Last May, when I highlighted Stephen Curry’s rare humility in a culture of self-trust, some people questioned whether his character depended on circumstances. “I’ll believe it if they lose, and he’s still praising Jesus,” one said. Another wrote, “Not to be a downer, but I would question—as I do with all athletes—when the chips are down, you’re having a terrible game or season, are you still giving credit to God?”
I’m sympathetic to their skepticism. After all, I don’t know Curry personally, and I’ve seen other celebrities shift gears before.
Today, though, we can see his response to adversity. The Warriors are doing well, but Curry’s not.
Out with an Injury
In Game 4 of the Rockets-Warriors series last Sunday, Curry slipped on a wet spot on the court during the last play of the first half. He immediately rolled and grabbed his knee in pain. Although he tried to warm up for the second half, team doctors told him that he was done for the game. Teammate Draymond Green said that Curry was in tears on the court and limped back to the locker room. Green told him, “We got you.” The team prayed for him.
An MRI later revealed that Curry has a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his right knee. It’s not a serious injury, but it means he’s out for at least two weeks during playoffs.
In the midst of all this, though, he tweeted:
Thanks 4 all the prayers & messages. Can feel all the positive energy. God is Great! All things considered I’m Gonna be alright! #DubNation
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) April 25, 2016
On Wednesday, the Warriors and the Rockets played again, but Curry sat the bench. He wore a beige blazer, not a uniform. He walked with a slight limp.
Yet the Warriors soared past the Rockets, winning 114–81. Klay Thompson, often overshadowed during the regular season by Curry, scored 27 points. Green scored 15 points and collected 9 rebounds. “Everybody, they think Steph goes down and the entire series changes,” Green said. “But we thought otherwise.”
How did Curry respond to his teammates’ successes that they achieved without him?
It’s Not About Me
A few years ago, I received an invitation to attend a Christian conference on women and work. I was invited to attend, not speak. I got the email invitation like every other woman invited. I can’t believe this. How could they not ask me to speak? Do they know who I am? What a ridiculous conference. I’m not even going to go.
At that time, I was reading Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. In it, Keller talks about how “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” and, therefore, a truly gospel-humble person is totally interested in other people. Then came the gut punch:
Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that it was done? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success? Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself—because you are just so happy to see it.
I wept at my own sinfulness. I was so concerned about my own role—or lack thereof—in that conference that I couldn’t praise God for the wonderful fact it was happening. I made it all about me. My self-centered heart was bloated, ugly, and sick.
In his great mercy, though, God opened my eyes to see my sin and his beauty as my only righteousness. Then I signed up to attend the conference and prayed for the speakers who had been chosen.
On Wednesday, as Curry sat the bench, he wasn’t morose or sullen. He didn’t appear jealous of his teammates or hesitant to celebrate their successes. In fact, he seemed like the happiest person in the arena. FoxSports called him “a cheerful cheerleader” during the game. ESPN posted a video montage of him smiling, laughing, and rejoicing throughout the game.
He could have sulked and focused on himself, like I did when the work of my “teammates”—other Christian women—was highlighted and celebrated. But he didn’t. He realized that the game wasn’t about him.
The power to react with such humility doesn’t come from a healthy self-esteem. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3). Instead, it comes from rooting your identity in the only opinion that matters, the opinion that is formed on the basis of what Christ has done, not what you have done.