Curry Fever overtook me quietly as I sat watching my first game of Golden State Warriors playoff basketball. Before the game ended I had experienced a flashback to my days in Illinois and the Michael Jordan hysteria that gripped so many of us in the 1990s. Stephen Curry is an amazing basketball player.
I'm not a big NBA fan; it's casual fandom for me. After Jordan, the game bored me. Then the Dallas Mavericks captured some magic, if less beautiful and exciting, but then their franchise let the guys who won them a championship go. My interest waned. I pulled for the Spurs to beat the Heat last year, but that meant watching one series of NBA playoffs out of oh so many games.
Then along comes Curry, and this marginal fan is re-energized. Sports Illustrated captured Curry's magic – his ability to getting amazingly hot in shooting a basketball – in these words:
The uprising starts innocuously. A ragged warmup, a swollen deficit, a sidelined teammate ... a hard foul, a gnawed mouthpiece … a shot off the back rim, a smirk, a correction … a wet jumper, and another, and a feeling … a pull-up in transition, a one-legged leaner, a moonbeam from 27 feet … a high-step, a shoulder-shimmy, a point to the rafters … a mandate from the court, the bench, the stands: "Give him the ball!" … coaches scrapping rotations, opponents draining timeouts, fans spilling beers … a delirious bench, a traumatized defense, a basketball arena turned tent revival … and the 6'9", 190-pound pixie in the middle of the madness, thinking only about his read on the next pick-and-roll, because if he ever allows himself to savor any of this, it will be gone.
What makes this man tick? Lots. Faith is part of it. He said the following in his acceptance speech for this season's NBA Most Valuable Player award:
First and foremost, I have to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talents to play this game, with the family to support me, day in, day out. I'm his humble servant right now and I can't say enough how important my faith is to who I am and how I play the game.
Curry revealed some other telling things in that speech. He thanked lots of people by name – wife, mom, dad, brother, sister, best friend, coaches, teammates, team brass – and he drilled so deep into relationships that he mentioned and commented on the equipment guy and the security man. He didn't just slide over their names; he found them in the crowd, recalled moments of care, and laughed. Curry seems to care about people, and not just the famous and powerful.
Anyone who has seen him play knows of his distinctive salute. "I pound my chest and point to the sky; it symbolizes that I have a heart for God, something that my mom and I came up with in college," Curry said in the MVP acceptance speech. "I do it every time I step on the court as a reminder of who I'm playing for. People should know who I represent and why I am who I am, and that's because of my Lord and savior."
In a video testimony on the Active Faith web site, Curry talks about how his faith life began.
My parents had us in church every Sunday, every Wednesday. It was more of a tradition at that point; I didn't have a personal relationship with the Lord until I went to the altar call one Sunday and the youth pastor told us to make a decision for ourselves. The youth pastor told us we had to make a decision for ourselves, we couldn't rely on our parents. It had to be a decision on our own, and that's when I made it.
The biblical book of James notes that faith in Christ shows in how we live our lives. Too many people have "made a decision" for Christ, but have chosen not to really follow him. Curry is yet another example of what it means to be a true disciple of Christ – there is a personal decision, and then your life shows the decision has made a difference in how you live. You're not perfect, but you want to go in God's direction.
Ethics is about how we live our lives; Christian ethics is about how we live our lives for Christ.
Stephen Curry is playing better basketball than anyone else in the world right now, and he's fun to watch. The rest of us are not on such a visible stage, but maybe Curry can inspire us to do our best in our part of the world and to give God the glory when we achieve.
Find your own chest pound and finger to the sky; let others know there is more to what is happening in your life than meets the eye. But remember that what we do – what others see – is also important.