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Steph Curry’s ‘surreal’ relationship with President Obama

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WASHINGTON — Before the doors of the White House opened and he walked inside to meet President Barack Obama for the first time last year, Stephen Curry was overcome by nerves and a little fear. There was concern during much of the morning that Obama wouldn’t really be able to find the five minutes in his schedule to talk to him, and Curry didn’t want to leave a bad impression with the leader of the free world.

Within moments of that hello and handshake, all the worry had melted away as Obama dominated the conversation by talking basketball, golf and surprisingly, Draymond Green, Curry’s teammate with the Golden State Warriors. Curry laughed at Obama’s jokes, cracked a few of his own, and something about the whole experience just felt, oddly enough, kind of normal.

“It was pretty chill. Just two guys chopping it up,” Curry told The Vertical. “So it was really a great, surreal, kind of moment.”

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Curry must’ve been charming enough because by the end of their brief encounter, Obama was prepared to hang out again. But next time, on the golf course.

“He mentioned like, ‘Hey, let’s play this summer sometime.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Sure,’ ” Curry told The Vertical. “You don’t really know, like, what could that mean? Is he really going to have time to get together?”

In the months after that meeting, Curry had way too much going on to even think that Obama would actually contact him – he earned his first most valuable player award; his daughter, Riley, became a scene-stealing celebrity; he won his first NBA title; and he and his wife Ayesha welcomed a second daughter, Ryan, into the world. Then, a few weeks after that championship parade of life-altering events, Curry’s phone rang with someone on the other end asking if he would be free to join Obama for a round of golf during the president’s August vacation at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll move some stuff around and make some things happen,’” Curry, who usually golfs two or three times a week during the offseason, told The Vertical with a chuckle.

Curry brought his father, Dell, to serve as his partner against Obama and Ray Allen. Obama wasn’t too bad with the clubs, Curry told The Vertical, and even talked a little trash in an attempt to get the Currys off their games and keep the whole mood loose.

“That was really cool,” Curry told The Vertical. “It still doesn’t make any sense.”

Almost a year after the initial experience with Obama, Curry will return to the White House on Thursday, this time with his Warriors teammates in tow. A handful of Warriors players got to meet Obama last October when he visited the Bay Area for a fundraising event for the Democratic National Committee that included a Kanye West concert. Now all the Warriors will be invited guests at the White House for the traditional recognition of champions in the East Room – a formal proceeding that usually involves a few well-timed, presidential one-liners. Green added that the moment will be even more special because the Warriors will be the last NBA team to share that experience with Obama.

The night before seeing Obama again, Curry had no problem tempering his emotions about another White House visit. “I already met President Obama, so I’m not real excited,” Curry told a crowd of reporters at Verizon Center before flashing a sly smile. “I’m just messing with you.”

The comment came only minutes after another bonkers moment in a season filled with them, as Curry and the Warriors made the surreal feel, kind of, normal.

Curry had some special sorcery on display, scoring 25 points in the first quarter, 51 points overall and hitting a career-high 11 3-pointers – one shy of the NBA record – in leading the Warriors to a 134-121 victory over the Washington Wizards. Still in his sweat-soaked game uniform, still trying to grapple with what he had just done, Curry was having as hard of a time explaining his ridiculous night as everyone who witnessed it.

“The shots that you know feel good go in, and some of the shots that you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s off,’ they end up going in, so it’s just kind of a fun feeling,“ Curry said. "It’s mostly because you can get to your spots and just rise up and it might be a little contested but nothing’s really bothering you and everything’s pretty much in rhythm. It’s a fun feeling and you want to ride that until you can’t anymore.”

Curry has taken a similar approach on his amusement park-level ascension from being a good player to being the league’s ultimate showman, with a pregame routine that attracts crowds and recording devices and an in-game routine that generates wonder and embedded memories.

Considering the league-wide fascination with all things Curry, it might be hard to believe that Curry made his All-Star debut just two years ago, when he was stunned to learn that Obama even knew about him. After listening to a snippet of an interview in 2014 in which Obama told Charles Barkley that Curry was the best shooter he’s “ever seen,” the face of the league’s 3-point revolution could only laugh, applaud and blush from slight embarrassment with the TNT crew.

“For the president to love basketball and watch what we do, and be a fan of the game, that means a lot,” Curry told The Vertical.

A year later, Curry was in the White House having a private meeting with Obama and taking photos with the president’s Portuguese Water Dogs, Bo and Sunny, for reasons that had nothing to do with basketball. For the past four seasons, Curry has donated insecticide-treated mosquito nets for every 3-pointer he makes as part of the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to combat malaria in Africa. Curry’s former Davidson teammate, Bryant Barr, introduced him to the malaria cause, which led to Curry address dignitaries as part of the President’s Malaria Initiative. Barr joined Curry in the meeting with Obama.

And now, another year later, Curry’s basketball accomplishments have brought him back to the White House. Curry isn’t returning as just a champion. He’s now a burgeoning legend, leading a potentially historic run not seen since Michael Jordan was leading Obama’s favorite team to 72 wins in 1995-96.

It’s all too much. It’s all too surreal. It’s all, kind of, normal.

“I don’t really know how to comprehend what’s going on,” Curry told The Vertical. “I just try to be in the moment.”

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