Why Barry Bonds feels a kinship with Steph Curry

Let’s go back to Boston. Where an important moment in NBA history came, went and was swept away with the confetti.

With the final seconds winding down on Game 6 of the NBA Finals, a fourth championship won, Stephen Curry broke down in tears.

Rare is it to see easygoing Curry choked up, but the moment was heavy. The Warriors’ dynasty, declared dead after two dark years, reached the mountaintop again to achieve something only a handful of teams in history ever have. And with determination to prove doubters wrong, Curry further cemented himself as an all-time great.

“There’s no crying in basketball!” Klay Thompson said to Curry on the Warriors’ championship parade stage.

But only a select few athletes who have accomplished as much know where those tears come from. Former San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds can relate.

“The responsibility is heavy, but it drives us,” Bonds said in a phone conversation on Thursday.  “I had that for a lot of years. It’s a very taxing job, but you have to be prepared for it and you have to want it. And Steph wants it. When you’re that good, you want it.”

“The tears could have been like, the burden is off of me.”

Bonds, of course, never won the big trophy in his 22 MLB seasons. But he did hit an MLB record 762 home runs, and win seven MVPs, two batting titles and eight Silver Sluggers. Reports of his performance-enhancing drug use put an asterisk on those records and have so far held him out of the Hall of Fame.

But there’s no denying that he inspired an entire generation of baseball fans, in the Bay Area and beyond, and directed the nation’s eyes on Major League Baseball as he chased history 20 years ago.

The heaviest burden, he said, came in 1993 when he signed as a free agent with the Giants – the team his father, Bobby Bonds, and godfather, Willie Mays, once played for. The hardest he cried was in 2002, in the showers after the Giants lost the World Series in seven games to Anaheim. Never had the responsibility to achieve felt heavier, and his goals further out of reach.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) sheds tears after winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics 103-90. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) sheds tears after winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics 103-90. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The tears were for different reasons, but Bonds recognized Curry’s emotion. Only the greats feel it.

“You have to be a special kind of person to deal with that responsibility,” Bonds said. “You have to want that responsibility. I don’t know how to explain it. Sometimes it can be frightening. Sometimes you want to quit because it’s too much for you, and at the same time you strive for it because that’s what keeps you going.”

Bonds, who grew up in San Carlos, is a self-proclaimed Bay Area sports fan. Curry is undoubtedly on his somewhat fluid “Mount Rushmore” of Bay Area athletes. Also included: Mays and 49ers greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

“I’m not going to say I’m not one, either,” Bonds said.

After Curry’s 43-point Game 4, Dwyane Wade demanded the NBA Mount Rushmore expand “to make room for this bad (expletive).”

“Everybody talking about what Steph ain’t,” Wade said in an Instagram post. “Let’s talk about what he is.”

After the tears dried up, Curry proudly turned the tables on talking heads who downplayed his accomplishments.

“What are they gonna say now?” Curry said.

Not only is Curry one of just 44 players in NBA history to win at least four rings – Green, Andre Iguodala and Thompson included – but Curry’s 3-point revolution changed the game. Need proof? The most coveted players in the draft and free agency can shoot the 3. The most frequently-taken shots in the NBA come from beyond the arc. The NBA averaged 36 3-pointers per game in Curry’s rookie year in 2010 and jumped to 70 per game now.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed a familiar response to that; Curry’s 6-foot-2 size doesn’t correlate with the traditional image of basketball greatness.

“I think someday people will realize and appreciate just how unique and special he was and is,” Kerr said one day in Boston during the Finals. “He’s so unique, he can change the game so dramatically. I think he will be a guy who will be way more appreciated once he’s done than while he’s playing.

“He’s a normal looking guy. People have a hard time understanding how dominant he is. He also dominates in a different way than most players. No one has dominated the way he has with the threat of the shot. Not just the shot itself, but the threat of the shot and what that does to the game. If you know the game, you see what that does to defenses and affects every single possession.”

Iguodala, who has called Curry “a god,” thinks his constant exposure in the modern media world humanizes him a little too much.

“Some people are put on the earth for us to be inspired by and to make sure the next generation is taken care of in terms of how we approach our craft,” Iguodala said. “And I think Steph Curry is an embodiment of how you approach your craft with humility, faith and hard work. Family first. A lot of us just don’t have it in us to be able to stand on that platform the way he does.”

That platform can only hold so many all-time greats. And even fewer can keep up the drive to stay up there, as Curry is doing into his mid-30s.

“Steph has all the money in the world, what the heck else does he need?” Bonds said. “Steph’s drive comes from that responsibility.”

Contributed by local news sources

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