Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry is having one heck of a year. Earlier this spring, the NBA named him its Most Valuable Player. His Warriors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in four decades, taking on a four-time MVP in LeBron James and a Cleveland Cavaliers franchise seeking to snap its city’s 51-year title drought.
In short, just about everyone—particularly in the Bay Area—is fawning over Curry at this very moment. That is, except for one English teacher at Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, California.
In a May 14 blog post (h/t CSNBayArea.com), Matt Amaral—a self-professed Warriors fan—expresses his love for Curry before asking him “to do me a solid and make sure you don’t ever come visit my high school.”
Why the abrupt change of pace? Amaral described in great detail what he feared would come about if Curry did make a stop at the school:
You see, Steph (I hope you don't mind if I call you Steph), if you come to my school you will be your usual inspiring, humble, hilarious, kind self and you will say all the right things. But the reason I don't want you to come has to do with what you won't say. ... The worst thing you won't tell them Steph, is that they can't do it. You won't tell them that will you? You won't be able to bring yourself to tell them it is already too late. You won't tell them about all those years when you were playing in top competitive leagues as a child. You won't tell them that if they haven't played organized basketball by the age of 16 (12, really), they have no chance of going pro. You see, the kids I am talking about do not play year-round, they are not in a travelling league, and they have never even heard of a McDonald's All-American; they just eat McDonald's two meals a day and have Hot Cheetos in between.
Amaral makes clear that he has nothing against Curry in particular, writing, “You are such an awesome guy, you are a family man with a wife and daughter, with another on the way. ... You are humble, a leader, and clearly our young men need to meet a man like you.”
Instead, he’s simply hoping to keep his students grounded in reality, and fears a visit from the NBA’s Most Valuable Player could spark unrealistic expectations in their minds.
“My letter is a repackaged theme about the invisible barriers my students face every day,” Amaral told SFGate’s Amy Graff. “We live in this false meritocracy. We like to think that if we work hard, you will make it. Upper mobility is really hard. My letter is trying to highlight that.
“It takes more than hard work. You have to know the right people. You have to be born into the right neighborhood and right family.”
To that point: Curry is the son of Dell Curry, a 16-year NBA veteran. Despite that prestigious lineage, the 6'3" point guard finished as the 245th-ranked player in the 247Sports Composite for his recruiting class—51st among point guards alone. A number of high-major schools initially passed up offering him a scholarship, according to 247Sports’ Kevin Flaherty, leading him to attend Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. Even after leading Davidson on a magical run in the 2008 NCAA tournament, some NBA executives weren’t sold on his potential in the league. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford shared a variety of those opinions:
Some worry that he lacks the size, strength, explosive athleticism to be a great NBA player. They also worry that Curry won't be able to make the transition to the pros. Others think he's going to be a terrific NBA player. They see a kid with unlimited range, good quickness, and a big time basketball IQ.
If someone like Curry—whose father had a lengthy career in the league and who was one of college basketball’s leading scorers at the time—isn’t a surefire NBA player, the odds are squarely against anyone who hopes to turn basketball into a full-time job. According to the NCAA, of the 541,054 high school men’s basketball players nationwide, just 3.4 percent will play in college, and only 1.2 percent of college players will be drafted by NBA teams.
Jenna Martinez, one of Amaral’s students, told NBC Bay Area that her teacher’s overall message made perfect sense with that context in mind.
“He says that you can have dreams,” she said, “but you need a backup plan. It’s not like he’s trying to put anyone down. He’s just trying to be realistic.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.