SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jordan Poole knocked down a buzzer-beater from almost midcourt when Stephen Curry made a point to catch his gaze, and that celebratory stare down told so much about the veteran guard's pride for his young teammate.
Curry expressed as much joy for Poole hitting the jaw-dropping shot from deep as he would had it been him, the superstar who already has more than his share of 3-pointers from way, way back. That's Selfless Steph — never one to let his ego get in the way of Golden State's success.
Curry still did plenty while scoring 29 points to lead the Warriors to a 107-88 Game 2 NBA Finals victory against the Celtics on Sunday night, evening the best-of-seven series at one game apiece as it shifts to Boston for Wednesday’s Game 3.
He applauded Poole for maintaining momentum going into the final period.
“That was obviously a big shot to get the crowd into it,” Curry said. “Put kind of a dagger on that great third quarter that we had.”
The 34-year-old Curry embraces living in a constant state of reflection — not to mention balance as a father of three young children — while also somehow keeping his mind acutely focused on the moment right in front of him.
Thinking back on how far he has come, from being selected as Golden State's undersized first-round draft pick out of Davidson College in 2009 to all the losing early on in his career and a remarkable rise into one of the NBA's greatest ever, Curry regularly acknowledges his gratitude.
“I’ve said it many times, Steph reminds me so much of Tim Duncan,” coach Steve Kerr said. “When I played with Timmy, there was the same vibe, this incredible, authentic humility and humor and joy behind the scenes. Then, frankly, a real arrogance on the floor, like ‘I’m the best player out here.’ It’s the perfect kind of leader, someone who you feel comfortable with in the locker room but somebody who you can count on to take you where you need to go on the floor.
"That’s what Steph possesses. It’s a very rare combination of qualities. But it’s what makes him special.”
Curry exhibits that humility in how he goes about his daily business without worrying how many points he scores from night to night, assists he dishes out or arm flexes he gets to perform in the faces of adoring fans who chant “M-V-P!” at every chance.
He is relishing the process of helping the inexperienced Warriors players find their path — for this postseason and well beyond.
Earlier this year, the newly crowned all-time 3-point leader took great delight in the spotlight shining on teammate Andrew Wiggins as he earned his first career All-Star Game selection and was named a Western Conference starter.
That unselfish nature goes back years. When Kevin Durant arrived with huge fanfare in 2016, Curry quietly took a back seat and allowed Durant to find his place with a new team. It was an important gesture that ultimately ended with two championships together and consecutive finals MVP honors for KD.
“It all starts with Steph. When KD was here, our offense still started with Steph,” Draymond Green said. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Back on the finals stage for a sixth time in eight years, it's Curry's time to carry the Warriors again. But he will be thrilled to see Poole hit another 39-footer, for Kevon Looney to crash the boards to create second chances on the offensive glass, or for Wiggins to take on one of the toughest defensive assignments like guarding Jayson Tatum.
“I remember where I started and just the whole journey. You remind yourself of that every day. The fact that from high school to your first All-Star Game, it’s a journey, and everything that had to go right in your life and on the court for that to happen,” Curry said. “Never let myself get too big-headed on that front. That’s how I live my life. So everything about it in terms of the appreciation and gratitude for everything that happens, all the experiences that you have, everything that you go through, you keep building on that, and usually good things happen because you appreciate everything no matter what happens.”
And if Curry and Co. can win it all once more, he will join a star-studded list of players with two or more MVPs and four titles: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Duncan.
Green has long admired how Curry never lets the attention surrounding his own stardom affect anything this group accomplishes, nor does he seek to be treated any differently. And Curry accepted ownership when things didn't go right during an NBA-worst 15-50 pandemic-shortened season two years ago.
“He sets a huge tone in that regard because he is never going to approach you, ‘You are supposed to look at me this way,’ which in turn you end up looking at him more that way,” Green said of the respect level. “... I think when your leader and the face of your franchise is that way, you have no choice but to be that way. What’s your ego compared to his? Why would any of us care if you have an ego, and he doesn’t? So I think it definitely sets a tone, not only for players but for everyone in this organization and how everyone operates.”