It wasn’t until December 30, 2017, that I realized how legendary Stephen Curry was. In his first game back from a right ankle sprain, Curry sank 10 three-pointers against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Folks were amped for his return, giddy about a random regular season game against a tanking team. I didn’t get it. Like, have you ever seen Curry play? As Curry started to clown and wow us with his handles and shooting prowess, I got a stark reminder that he wasn’t your typical superstar. His brand of basketball is riveting, something that Bay Area fans adore.
It was evident again Tuesday night. With 4:20 left in the first quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, and the Warriors trailing the New Orleans Pelicans down 19-11, Curry came off the bench. Just 11 seconds into his first action since March 23, when he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, he drilled a three-pointer to give Oracle Arena the jolt it needed.
With the way Oracle was anticipating his return, it made me think: is Curry the most transcendent and popular professional athlete to ever play in the Bay Area?
Beyond that, has he already earned a place on the Bay Area’s Mt. Athlete-more? There is no doubt more refined and naturally talented athletes that have come before Curry (names like Jerry Rice and Rickey Henderson instantly come to mind), and that’s something we can explore at another time.
Dan Dibley, of the morning show “Joe, Lo, and Dibs” on 95.7 The Game, will surely bump his gums and give me heat for using this concept, but after the response to this question on Twitter, as well as on the Afternoon Delight, I wanted to bring this to print and continue the conversation.
After flip-flopping on my Mt. Athlete-more more than 20 times, here’s my final four:
Steph Curry: For the second consecutive season, the two-time NBA MVP has sold the most jerseys, globally. He’s arguably the most inviting, gracious superstar ever. Curry will go down as the most beloved athlete to ever play in the Bay Area.
Barry Bonds: He’s definitely the most polarizing, that’s for sure. The home run king will never be forgotten for his sweet swing, as well as his brash ways. Bonds, who attended Serra High School in San Mateo, is royalty around these parts despite his alleged use of PED’s. He’ll have a statue built outside of AT&T Park one day.
Willie Mays: There’s no doubt that the “The Say Hey Kid” still eats for free in the Bay Area. One of the five best big leaguers of all-time — no doubt — and if you grew up as a rabid baseball fan, you definitely are well-versed on the type of player, humanitarian, and mentor he is. One of the biggest icons in Bay Area history.
Joe Montana: Arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time, he put San Francisco and the 49ers on the map. A perfect 4-0 in Super Bowl history, he turned the locals into football fanatics. I hear that he can be awkward, and he is not as engaging as Curry, nor does he possess the cockiness Bonds had, but he was clutch, something that made him a rock star in the region.
It’s tough to come up with the perfect four, and I’m sure a few of you are reading and scoffing, due to the presence of Oakland Raiders John Madden and Al Davis, San Francisco stars Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, or legendary Warriors Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond and Al Attles. It’s a helluva debate.