OAKLAND, Calif. – Stephen Curry does preposterous, astonishing, prodigiously valuable things on a regular basis, and he does a lot of quirky little things, too.
The quirky things just as regularly, or even more so. Because the Warriors’ superstar point guard is a proud and predictable creature of many, many habits, in and around basketball games, his soaring career and happy family life.
The mannerisms give structure to Curry’s routine, and from there he can improvise almost anything.
For instance, he starts his famous pregame workout 90 minutes before tipoff, every game, and he always walks out of the locker room with his shoelaces untied, then laces up right before the work begins.
That’s just one habit. For this column, I asked him about several others, and at no point did Curry try to hide any of this and in fact seemed to be pretty interested in how many eccentricities I could come up with.
I’ve noticed all of these idiosyncrasies in plain sight, almost every game, and I’m sure I’ve missed dozens. Those who know him off the court say he has just as many other habits in many other aspects of his life.
Curry, by the way, also just became the first-ever unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player, his second MVP trophy in a row, and he is leading his Warriors into the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City, which start Monday night at Oracle Arena.
The quirks are part of who he is. And he’s the greatest basketball player and one of the most famous athletes on earth.
This particular conversation took place a few weeks ago, between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs _ before Curry hurt his ankle in Game 1 and then missed two games and then sprained his knee in Game 4 against Houston and missed four more games.
Then he came back for Game 4 at Portland on Monday, and we will all remember his 17-point overtime performance for the rest of our lives.
Here’s how the conversation went …
Q: Let’s start with the famous “lock in!” pregame tweet. Do you do that every game now?
A: It’s supposed to be every game. Hopefully I don’t forget.
Q: What does it mean to you?
A: It started … I don’t know exactly when it started, but it was basically my term for, simple, lock it in or focus all my energy toward the game and what I need to do to help my team win.
It pretty much encompasses everything I need to get ready for a game. And I love tweeting it because now it’s almost like some of the fans get excited.
After games I’ll go back and read some stuff, and people are like waiting for that tweet _ that means it’s game time. There’s a Warriors game coming on.
Funny how that’s evolved. Just a nice little routine for me to get ready for the game.
Q: The chewing of the mouthpiece, half out of your mouth, as you’re dribbling up or doing whatever in the game. Are you conscious you’re doing this?
A: Still, no. I mean, sometimes when you’re on the court thinking, it’s kind of my weird habit of chewing and thinking, and then the play starts and I forget to put it back in.
Q: Yeah, it’s dangling out of your mouth.
A: It is not on purpose, most of the time. As good as my hand-eye coordination is, my mouthpiece-to-mouth coordination is … not.
Q: The tap on your chest and point to the sky after a 3-pointer at a big moment …
A: Back in college my freshman year, my mom and I started that. Every time after the national anthem stopped, I’d find her in the stands whenever she came to my game and we’d do the sign to each other.
Basically means “have a heart for God.” It keeps the perspective for me why I play the game and where my strength comes from.
I started to do it just to her and then it became a thing after I made it. After each play, after I made a shot.
It’s been a good kind of grounding.
Q: Seems to frame the moment mentally for you.
A: I’ll have a celebration or whatnot for a clutch-time play, but at the end of it you’re going to see that sign, because it does keep my perspective; as (teammate) Anderson Varejao would say, keeps me humble.
Q: In the player introductions, you don’t wait for your name to be called, you run right behind Klay Thompson as soon as he runs out there. Is there a point to that? You’re impatient?
A: No, that’s on purpose, and I don’t know … think it was like (former coach) Mark Jackson’s first year (in 2011-12), when Klay got here and was in the starting lineup, I think it was because he waits until everything’s said about him.
He’s sitting on the bench, he’s waiting for everything to be said about him and then he gets up and goes.
I do the sign, basically put my hands in the air and then start the run down the aisle right before … I don’t know why I started, but I just make sure I do.
Q: The run from half-court to the opponents’ basket right before opening tipoff. You used to do it with (former teammate) David Lee and now …
A: Me and David did that. I wanted something to get my heart rate going before the game started. So that little run helped me.
And then probably halfway through me and D. Lee’s second year here together, he noticed I started to do it every game, and so he’d be standing at the top of the circle right there and we’d race, basically.
I’d always win, though.
Q: Your sprint down the tunnel back to the home locker room at Oracle after your early warm-ups …
A: That’s the same thing, kind of just get my heart rate going. It’s a lot of time in between getting to the game and the game starting, so kind of want to have something that kind of sparks my body.
Q: And you go fast.
A: Yeah. I’ve got to make sure I’m loose so I don’t pull anything. And maybe as I get further down the league, I might have to slow it down a little bit. But right now I’m good.
Q: A weird one _ do you file your nails on the bench sometimes? You’re doing something there.
A: No, no, I’ve been biting my nails forever. My mom hates it, my wife hates it. But it’s kind of just my pass-the-time knack.
Q: You do it all the time everywhere or just during games on the bench?
A: Everywhere. Well, most of the time now it’s saved for the bench so I have some nails left, because if I did it all the time, I’d be down to the nub.
Q: During the regular season, you always do your postgame media session at your locker, never at the front space reserved for it, where your teammates do media stuff after games. Why do you like it there?
A: Just very comfortable over by my locker. It’s kind of my vantage point for the scene every night.
And a lot of it is just to mess with Klay and (Harrison Barnes), who are on either side of me.
When I have a good game, HB comes in and grabs all his clothes and goes to the training room. And makes a sly comment like, “Hey, good game, bro. I’m going to go change in the training room. A lot of media’s coming in.”
So a lot of it is to mess with him, too.