CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte is not a city overrun by old-timers. It is not static, nor is it bound to tradition like so many of America’s other Eastern cities, from Boston to Washington D.C. to New Orleans.
There is plenty of history here, to be sure — as part of a Native American trading route, as a gold rush attraction, as a leading cotton manufacturer and most recently as a banking hub. But it’s also a place you return to after a few years to find that little remains the same.
Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and its rapid expansion is evident in the apartment complexes and high rises sprouting up in almost every district.
So it’s fascinating that, when it comes to basketball, the city is still ruled by Stephen Curry, who was raised in Charlotte but has since become a supernatural point guard for the Golden State Warriors. His adulation is one of the few things that doesn’t change around here.
Curry’s 2019 tour of the Queen City started during NBA All-Star Weekend, when he served as a lead ambassador for the area, reached the finals of the Three Point Contest and delivered perhaps the most memorable highlight of the All-Star Game — bouncing an alley-oop pass over Kevin Durant’s head for a spectacular Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk.
He returned to the Spectrum Center on Monday to a sold-out crowd brimming with fans eager to soak in his shooting prowess. This is an arena that ranks 23rd in the NBA in attendance and rarely shows out in full force. There were exponentially more fans wearing Curry jerseys — from his time at nearby Davidson as well Golden State — than those wearing the jerseys of Kemba Walker or Jeremy Lamb, the Hornets stars who currently call Charlotte home.
It’s fair to wonder how many of the fans supporting Curry at the arena were Charlotte residents since back in the day, or if they were at some point drawn to the sharpshooter through cultural osmosis in a rite of passage toward embracing the ever-shifting fabric of the city. After all, many probably came here after a midlife move — an estimated 60 percent of Charlotte residents were born outside of North Carolina, with that number even higher among the adult population.
In any case, the feelings between Charlotte and Curry are mutual. Curry, who is 6-2 all-time in Charlotte with four straight wins, reportedly told teammates in the tunnel before Monday’s game how much he wanted to beat the Hornets given his personal ties.
Despite a 121-110 Warriors win, Curry delivered a muted display relative to previous showings in the building, finishing with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
He started the night slow, scoring just one point in the first quarter and for the most part deferring to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Curry never really got going from there, though he did end up drilling four 3-pointers. He did contribute as a facilitator, dishing six assists, and hit the shot that ended the Hornets’ hopes of a comeback.
His deep trey from 28 feet with 58 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter essentially sealed the contest and prompted a roar from the crowd.
In eight career games in Charlotte, Curry averages 28.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting from deep. He has hit at least five 3-pointers on three different occasions and reached 40 points twice.
Charlotte is where Curry first developed his basketball skill set, growing up in the area as his father Dell Curry spent 10 seasons with the Hornets. It’s likely the place he’ll finish his career if he ever departs the Warriors late in his career.
Wherever he winds up, Charlotte will have love for him, even if the city changes the rest of its identity on a regular basis.
“Stephen Curry is somebody that people want to embrace,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop told ESPN. “His persona, his character; he’s got the character that you want your son, your husband, your father to have. He’s got the persona that is a combination of great confidence but great humility.”