The Sports Journalism Institute is celebrating its 25th class this summer. Over the next few months we will feature the stories of some of the programs’ alums, as told in the words of other SJI students in articles written for The SJI Bulletin as well as our website. Here we offer a look at 1998 alum Marcus Thompson, who is releasing his first book in April.
There are only a handful of people who have seen Stephen Curry’s career up close from the moment he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2009. Now that the 6’3” point guard has become a two-time MVP and a household name, casual fans know his biography so well that they’re on a first-name basis with his wife, Ayesha, and his oldest daughter, Riley. They know his beginnings as an undersized and barely-recruited teenager because the story has been told in Under Armour commercials and blown up on billboards.
Early in his career, Curry battled ankle injuries and faced criticism for his shaky defense. When the Warriors traded away Monta Ellis in 2012, many fans at Oracle Arena booed owner Joe Lacob, even though that move opened the door for Curry’s ascension. Until he went off for 44 points and 11 assists in Game 1 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, Curry mostly flew under the national radar. And even then, many observers had no idea that Curry would bring a championship to the Bay Area for the first time in 40 years.
That’s the premise of 1998 SJI alum Marcus Thompson II’s new book, Golden, which traces Curry’s development from a small school standout at Davidson to a global phenomenon.
“Kobe, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant, just go down the list of former MVPs,” said Thompson, a Bay Area News Group columnist. “You just saw ‘em coming because basketball is a high school sport. But like nobody saw Steph coming. He just came out of nowhere. He was in the league for five years before people knew he was any good. Golden kind of explains how did we miss him and how did it happen?”
Thompson was uniquely positioned to tell this story. Since becoming BANG’s Golden State Beat writer in 2004, he has been around for the good and the bad, from multiple lottery trips to the ‘We Believe’ underdog team and on to ‘Strength in Numbers’ championship era. He says that he didn’t need to sit down and have a two-hour interview with Curry for the book because the two have been chatting about Curry’s life since 2009.
“I covered the Warriors at a time where people weren’t clambering to cover the Warriors,” Thompson said. “There was a whole lot of empty locker rooms with me and Steph just talking.”
Golden, which releases on April 11 and is available for pre-order, goes all the way back to when Curry was in eighth grade. Thompson believes in “talking around people” so he didn’t conduct a lot of interviews with the main subject and instead interviewed Curry’s mother, Sonya, his teammates, and his high school coaches. In addition to those interviews, Thompson weaves in his own observations from his time on the beat.
Thompson says his favorite part of the book was also the hardest part: “Dealing with the origins” by going back to cover Curry’s high school days. As an NBA fan, Thompson likes to break down the X’s and O’s of the game, but this book was written for a different audience, those who enjoy stories rather than game analysis.
Golden was originally supposed to be completed last July and released after the Warriors finished off a 73-win regular season with a second straight title. But after the Warriors gave up a 3-1 lead and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, Thompson had to go back, rethink his original narrative and take out some details from the 2015-16 season. From start to finish, Thompson wrote the book in six months.
Each chapter of Golden depicts a different part of how Curry became the player he is now and opens with a quote from an NBA coach, player or media member. The first chapter dives into Curry’s mindset and plays off many people’s assumption that he is soft because he looks young and is kind. Thompson weaves in different stories from Curry’s childhood and games with the Warriors to, in Thompson’s words, show that “the dude is a beast. He’s a monster.” The second chapter talks about Curry as a system player and how the Warriors built a system around him. Thompson also touches on Curry’s famous three-point shooting ability.
“It makes a lot of sense that [Curry] would be this good if you really pay attention,” Thompson said. “The problem is we just get so enamored with athleticism. Like overt explosion and hops. You got to do something ridiculous outside of it for us to even see it. We don’t even see people who are really good unless they are physically special.”