Basketball / NBA

NBA star Curry wows Japanese fans on flying visit

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Stephen Curry, who led the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA championship in 40 years last season, made his first visit to Japan on Friday — even though he was only here for around 24 hours — and greeted enthusiastic local hoop fans.

“This my first time in Japan. I’m enjoying myself,” said Curry, who was on the Under Armour Roadshow event along with the Baltimore-based sporting goods company’s chairman and CEO Kevin Plank, in Tokyo. “I’m very impressed with the city. I hope to see more about the city today and hope to have a very memorable trip.”

Curry and Plank landed in Japan on a private jet at about 4 a.m., just hours before the event. While they were here to promote their products, including the player’s latest basketball shoes, Curry also held a basketball clinic for some boys and girls.

Despite the hectic schedule, the 27-year-old Curry never showed any signs of fatigue and seemed to relish spending his time with the local players, teaching them some of his elaborate skills.

In a question-and-answer session following the clinic, Curry replied to a boy who asked him what he should do to one day become an NBA player by saying, “You have to work. There’s no secret formula, but you have to be a hard worker every single day, and just find your niche in the game. So whatever you do the best, you’ve got to do it better than most. But you have to be well-rounded in every aspect of the game.”

Curry also performed some of his shooting drills for the crowd and clinic participants.

For Curry, who averaged 23.8 points and 7.7 assists during the 2014-15 season, when he was named the MVP, his strengths are his magical ball-handling skills and his shooting, which is arguably the best in the league. Standing just 191 cm with a skinny body (though he’s strong), those skills have made the Akron, Ohio, native one of the best players on the planet, and one of the most popular as well.

Plank said that signing Curry two years ago was one of the easiest decisions his company has made because of his value on and off the court.

“Stephen Curry is a better human being than he is as a basketball player,” said Plank, the chief of the rapidly growing athletic gear company. “Stephen Curry is the face of Under Armour basketball, and one of the faces that help distribute our brand. And the consistent fact, you see (in) all of our athletes, first of all, they are champions. Stephen Curry, (golfer) Jordan Spieth, (ballet dancer) Misty Copeland, (NFL quarterback) Tom Brady . . . we are incredibly proud of our athletes and assets. They all demonstrate excellence at the highest level.

“Stephen is a great human being and that’s something we are proud of, too.”

Unfortunately, Japan was only able to welcome the NBA superstar for a short time. Curry, a product of Davidson College, was scheduled to visit Manila, and then three cities in China — Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai — on the Under Armour Roadshow Asian tour.