Warriors' Stephen Curry: The man, the mouthpiece
OAKLAND — This is a story about an MVP and his most loyal companion — the sidekick he mangles, misshapes and occasionally heaves. This is the story of Stephen Curry's mouthpiece.
Perhaps you've seen it. Well, of course you've seen it. Because Curry's mouthpiece is rarely where it's supposed to be, which is in his mouth. The Warriors point guard nudges it out in front of his lips, like a rubber bumper, when he runs upcourt after a basket. He takes it out and holds it when he's pleading to an official. Frequently the U-shaped piece of plastic curves from the left corner of Curry's mouth, like an appendage or a benign growth.
Bogey's cigarette. Kojak's lollipop. The toothpick dangling from the lip of every heavy in a black-and-white gangster movie. And Stephen Curry's mouthpiece. They complete the portrait.
Here is everything you'd like to know about the accessory Curry likes to gnaw.
BOY MEETS GRILL
Curry's relationship with his mouth guard began Dec. 13, 2007, during his sophomore year at Davidson College. It was born of necessity.
'I actually still have the scar,' Curry said. 'I was playing Citadel at home, and I was getting into a guy defensively and he did a rip-through move over the top and 'bowed me right in my lip. I went out and had a couple stitches and got fitted for a mouthpiece that next day, and I've been wearing one ever since.'
MEET DR. MOUTHPIECE
With every defense gunning for him, Curry has enough to worry about without having to remember his mouthpiece. So Drew Yoder oversees the operation. That was true when Yoder joined the team as assistant athletic trainer in the summer of 2013, and it's true since he was promoted to athletic trainer as part of a personnel shakeup in September.
The mouthpiece starts with an impression taken by Golden State's team dentist, Todd Yerondopolous. But it's Yoder who serves as Curry's supplier.
Yoder has three mouthpieces on hand at any given time at Oracle Arena, and three others that travel to road games, all of them shut tight in plastic containers. For the most part, Curry decides when it's time to retire one of them.
'Sometimes I'll get them where it doesn't fit anymore because I've chewed it up too much, so I need another one for the next game or something like that,' Curry said.
Yoder has input, though, like a gently insistent parent.
'It's not an exact science,' the trainer said. 'Generally, before a game he puts it in and sometimes he'll say, 'This tastes like (bleep).' It just kind of goes bad. The ones he uses are flavored — I don't know if you know that — and eventually that flavor kind of runs bad. Usually I let him direct it. Sometimes I'll look and it'll look disgusting, and I'll say, 'You want to switch that out?' '
Yoder guesses that Curry runs through a mouthpiece every 6 to 10 games, and that he uses 10 to 15 over the course of a season.
WAIT, THEY'RE FLAVORED?
Two years ago, Curry signed an endorsement deal to wear mouthpieces made by MoGo Sport. They are lemonade flavored. And this is no hollow endorsement. In fact, Curry still draws from his original supply of MoGo pieces though the company has ceased production, effectively ending the agreement.
In the past, Curry experimented with mouthpieces that you dunk in boiling water and shape yourself, and others that were as flimsy as Invisalign 'braces.'
'I at one time wore one that, if I had it in I sometimes forgot,' Curry said. 'Where I could talk normally like right now and you still wouldn't know. I wore that thin one because it was obviously more comfortable, but it didn't give me the protection. It's that balance.'
WHERE TO PUT YOUR MOUTHPIECE
Curry never plays a game without his mouthpiece. But he doesn't wear one for practice unless the Warriors are scheduled to play a full quarter of pickup or 5-on-5.
'It feels strange in practice,' Curry said. 'When we start playing, I look down — I keep it right here in my compression shorts. I look down and it's not there and it kind of feels weird, but I know it's just practice. But in a game, for sure. I'll start the game and if I forget it or something, I'll have somebody run back to the locker room for it.'
As Curry suggested, he tucks his little friend into the leg of his compression shorts when he's on the bench. Those NBA players who wear mouthpieces handle this business in different ways. According to a New York Times story that ran in February, the Clippers' Cole Aldrich hooks his mouth guard around one of his ears. The Trail Blazers' Mason Plumlee tucks his into a sock. Sacramento's Rajon Rondo sometimes lifts his collar and spits his under his jersey.
'I used to do something very unsanitary that I didn't even think about until somebody pointed it out,' Curry said. 'I won't even explain what that was. Just put it was 'unsanitary.' I found a different way to do it.'