target on scouting reports. The Golden State Warriors have to be thrilled about their gamble they made almost four years ago, picking Curry seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. His prospect profile back in ’09.
Aside from his unique story, and the fact that his potential Achilles heel is literally…his ankles, he is an incredibly marketable athlete, even more so now, than ever before. He has become a breakout star in this years NBA Playoffs, and leading the Warriors to reach the second round over the Denver Nuggets, (check out Zach Buckley’s breakdown of his superstar season here. (Update, his NBA regular season record for the most three-point shots made, is now at 272. Penciling him in first place over Ray Allen who has 269 via Basketball-reference.com.
Early on in his career, Curry partnered with Spiracle Media (@spiraclemedia) – Located in Charlotte, Spiracle Media specializing in new media marketing through the use of social media, video production, and website development, promote his image in a positive way. As an early adopter to social media and frequent user, notable campaigns have been his #SC30 Twitter promotions both using Twitter and Facebook and visiting fans, even hosting a Fan Appreciation week. Check out the Storify recap here. (http://storify.com/SpiracleMedia/stephen-curry-fan-appreciation-week).
Spiracle Media co-founder Bill Voth (@billvoth) has proven to be a great advisor and social media coach to Curry guiding him in the right direction towards future marketability. I had a chance to connect with Voth, who shares his thoughts:
Pam: As an athlete, and aside from his raw talent, what makes him marketable?
Voth: Think of any negative athlete stereotypes. Steph’s the opposite in pretty much every way. I’m not being cheesy, and I’m not just partial to a client, but I’ve worked around and with athletes for 15 years, and Steph is the most down-to-earth star I’ve been around. From when I started covering him as a TV reporter when he was a freshman at Davidson, to his current playoff run with the Warriors, he honestly hasn’t changed. I think that’s the base of his marketability off the court.
People see him as approachable, friendly and humble, which he truly is. That’s sellable. Then add in his extremely close relationship with his family – his dad and mom – who plenty of people have seen cheering for him over the years, his brother – who’s a great player in his own right, and his gorgeous wife and adorable nearly 1-year-old daughter. And of course, he’s pretty decent at his job, too, and he’s only getting better. What brand wouldn’t want someone like that representing them? In my obviously subjective opinion, now that he’s been able to prove to a worldwide audience just how good of a player he is, Steph’s complete package makes him one of the most marketable athletes to come around in a long time.
Pam: Regarding sponsorship, is it important to strike while the iron is hot now?
Voth: For “traditional” sponsorship, his agency, Octagon, handles all that, and I don’t want to speak for them. As far as what we’re doing with him online, we can’t do much activation right now, as tempting as that is. Before the playoffs started, Steph made it clear he wanted to be low key during this time, especially because it’s his first postseason experience. He’s still tweeting and doing a couple other things, but we’re not running any chats, contests, etc. For example, we’ve done his #SC30 contests every month since fall of ’11, until a couple weeks ago. He wanted to postpone April’s, and he told fans he’ll make up for it by doing two #SC30 contests in a future month.
While striking while the iron is hot is tempting and seemingly a no-brainer, I totally get why Steph wants to dial it back a bit. What he does on the court is his most important job, and he’s doing it pretty darn well these days. And we’re certainly working on things for when the Warriors season does end. The current run he’s on has obviously opened some doors that weren’t as open before, and we’re planning for the future, not just for the time immediately after the playoffs, but in the long run as well.
Pam: What are your thoughts on best practices with endorsement deals?
Voth: Again, there’s a bit of a split on what kind of endorsement deals he gets/can get. Octagon handles the “traditional” ones, while we work with him on online opportunities, and of course, those intermingle sometimes. When a player’s star rises like it has with Steph over the past few weeks, it’s obviously exciting for everyone on his team, both on the court and off. But I think the best way to handle it is let him do his thing on the court, take the extra calls and emails coming in, listen, and then gather everything and everyone together to hash it out immediately after the season. Then it becomes a matter of choosing the right opportunities for Steph.
Voth has several videos of Curry’s other community efforts on his personal blog and here’s a link to other articles Voth has been mentioned in, regarding the latest trends in social media innovation…definitely worth taking a look.
Other NBA athletes who also share a strong social media presence…Tony Allen (@aa000G9), Kevin Love (@kevinlove), Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) Amar’e Stoudemire (@Amareisreal) and now, even the injured, Kobe Bryant (@KobeBryant).
Curry’s efforts on and off the court over the past several years, despite injury, have filtered down back to his old stomping grounds. Davidson announced today that they will be joining the Atlantic-10 (@atlantic10) conference in 2014. There was an opportunity to join the CAA previously, but the Wildcats had decided to stay in the Southern Conference instead. Davidson athletic director Jim Murphy is thrilled about this opportunity for more exposure.
A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said during the official press conference,
“It is my pleasure to welcome Davidson’s administration, their student-athletes, staff, alumni and fans to the Atlantic-10 Conference. They will maintain our presence in the Charlotte market, one of the top 25 media markets in the country, and reinforce our commitment to national prominence in men’s basketball.”
Think Curry had something to do with that exposure in some way? Absolutely.
It was also announced this week in a Forbes article by Alex Konrad (@alexkonrad), that because of the buzz that Stephen Curry has received lately, his social media partner, SportsStream, released a new platform this week called SportsBase, an updated scores, information and reactions, a fully loaded sports content filter. More about the platform here. I could definitely see a product like this take off, especially for athletes looking for self-branding opportunities.
Where will we see this 25-year-old in the next few years? Hopefully continuing to break league records, inspiring more social media innovation and, as someone who doesn’t seem to be afraid of getting physical … the sky is the limit.
Notable Links of Interest:
Official website: http://stephencurry30.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StephenCurryOfficial
Official Twitter: @StephenCurry30
His history and full statistical background: http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/curryst01.html
Thank you again to Bill Voth, Will Bryan, Jeff Wolfson for your contributions!