OAKLAND, Calif. — They are lock-step and lock-arm and also lock-jersey as they enter Oracle Arena in what is their crowning achievement as a basketball mom and dad. Dell and Sonya Curry are in the running for First Couple of the NBA, and in the Western Conference finals, this honor comes with an equal amount of pride and anxiety.
“There’s so much emotion involved because you want both to do well, and here they are, on opposite benches,” says the mom.
The father agreed, adding: “It’s hard for both of us.”
Their sons are, of course, Stephen and Seth Curry, and their dilemma is being played out in front of millions on TV, who see Dell and Sonya sitting in the stands wearing custom-made split jerseys honoring both players. For Game 1, Dell had Steph’s No. 30 Warriors jersey on the front and Seth’s No. 31 Blazers on the back, and vice versa for Sonya. They’ll switch up as the series goes along because the parents never want to show favoritism for any of their children.
“Somebody’s going to lose and we’re going to the Finals with one of them and it will be bittersweet,” Dell Curry said. “But whomever doesn’t go to the Finals for his team will be there for his brother.”
Aside from this being a sweet story involving a close-knit and stable family, what’s amazing about this is that it's happening at all. Yes, the NBA has had a fair share of siblings before -- do you know how many Plumlees are cashing basketball checks? -- but never in the same conference finals. And what’s more, neither of the Curry boys dropped strong hints, even as far as high school, that they’d be on anybody’s NBA bench.
But religion and faith run through all the Currys and the parents, who’ve been married 31 years, must’ve struck the proper chord because they’ve been blessed with a playoff series neither will soon forget, no matter how it turns out.
By now, their made-for-reality TV story is a familiar one. Dell was a smooth-shooting guard at Virginia Tech where he met Sonya, who played for the women’s volleyball team. They soon became a couple and delivered Steph while Dell played for the Cavaliers, who drafted him. Seth came a few years later in Charlotte, where Dell by then was one of the game’s best sixth men, dropping shots from distance for the Hornets.
Their basketball education started at home and specifically the driveway basketball court where the boys wore Hornets jerseys and pretended to be in the NBA.
“They battled each other,” Dell Curry said. “You know, trying to get the game-winning point and arguing whether you got fouled or not. You’re standing there watching them settle it and it never got settled. My wife and I took turns being the referee deciding who won the game.”
Understandably, it never got heated, as anger or jealousy doesn’t seem to be in the Curry family DNA.
“Steph did a good job with that,” said Dell. “Being the oldest boy, he could’ve beaten up on [Seth] a lot.”
The boys became familiar faces around the Hornets’ practice facility and games. They attended small private high schools instead of basketball academies because of academics; their parents didn’t specifically groom them for the NBA. Even if the father’s shooting genetics and mother’s competitive instincts were soon apparent with both boys, they were size challenged. They played like solid basketball players but looked like future accountants.
That all changed for Steph not long after he went to Davidson College and for Seth after he transferred from Liberty University to Duke. Steph was an NCAA tournament sensation, and later, Seth became a solid starter who replaced an injured Kyrie Irving at one of the country’s most prestigious programs. And thus began the crazy travel schedule for their parents, each splitting the duties between their sons as best they could; it hasn’t calmed down since.
Steph has had the gold-plated path, winning a pair of Kia MVPs and three championships, changing the game from a shooting standpoint and punching an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame someday. Seth’s career has been nomadic. He wasn’t drafted because teams wondered about his ball-handling skills. The Warriors initially tossed him a lifeline, but Seth didn’t survive training camp and was sent to their G-League team. He’s with his sixth team in five years and seemingly turned the corner last season with the Mavericks, where he started 42 games before injuries intervened.
Steph is vested in his younger brother’s career and quietly simmers about how Seth, who’s now 28, lacks a long-term deal and security with one team. Although the younger Curry finished third in 3-point shooting percentage this season -- one spot ahead of Stephen -- Seth becomes a free agent this summer. Yet the good news is he should have interest after a breakout season for the Blazers.
“They want each other to do well,” said Dell. “They cheer for each other. They watch each other’s games all the time. Steph’s a quiet guy but he roots for his brother and vice-versa.”
For the last several years, Seth has been in the stands watching his brother during the postseason, sitting with his parents, marveling at Steph’s talent and fortunes like anyone else. Until now. And here they are, trying to deny each other a championship.
There are times when the Curry boys will guard each other and that always puts their parents in a tough spot. When it happened in Game 1, Dell and Sonya just watched, frozen in place. No clapping, no cheering, no nothing.
“Coming in here, we didn’t know what to expect or how to react,” Dell said. “This hasn’t happened before. Usually we can go all-in on one team. We don’t know how to cheer or how to respond when one team goes on a run. We can’t totally go on one side.”
Sonya said: “It’s hard on my nerves.”
These are proud parent problems.
There is a solution to the relentless travel, the back-and-forth between two teams and this emotional wringer and the constant wondering about games and victories and losses:
Maybe one day, even next season, the boys will be … teammates? Dell Curry’s face suddenly brightens and the stress disappears.
“Now that would be great,” he said “Being brothers and teammates, and in this situation where they both win? Let’s see what happens. Both have a lot of years left in the league. Seth’s a free agent. You never know.”
Until then, if that ever happens, the parents will keep their travel agent on speed-dial and keep a tailor on stand-by in case they need another set of jerseys stitched together.
“It’s been hectic,” Dell Curry said. “But don’t get me wrong, we’re not taking this for granted. We’re just taking it all in. We’re not complaining at all. We know how special this is.”
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