Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is now one of the league’s biggest stars, but it once looked like his career could be cut short by persistent ankle injuries. The promising but unestablished Curry played just 26 of a possible 66 games in 2011-12, his third NBA season, and the $44-million contract extension he signed in the fall of 2012 — which almost immediately became one of the league’s best bargains — looked at the time like a serious risk. Some misguided folks (including me, as Twitter often reminds me) even thought the Warriors should trade Curry for whatever they could get before his ankle problems robbed him of any value.
Things have obviously worked out for Curry, and he’s played in no fewer than 78 games in every season since (and he’s at 77 for 2016-17 with two to play). Still, the Warriors were concerned way back in 2012. And then-head coach Mark Jackson took extreme measures to make sure his star returned to the court healthy.
According to an anecdote from longtime Bay Area reporter Marcus Thompson’s new book “Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry,” Jackson and his wife Desiree anointed Curry’s ankle when he visited their Los Angeles church during the 2012 preseason. Sports Illustrated has the excerpt:
A part of the tradition at Jackson’s church was a spirited service including worshippers jogging along the walls of the congregation in praise. Curry, two days removed from his latest sprain, found himself taking laps with Jackson and the other members filled with the spirit. Then after Jackson’s sermon, his wife and co-pastor, Desiree, continued the worship with an impromptu sermon and benediction. She also called Curry to the altar.
They took off his shoes and socks, anointed his ankle with oil and prayed for healing. The parishioners lifted their voices in chants and amens, calling on God to bless one of His Christian ambassadors. Service at Jackson’s church was much more passionate and engaging than Curry was used to back in Charlotte. But he humbly accepted the blessing that was being offered and returned to his seat with a smile on his face.
“Where you going?” Desiree asked the star point guard in front of the congregation. Curry responded with his go-to look of bewilderment, a half smile and widened eyes. He thought he was supposed to return back among the flock when she was done.
“You don’t get a blessing from the Lord and just walk off!” she shouted. “Show us you believe in the power of God.”
It took Curry a second to understand what she meant. Then the old Bible stories rushed to his mind. Like when Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, that man had to pick up his mat and walk. If he believed he was healed, he needed to show it.
So Curry started shimmying and hopping on his right foot, much to the delight of the congregation.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Curry said.
Curry is a devout Christian — this excerpt begins with a story of his family praying after his ankle surgery — but it seems clear he did not expect to have his ankle anointed with oil when he accepted the invitation to True Love Worship Center International. A number of bizarre stories have followed Jackson after his 2014 dismissal from the Warriors — feuds with assistant coaches, building up enemies within the organization to create an “us vs. them” mentality, etc. — but this one stands out as especially bizarre. Plus, it’s not just a rumor — Thompson is a greatly respected journalist who wouldn’t publish this account based on hearsay.
On the other hand, how do we know that anointing Curry’s ankle didn’t work? As this story notes, he had injured his ankle just two days prior to visiting Jackson’s church. In the years since, only Curry’s ankle sprain in the first round of the 2016 playoffs stands out as a significant ding.
So what if entire features have been written about the process that brought Curry from severe concerns to an MVP level? Doubt the power of Mark Jackson’s anointment at your own risk.
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