Basketball

All-Star Q&A with Dell Curry, the patriarch of Charlotte’s first family of basketball

Dell Curry: Charlotte is home

Dell Curry came to Charlotte with wife, Sonya and son, Stephen to play for the Charlotte Hornets in 1988. The life of an NBA player can be transient and Curry played for five teams from 1986-2002. But the Curry's made Charlotte, NC their home.
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Dell Curry came to Charlotte with wife, Sonya and son, Stephen to play for the Charlotte Hornets in 1988. The life of an NBA player can be transient and Curry played for five teams from 1986-2002. But the Curry's made Charlotte, NC their home.

Dell Curry’s basketball life in Charlotte has included stints as both the Charlotte Hornets’ three-point specialist and their TV color analyst. This weekend when the NBA’s All-Star Game comes to Charlotte, however, Curry will mostly just be a Dad.

Dell and Sonya Curry’s two sons, Steph and Seth, will compete against each other in the NBA’s annual three-point shooting contest Saturday night. Steph, the former Davidson standout, will also start in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night at Spectrum Center.

I caught up with Dell Curry recently for an exclusive interview on the eve of Charlotte’s first shot at hosting All-Star Weekend since 1991, when Dell Curry was still playing for the Hornets.

Q: So with the All-Star Game in your backyard, who is fighting for prime couch position at the Curry house?

A: My wife has done a fabulous job of kind of navigating all that stuff. We’re trying to decide whether we’re going to stay in the house or closer to the grandkids in the hotel. (The Currys have four grandchildren — Steph has three kids and Seth has one, and all of them plan to come.) It’s going to be a big weekend. I’m still calling the Hornets’ games, though, so I’m letting her navigate who’s going to be here.

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Dell Curry (left) will watch son Steph (pictured) compete against his other son Seth in the 3-point shooting contest Saturday night during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Q: What will it be like watching Steph and Seth square off Saturday night in the three-point shooting competition?

A: Real exciting. ... We don’t get a chance to get our family together very often with everybody having their own family now. The last time was when my daughter (Sydel) got married in September (in Charlotte, to Damion Lee of the Golden State Warriors). To get everybody together again so quickly after that is definitely a blessing. We’re looking forward to watching these guys shoot. It will kind of be like old times in the backyard, to see who can outshoot each other.

Q: Which Curry brother will be the favorite in the 10-player field?

A: Steph will have to be the favorite because he’s competed (in the event). ... He’s won it one time before. And I remember the first time I participated in it, there’s a little nervousness that involved there. It’s All-Star Weekend. Everyone’s watching. And it’s just you, and the rack, and the basketball. I’m going to try to calm Seth down, get him to relax and do what he does best.

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Former shooting guard Dell Curry, pictured in 1997, played 10 seasons in Charlotte. He remains No. 2 on the Hornets’ all-time scoring list, having been surpassed by current NBA all-star Kemba Walker. BOB LEVERONE

Q: What has Charlotte meant to your family?

A: It’s home now. When I strolled into the city in 1988 — it was me, my wife and Steph — the city just put its arms around us, just like the Hornets organization. My family grew along with the city, along with the organization. I’ve had such a wonderful career and life in the NBA and with the Hornets.

I know the kids are real excited to come back home and be part of the All-Star Game. They watched it the last time it was here, in 1991, even though they probably don’t remember. They were so small (Steph was not quite 3 years old; Seth was 6 months old). To say thank you to the community for supporting my kids over the course of my career — it’s really big.

Q: It was a few years after that 1991 game when Steph and Seth were regularly shooting before Hornets practices and games, right?

A: Yes. They shot on the court whenever it was empty. Before games, before practices, after practice. They would get upset when they couldn’t go to practice with me. ... They were students of the game even way back then.

When practice or the game started, they put the ball under their arm, grabbed a Gatorade and they watched. Not only myself but my other teammates as well — how to go about their business, how to be professionals and more importantly in the offseason they saw us work and try to get better.

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The Charlotte Hornets celebrated Dell Curry’s career in 2015. Curry, who the Hornets acquired in the 1988 expansion draft, played 10 seasons for the team and frequently let his sons Steph and Seth accompany him to practice. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

We made it a privilege for them to go to practice and games. We tried to help them understand that was Dad’s work, he wasn’t just going to play a game. I think that really helped them become disciplined and that it was hard work if they were going to get where they wanted to go.

Who's a better player Steph or Seth? Charlotte Christian head basketball coach talks about the Curry family and coaching the two basketball stars.

Q: Steph said recently on “The Woj Pod” that you would have a chance of beating both he and Seth in a three-point shooting competition if everyone were limited to one five-ball rack. What do you think?

A: I definitely agree with that. I can still shoot it. The old guy doesn’t move now, doesn’t have the stamina or endurance. But give me one rack? I think I can hold my own.

Q: Where would you put that one rack if you could choose?

A: Left side, either the corner or the wing.

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In 1996, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Charlotte Hornets player Dell Curry and Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins posed for the Observer a few days before the Panthers officially opened their uptown stadium. Curry says now he was persuaded to make the time for the photo due to Earnhardt’s participation. BOB LEVERONE

Q: You participated in an iconic photo shoot for the Observer in 1996, when we took a picture of you, Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in front of the Panthers’ just-opened uptown stadium. What do you remember about that photo?

A: I remember getting a call from the Hornets and asked if I would do that and they told me who would be in it.

I was like, Kerry Collins? OK. But Dale Earnhardt? Absolutely. I grew up a NASCAR fan. I grew up and my dad would have football on the TV with the sound turned down and NASCAR on the radio. So to know that I would be involved in something like that — a picture with the city and with Dale Earnhardt, the face of NASCAR — I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m all in!’

Q: What sort of chance do the Hornets have of making the playoffs?

A: I think we’ll definitely make the playoffs. Right now I think .500 will get you in and that’s where the Hornets are right now (27-28 before Monday night’s game). We’re trending in the right direction. January was a really rough month on the road, especially without Cody Zeller. I think (the Hornets) still haven’t played their best basketball. We’ve played well enough, but we can play a lot better.

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Seth Curry (30) played for Duke in college and now plays for Portland in the NBA. His three-point shooting percentage this season (47.8 percent) leads the NBA is actually slightly higher than his older brother Steph’s (44.9), although Steph has more than three times as many successful treys. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Q: With his fledgling media company, Steph produced the movie “Emanuel,” by all accounts a very powerful documentary about the Charleston church shooting that was recently screened at Howard University. Have you seen it?

A: Not yet. I want to.

My wife went up to see it when they premiered it in Washington, D.C. She texted me during the premiere and said this is one of the biggest moments of her life as a mom. She was in tears watching her son be involved in something important and influential.

So we’re proud of what both my boys do on the court but we’re more proud of the young men that they are and the platform they are on, and they’re not afraid to say what’s on their minds and try to help people out.

On August 31, 1996 former Charlotte Hornets guard Dell Curry posed for a photograph with Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt outside Ericsson Stadium Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Curry's inspiration was Dale Earnhardt.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for the Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also is the host of the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth.”


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