When I was on the “Diversity Matters” podcast yesterday, Teresa (Palacios Smith, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for HomeServices of America) asked me about this blog and, for the first time ever, I announced the topic of the next “Thoughts on Leadership” before it was published. So, for those who tuned in, you’d know today I’m going to talk about Steph Curry, not only because his new documentary, “Stephen Curry: Underrated” was recently released on Apple TV+, but also because on July 16, he won the American Century Championship (ACC) celebrity golf tournament in spectacular fashion. The day before, Curry made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole, and on the last day of the tournament, he made a clutch 20-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to win the title. As I told Teresa, there are so many lessons we can learn from the basketball superstar.
His documentary is inspiring: a tale of against-the-odds achievement on a grand scale. It begins with basketball legend Reggie Miller reading Curry’s pre-draft scouting report. The critics did not mince their words:
“Far below NBA standard in regard to explosiveness and athleticism …”
“Can overshoot and rush his shots …”
“Doesn’t like when defenses are too physical with him …”
And the best one by far:
“Do not rely on him to run your team …”
Juxtapose those comments with Curry’s four championship rings and you will laugh at how history proved these sentiments wrong. And that, perhaps, is one of the most magical things about Steph Curry and his leadership story. He constantly fought (and won) against those who second-guessed his abilities. The result? In addition to being a four-time NBA champion, Curry is also a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals MVP, NBA All-Star Game MVP and a nine-time NBA All-Star. He also holds the record for all-time leader in total-3 pointers.
Underrated no more. But in the beginning, even Curry’s mom, Sonya, worried about whether her son could become an NBA player. (Notably, his father, Dell Curry, was an NBA player who retired as the all-time leading scorer of the Charlotte Hornets.) Virginia Tech, where Curry’s parents went to school, turned him down. Duke, where Curry attended a basketball camp, didn’t accept him on the team. Curry signed with Davidson College, where he played an integral role in taking the Davidson Wildcats’ basketball team to the 2008 Elite Eight in the NCAA championship. It was called “a Cinderella story for the ages,” with Curry leading the charge, and it set him on a path to greatness.
In addition to being a basketball superstar, Curry is also an avid – and scratch – golfer, who began playing at the age of 10. His commitment to the sport showed last Sunday at the Edgewood Tahoe South golf course in Stateline, Nevada for the ACC tournament. During the practice rounds, Curry walked the course with coaches, asking questions about the greens. Before the tournament, Curry spent time with legendary golf coach Butch Harmon, who has helped PGA greats Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Curry admitted to Golf Week after the coaching that what Harmon taught him would help him “build a little confidence.”
Maybe it was added confidence that propelled Curry’s tournament win, but it may have also been his desire to provide himself yet again, focusing intently on the shot in front of him. “The next shot mentality is huge,” Curry said during the tournament, according to NBA.com. “Basketball’s a little more reactive so you don’t have too much time to dwell on what’s going on. In golf, you have a long walk from shot to shot to deal with the thoughts going on between the ears. You have to have a bit of amnesia out there.”
A focus on the future informs more than Curry’s golf game. He’s also a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, and that advocacy has intertwined with his love for golf. Curry committed to funding the Howard University golf program for six years, and he started the Underrated Golf Tour, established “to provide a positive, competitive, safe space environment for culturally diverse” junior golfers. For his tremendous efforts, the PGA honored Curry earlier this month with the 2023 Ambassador of Golf Award.
So, what’s the message? Curry’s success story proves that no matter what others say, passion will always fuel progress on and off the court.
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.