Stephen Curry gets Carolina Panthers fans fired up before a game against the Houston Texans in September. The reigning MVP will be front and center Feb. 7 when the Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. (Bob Leverone/AP)

Stephen Curry gets Carolina Panthers fans fired up before a game against the Houston Texans in September. The reigning MVP will be front and center Feb. 7 when the Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. (Bob Leverone/AP)

Curry, Panthers converge in greatness

The jersey is in a safe. “And I won’t tell you where the safe is,” said Stephen Curry, playing a figurative game of keep-away with the skill he plays the actual game of basketball. The jersey is that of the Carolina Panthers, Curry’s other team. At the moment, maybe his primary team.

“I’ve had it for a while,” said Curry. It’s the Panthers’ white jersey, with blue and black numbers and edging, the same as they wore Sunday in mauling the Arizona Cardinals, 49-14.

“That particular one,” Curry explained, delighting in detail, “about a year and a half.”

Before the Panthers became a Super Bowl team. Before the Warriors, with Curry leading the way, became a superteam and NBA champions, and before Curry became the league MVP. But long after Curry became a Panthers fan.

Do we ever forget our first love? Curry was seven when, in 1995, the Panthers were established in his hometown, Charlotte, N.C. That was his team, before Davidson, where he got the attention of the Warriors, who in 2009 made him the seventh pick in the draft.

He wore that jersey, that special jersey, that football jersey with Curry’s basketball number on the front and back, 30, if you haven’t a clue, during a Warriors practice session Sunday. The same day the Panthers were winning the NFC, the day before, in a game that was so much less than predicted, Curry scored 37 and the Warriors crushed — crushed — San Antonio, 120-90 on Monday night.

Talk about a man on a roll. Swish. And boom. One is the sound, almost inaudible if the ball is going through the net, virtually inaudible when the crowd at Oracle Arena is in its usual frenzy. The other is the sound of the Panthers’ ceremonial drum, which an ecstatic Curry was chosen to pound before a game in September.

The next time he slips into the jersey will be Feb. 7, at Levi’s Stadium, where, the Panthers face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Talk about great timing. Saturday night, Feb. 6, Curry and the Warriors play the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle. Some 20 hours later, it’s football, down I-880 in Santa Clara. You couldn’t plan things any better if you tried.

“I had a good day Sunday watching,” he said after a great night Monday playing. “I’m much more comfortable on the court playing myself than watching.” That’s always the case, isn’t it, for great athletes? As participants, they have a chance to affect the outcome. As spectators, they’re as helpless as the rest of us.

Even when they’re close friends with the other team’s star, Cam Newton, who Curry figures, also will be a champion and MVP. Curry has Newton’s phone number, of course, but he hasn’t called or texted.

“When good things happen,” said Curry, alluding to Newton, “let him enjoy it. Doesn’t need others.”

Back in December, the question was whether the Warriors or Panthers, both unbeaten, would lose first. It was the Dubs, after 28 games — an NBA record to start a season. It was the Warriors, Dec. 12, followed by Carolina, which had won its first 14, on Dec. 27. The Warriors have dropped only three since. The Panthers, none.

“To see Cam doing what he’s doing,” Curry told Robert Mays of the Grantland website, now gone, “and leading a team after the critics basically said he’s a mediocre quarterback — well as a fan I never believed that. It’s great to see him out there playing well.”

Newton, naturally, offers equal praise to the Warriors’ guard, who in his reverence he judges not as a fellow superstar but an athletic hero, as a man in the street might.

“Just knowing that he’s a guy I’ve had conversations with and he’s never changed,” said Newton, sounding a bit awestruck. “He’s approachable. You text him, he texts back.”

Why wouldn’t he text the quarterback of a team that has reached the Super Bowl? Those who have dealt with Curry are not at all surprised. He’s very approachable and very polite. And that’s to everyone, not just the quarterback of his chosen NFL franchise. Bang the drum
loudly.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

Art SpanderCam NewtownCarolina PanthersGolden State WarriorsStephen Curry

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