Dell Curry cracks a smile. He has a lot to smile about these days with his son Stephen being the top vote-getter for the NBA All-Star Game. It might be hard to imagine now, but when Stephen got to Davidson, Dell thought a mid-major scholarship was going to be his son's limit in basketball. Then came the 2008 NCAA tournament.
Stephen was a sophomore, and with a stunning series of scoring explosions, he carried Davidson to within one game of the Final Four, beating Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin along the way. The second-round game was particularly memorable for Dell, because the sons of Doc Rivers and Patrick Ewing played for the Hoyas. Georgetown, with Jeremiah Rivers and Patrick Ewing Jr., led 38-27 at the half, holding Stephen to just five points. The lead was enough for a certain Hall of Famer to gloat.
With 30 points from Stephen, Davidson knocked off Georgetown 74-70, and its run continued until a 59-57 loss to Kansas in the regional final. After staying one more season at Davidson in which he led the nation with an average of 28.6 points, Steph became the seventh pick in the 2009 draft. Dell was a first-round pick himself back in 1986 and played 16 NBA seasons, so he had a realistic understanding of what it takes to make it as a professional. It wasn't until Stephen's sophomore season that Dell started thinking the NBA was a possibility.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop believed in his NBA potential before either of Stephen's parents.
"His coach actually told us after his second college game of his career," Dell says. "The first game, he had like 12 turnovers."
"No, 21," Steph's mom, Sonya, chimes in.
(The correct total is 13.)
Dell continues his story: "In the second game, I think he had like 32 against Michigan in a tournament. We were walking back through the airport and we ran into the team. Coach McKillop walked over and the first thing he said was, 'Your son's going to make a lot of money playing this game.' I said, 'Eh, OK, maybe in Europe.' But he knew then."
"It's unbelievable," Sonya says. "We're pinching ourselves. I'm thinking six years have gone quickly."
The combination of Steph's personal underdog story and family-friendly personality along with his spectacular basketball skills has helped him land some major endorsement deals with companies such as Under Armour, State Farm and Degree. During All-Star weekend in New York, Degree made a big push with Curry. It invited several reporters to chat with Stephen and his family over lunch. Ayesha Curry, Stephen's wife, was there too. The couple met in a youth group at a church in Charlotte while in their teens. All of Curry's inner circle saw a time before NBA stardom.
Degree also staged a H-O-R-S-E style competition, billed as Battle of the Game Changers, between Curry and John Wall the day before the All-Star Game. Curry lost this event and also fell short when teaming up with Dell in the NBA's Shooting Stars Competition. But then he won the Three-Point Contest for the first time in his four tries and followed with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists as a starter in the All-Star Game.
In the bigger picture, though, Curry's most notable accomplishment of the weekend was honoring one of the Chapel Hill shooting victims with special messages written on his sneakers. Curry cited his North Carolina roots as a big reason why he was moved to do it.
Dell was the all-time leading scorer for the old Hornets and works as a TV analyst for the new Hornets. In Charlotte, Dell comes into contact with Hornets owner Michael Jordan on a near-daily basis. Once upon a time, Jordan's Bulls knocked Dell's Hornets out of the playoffs twice. Now Jordan wouldn't mind having a Curry sharpshooter of his own.
"He wants him in Charlotte pretty much," Dell says. "He's not supposed to, but, because I work with him, he's like, 'When's his contract up?' I say, 'Good luck with that. They like him in Oakland.'"
But before he went to Oakland and became a star on the game's biggest stages, he was playing in smaller gyms within driving distance from Davidson's campus.
"The Southern Conference, they call it a bus conference," Dell says. "You can bus trip to every game, home or away, and there was a group of us that traveled to every game that year. We got to be close. We'd tailgate before games. As they kept winning, the group got bigger and the tailgates got bigger and things got more intense."
Tailgating before that 2008 tournament game against Georgetown in Raleigh, Curry's crew spotted Doc Rivers.
"He stopped by," Dell says. "We said, 'Hey Doc, how you doing?' He kind of had that look like: You guys are having fun, but do you really think you have a shot at beating Georgetown? Come on. He had that kind of look. He never said it."
You can bet Dell Curry will always be smiling whenever he get to tell that story one more time.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.