OAKLAND — Stephen Curry knew the question was coming. He’d seen the news stories pondering whether the Golden State Warriors, in the wake of winning the NBA title Monday night, would make the traditional pilgrimage to the White House to celebrate their championship with President Donald Trump. Curry knew that whatever he said would become a national headline.
So it says a lot about Curry — and the way he, as well as the rest of the NBA, have embraced the platform that comes with being part of the sport — how he responded to it.
“Somebody asked me about it a couple months ago, a hypothetical, if a championship were to happen: ‘What would I do?’” Curry said during his exit interview at Golden State’s practice facility Wednesday afternoon. “I think I answered that I wouldn’t go.
“I still feel like that today.”
Within minutes, the quote was racing across the Internet: Stephen Curry, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time champion, does not want to go to the White House. And while Curry said the Warriors would have to discuss what to do as a team — “We’ll handle that accordingly and responsibly,” Curry said, “and do the right thing for us individually and as a group” — that he was willing to state his position publicly is a pretty strong indicator of what direction the team’s decision is headed.
But rather than a departure from the norm, Curry’s outspokenness was just the latest moment in which someone involved with the league used their platform to express a point of view.
From the NBA deciding to remove the All-Star Game from Charlotte this year because of the state’s controversial bathroom bill to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony discussing gun violence at the ESPYs to Curry and others speaking out about Trump both during his candidacy and after the election, the NBA has become a league full of people comfortable speaking out.
This is what has made the NBA stand out from the other sports leagues, and what has made its players become sought-after voices on a wide range of issues.
Basketball is unquestionably a team sport — one only needs to watch the way the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played during this year’s NBA Finals to see how beautiful the sport can be when five guys are playing as one on the court — but it is built on individual creativity and playmaking — from Kyrie Irving’s circus layups to Kevin Durant’s silky smooth game to James’ raw ferocity to Curry’s crazy three-pointers.
But it’s that same individualism, of valuing self-expression and innovation, that has led to a league full of players with strong voices unafraid to use them. Basketball is a global sport, second only to soccer in terms of reach, and players and teams have grown accustomed to people from all walks of life, of all sizes and colors, playing it. That’s resulted in a culture where standing out and being different isn’t just accepted — it’s applauded.
That’s why the league has become a source of activism and dialogue on such a wide range of social issues.
With the rise of social media, and the increased media environment around sports in general, players have more ways to express themselves than ever — and an ever-growing reach to get their message to as many people as possible.
GIANTS PROGRESS REPORT
2017 FINISH: 64-98 (5th in NL West)
MANAGER: Bruce Bochy (902-880, 12th season)
PERSONNEL EXECUTIVE: Brian Sabean, executive vice president of baseball operations (4th season)
DOLLARS AND SENSE
Highest-paid player: RHP Johnny Cueto ($21.8 million in 2018)
Top returning position player: C Buster Posey (4.0 WAR in 2017, baseball-reference.com)
Top returning pitcher: LHP Madison Bumgarner (2.9 WAR in 2017)
Key addition(s): 3B Evan Longoria (trade), OF Andrew McCutchen (trade), OF Austin Jackson (free agent), LHP Tony Watson (free agent), LHP Derek Holland (minor league free agent), 3B Chase d’Arnaud (minor league free agent), RHP Jose Valdez (minor league free agent), C Hector Sanchez (minor league free agent), RHP Casey Kelly (minor league free agent).
Key subtraction(s): RHP Matt Cain (retired), 1B Michael Morse (free agent), LHP Matt Moore (trade), OF Denard Span (trade), SS Christian Arroyo (trade), RHP Kyle Crick (trade).
Baseball America top-100 prospect(s): OF Heliot Ramos (No. 79).
STORYLINES TO WATCH
The Giants had won three World Series, made four postseason berths and finished third or better in the NL West since the start of 2009 before injuries played a part in burying them in the basement of the division last year. They’re hoping veteran additions — from trades for Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (31) and Rays 3B Evan Longoria (32) to the signing of OF Austin Jackson (31) — reposition them for contention in 2018 in baseball’s toughest division.
The shoulder injury sustained in a dirt bike accident limited LHP Madison Bumgarner to a career-low 17 starts. Now he’s out again with a broken left pinkie finger. RHP Johnny Cueto (1.7 WAR) fought himself and injuries in his second year in San Francisco. Those two reverting to form alone would boost the Giants’ stock in 2018.
RHP Mark Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million pact before the 2017 season to shore up the Giants’ bullpen only to have forearm trouble limit him to 30 not-so-great innings. The Giants will look for him to bounce back from a September surgery.
— San Diego Union-Tribune