As a young assistant on the men's staff at LSU, I journeyed to Nashville in the fall of 1994 for my first Coach Don Meyer Free Clinic. It was amazing! So many things Coach Meyer shared with us that weekend resonated with me including this concept:
"If your best player is also your hardest worker,
you have a chance to a good team."
I can think back to every team I've been involved with and the ones where our best players were the most committed, we had outstanding success. On those teams where our best players gave less than their best, our team fell short of achieving the level of potential possible.
Look at some of the best NBA teams and equate work ethic with their best player. Boston Celtics and Larry Bird. Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. Miami/Cleveland and LeBron James.
And the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry.
In an article for ESPN.com Baxter Holmes wrote of the culture of the Golden State Warriors and the "Curry effect."
Practice ended hours ago at the Warriors' Oakland facility, and Klay Thompson is heading toward the door, the last Warrior to leave. It's May 11, a few days before the Warriors open their much-anticipated conference finals series against the Rockets, but Thompson pauses before exiting. He looks across the empty court, at a far basket -- the one Curry shoots on every day. "He works as if he's still a rookie, [as if] he's still trying to make his way in this league," Thompson says of his Splash Brother, a teammate for seven seasons. "We all see that, and it makes us go to our hoops and put [in] work. No one wants to be off the floor before him, because this man is the one."
Indeed, before practices, Curry and Fraser choose from a menu of more than two dozen items, depending on which aspects of Curry's game need sharpening. Maybe shooting off-the-dribble jumpers or shooting after high-ball screens or ballhandling drills. Repetitions vary, but Curry always ends his sweat-soaked workout with 100 3-point attempts, often making in the mid- to high-80s -- and frequently into the 90s. After all his makes, Curry will sit beneath the basket, his back against the stanchion, his chest heaving up and down, a bottle of water between his legs. By this point in the day, he's often one of the few Warriors on the court, if not the last. It has been this way for years.
Coach Steve Kerr and Curry’s teammates also talk about the “energy” he brings to the team and how it is contagious.
Ask Curry's teammates to describe his impact, and more than pace or space, they'll cite an on-court energy when he's among them -- one that spreads throughout the crowd. "There's a different feel in the arena," Kerr says. "Similar to Michael [Jordan], there is just this awe factor from opposing crowds, and every crowd is sprinkled with Steph jerseys no matter where we are, and there's a palpable excitement when he gets going. In Oracle, it's the tidal wave. And on the road it's like, 'Oh, my god, I can't believe what I'm watching.'"
Another word that teammates and coaches use to describe Curry is humility.
"There's a humility about [Curry] that you can't really be taught at this point," Thompson says. "And he's just easy to joke with. He'll joke with our video interns, he'll joke with our owners, he'll joke with our equipment guys. When you see your best player being loose and disciplined -- like, it's a fine line, but when you can walk both lines, it just makes for such a nice work atmosphere."
Assistant coach Ron Adams, who just turned 70, is the Warriors' sage, imparting wisdom from nearly three decades in the NBA. "I think every day he realizes how lucky he is," Adams says. "He also realizes the joy that he can bring to people's lives -- not only his teammates, but I just think in general.
"He pulls that off better than any pro athlete I think I've been around."