Right now, while Steph Curry is playing perhaps the best and definitely the most innovative basketball ever, let’s reexamine the stirring Most Valuable Player acceptance speech he gave last May and focus on what it can teach kids. As good as Curry was last season, consider Jalen Rose’s mind-blowing statement about how last year’s MVP could be this year’s most improved player.
Curry this season is a terrific example of the motivating Japanese term, kaizen (continuous improvement). No matter how good you are, no matter how much success you’ve achieved, even if you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle of your chosen passion, you can still get better. If Steph Curry believes there’s room for improvement, then none of us should be satisfied that we’re as good as we’re going to get. So everyone, certainly every kid, can learn kaizen from Steph.
#1 Immerse in a Support Group: To start his speech, Curry acknowledges the role his special people have played in his life, including his wife, mom, dad, grandma, brother, sister and best friend. He leaves no doubt that no matter how he performs he will be supported. Stephen Curry is a loved man.
If kids aren’t as fortunate as Steph (Who is?), they still can and should seek a support group for themselves. Additionally, they can become a lifelong member of their own special people’s support group.
#2 Work!: Throughout the speech, Curry makes it clear that hard work is a nonnegotiable prerequisite for success. Success isn’t guaranteed, but you “want to be the hardest worker in whatever you do to put yourself in a position to be successful.” Indeed, one explanation for last year’s best player being able to upgrade himself is what he described as a “relentless drive.” (For the specifics, check out his off season training regimen which he outlines here with Time.com’s Sean Gregory.)
# 3 Be an A+ Person: In this late December interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Golden State Warriors’ general manager (and the National Basketball Association’s Executive of the Year), Bob Myers, talks about how special and rare it is when your best player is also your best person. Kids can learn from Curry that superior achievement and being a fabulous human are not mutually exclusive.
#4 Don’t Worry; They’ll Find You: The goal for many kids is to attend a “name” university. Curry, too, had that aspiration. He wanted to attend one of his state’s prestigious basketball schools – The University of North Carolina or Duke. Neither of those powerhouses wanted him. So he ended up at Davidson College, a school Curry described in his speech as a “mid-major.” Obviously, that didn’t keep the NBA scouts from finding him, proving that if you are good – really good – sooner or later people will figure it out – no matter where you are.
BC (Before Curry), Davidson was not considered an elite basketball school.
#5 Get Help: Along with thanking his support group for their role in his ascendance, Curry acknowledged a whole bunch of other people who helped him become successful, including Shonn Brown and Bob McKillop, his high school and college coaches.
#6 Walk the Humility Walk: Curry doesn’t just talk about being humble and showing gratitude, he is humble and shows gratitude. During his speech he gave props to the Warriors’ equipment manager and head of security (not just to the owners and management big shots).
# 7 Have the Confidence to Set Super Challenging Yet Realistic Goals: While recognizing every current teammate, Curry challenged backcourt mate Klay Thompson to join him in aspiring to become the greatest guard tandem in the history of basketball. This year, he has admitted that he considers himself the best basketball player in the world.
#8 Have a Philosophy: Steph said that he and his wife, Ayesha, came up with four “ideals” that describe his journey: faith, passion, drive and will. During his speech, he explains each.
#9 Find Something to Love: Curry knew at three that basketball was his passion. Of course, most kids don’t learn their love that early. Sadly, many don’t learn it at all.
#10 Live In the Moment: A lovely and relevant reminder to not dwell on the past and/or obsess about the future. Still, it’s just not the kind of thing we typically hear from a basketball superstar, especially one whose recent past has been astonishingly successful. The time for Curry, our kids and us is now.
*If you want to study Curry’s speech, read it here.