ATLANTA — Dell Curry wandered the hallways outside of the Philips Arena locker rooms, shaking hands and filling the space with an air of enthusiasm for media and personnel standing nearby. It’s a special day in Atlanta with a unique father-son reunion in play.
Dell Curry is waiting to see his son, who also happens to be the league’s reigning most valuable player.
It’s an unrecognizable away-game scene for the elder Curry. Dell doesn’t attend many live Warriors games due to his own schedule with FOX Sports Southeast’s Charlotte Hornets telecast team.
So when he sees his son’s following, he’s mesmerized.
"It’s really surreal," said Dell. "I’m amazed at the amount of fans they bring out."
Steph Curry is inside the visiting locker room. His team arrived late to the arena after getting a taste of Atlanta via rush-hour traffic. It’s unfamiliar territory but he knows what awaits him: a sea of gold and royal blue with thousands of fans sporting a No. 30 jersey. His jersey. They follow him wherever he plays, making foreign arenas feel like home.
As the son of a long-time NBA standout, Steph was introduced to the game of basketball at an early age. Dell spent the longest stretch of his career with the Charlotte Hornets, from the time Steph was born until he was 10 years old.
"I think growing up around me and my teammates really put the bug in him to want to play," said Dell.
All three of Dell’s children played basketball at some point in their lives, and both of his sons currently play in the NBA. Steph’s younger brother, Seth, is a point guard for the Sacramento Kings.
Dell believed it was partly "natural instinct" for his children to play basketball, but at some point, they had take initiative on their own. Sydel, the youngest Curry child and Dell’s only daughter, gravitated towards volleyball like her mom. She currently plays for Elon University.
Dell and his kids bonded through sports like basketball, golf and fishing when they were younger. Even between their busy schedules, the Currys still make time to enjoy those same things they did growing up.
"It’s a good way to talk to your kids while you’re outside enjoying things and they don’t really know that you’re giving them life lessons,"said Dell. "It’s family first with the Currys and it’s no different with Steph and his family."
Steph and his wife Ayesha now have two daughters, 3-year-old Riley and 7-month-old Ryan. Riley captured attention during last year’s NBA playoffs, when Steph brought her to the podium of postgame press conferences. Steph put their father-daughter relationship on display and as the world watched, so did Dell.
"To watch Steph be a dad and a husband the way he is really puts joy in my heart," he said. "After basketball is done, he still has to live his life. He’s privileged to play the game of basketball, but at the end of the day, you have to go home to your family."
With Riley stealing the show, the rest of the country got a chance to see what Dell experiences quite often with his granddaughter.
"Riley is really special, she calls me G-Daddy. She’s got me wrapped around her little finger," Dell said.
Of the few times Dell watched Steph play live so far this season, Steph put up 40 and 30 points respectively against the Charlotte Hornets, and Monday night he scored 36 points against the Atlanta Hawks in a 102-92 win.
As impressive as Steph’s stat line may be, it is not what matters most to Dell. He’s prouder of Steph Curry the person than the player.
Greeting stadium employees, high-fiving kids and taking pictures with fans are all just as much a part of Steph’s game day routine as the game itself. From the time he runs through the tunnel for pregame warm-ups to the moment he leaves the arena at night, his character is what sets him apart.
"I see referees and people that work in the stadiums and they all tell me he’s a better person than he is a player," Dell says. "That’s what really makes me proud."