Stephen Curry is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. He has transformed basketball itself with his scintillating shooting, ballhandling, and movement, revolutionizing how teams construct their rosters and play the game. He is a four-time NBA Finals champion; a two-time scoring champion; the league’s only unanimous MVP; and its all-time 3-point leader—and yes, he has a Finals MVP. “What they gonna say now?,” Curry, the often underestimated superstar, rhetorically asked after winning this award and yet another title as part of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty last June.
Yet what’s so remarkable about Curry is that the desire for recognition and acclaim does not drive his life or sense of self. The petty slights and obnoxious narratives that are part of our hot-take culture provide him with a little extra motivation, but they do not distract him from the type of person he wishes to be or the real accomplishments he works to achieve. Everyone wants recognition for their achievements—a product of our natural sense of fairness. But Curry’s relentless pursuit of championships with his teammates is not about the social media narratives but about the actual winning—the excellence itself.
Further, Curry understands that character and integrity matter more than accomplishments—even ones that make someone a superstar, celebrity, or legend. Curry is extraordinarily secure in who he is, what he stands for, and the type of person he tries to be on a daily basis. This is extremely rare in our society—and almost inconceivable among the rich and famous.
His life is rooted in his faith, which keeps him grounded and focused on what matters. His work is animated by joy, even when he is on the bench, cheering for his teammates. His leadership is quiet but remarkable. He treats people in a way that is compatible with human dignity, regardless of their background. He wants to make a difference in the lives of others—and has done so as a role model and inspiration, through his charitable works, and in the way he interacts with people every day.
Former basketball star Charles Barkley famously said he wasn’t a role model. Other superstars have sidestepped commenting on matters of social justice to maximize their personal income. While Curry is typically careful and measured in his remarks, he has not been afraid to speak up on important matters. He has continually shown thoughtfulness and empathy. And in all he does, his authenticity shines through.
For people who have been overlooked, disrespected, or told that they didn’t measure up in a supposed meritocracy (which was actually distorted by bias, blind spots, and hubris), Curry’s achievements mean even more. “Look at Curry man…so inspirational” has become a meme to celebrate his exploits and mock the mundane, but if it’s become trite, it’s because of how many people he has genuinely inspired. Not one college from a major conference offered him a scholarship. People questioned his size and strength. They downplayed his high school success. Yet he defied their doubts and pessimistic predictions. And he has done so over and over again throughout his career.
These achievements have not given Curry an inflated ego, but rather a deep sense of gratitude. “You’re not doing anything great in this world alone,” Curry has said.
In the most radically individualistic society in human history, Steph Curry’s personalist treatment of others and communitarian approach to basketball and life stand out. The greatness of Steph Curry is undeniable, but so too is the goodness of the man. And that’s why he is our 2022 Millennial of the Year.