Warriors' Stephen Curry Discusses UA Masks, NBA Bubble and More in B/R Exclusive

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2020

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) against the Toronto Raptors during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Stephen Curry has an important message for everybody. 

"This is still a pandemic that needs to be taken seriously," the Golden State Warriors star told Bleacher Report. "Hopefully it's an Under Armour mask, but wear your mask in general no matter where you're at. We've got a long way to go to get through this. Everybody should be echoing that."

Curry isn't just offering advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. He and Under Armour are taking action and working together to help keep young athletes safe and healthy as they return to sports.

Under Armour's mask giveback initiative will provide the company's new UA Sportsmask to high-school student-athletes in Oakland, Baltimore and Nashville.

Curry is spearheading the efforts for students in the Oakland Unified School District as a way to give back to the Bay Area and opened up about why it was important to do so:

"It's a timely situation in terms of everybody stepping up to find ways to meet the need right now across the country. We know how important masks are in terms of stopping the spread and trying to keep people living their daily lives as close to normal as possible but doing it in a safe way. With UA and their innovation team and the way they can turn around the production of these masks, it was a great opportunity to have an impact in Oakland. And knowing how effective the Oakland Unified School District has been since last March and into this school year, I wanted to try to get as many masks to the right kids as possible. Hopefully all the student-athletes in the Oakland Unified School District will get one and be able to use it wisely to be as productive and active as possible while staying safe."

Under Armour is also giving back internationally and working with athletes such as Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer and a member of the 2016 Refugee Olympic Athletes Team, and Anthony Joshua, a British boxer, to give out masks in Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific regions as part of the initiative.

It is no surprise Curry is involved with something helping young athletes considering the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation he and his wife, Ayesha, founded strives to end childhood hunger, provide educational opportunities and encourage children to be active, but he is also impressed with the design of the UA Sportsmasks that will be donated.

"It's what you'd expect from Under Armour and all their innovation and the technology they put into it," he said. "It all comes through with how the mask is done. ... You can put the mask on and feel comfortable and be able to breathe and stay active and stay safe. All those things went into the design of it, it's pretty state-of-the-art."

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Curry stressed that he and his Warriors teammates wore masks whenever they weren't actively practicing during the team's mini-bubble in the Bay Area, pointing out it was important to "not feel like there's any type of stigma or anything around wearing a mask but just being safe. If you can be comfortable while doing it, even better."

He also said he admired players and coaches wearing them on the sidelines during the league's bubble in Walt Disney World Resort, which helped demonstrate the importance of wearing masks.

It wasn't the only thing that stood out to Curry about the NBA's restart.

"To know they got through an entire almost three months with 22 teams down there, just all the planning that went into it," he said. "I told Adam Silver and I told a lot of the NBA staff how amazing of an accomplishment it is to have to go from ground zero and create this bubble and it actually worked. Just knowing that they hopefully get to the finish line, it's pretty amazing."

It may have seemed like a near impossibility when the NBA suspended its season on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was able to create the bubble-like environment, finish the regular season with seeding games, host a play-in contest between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers, complete the playoffs and move on to the NBA Finals, which the Los Angeles Lakers lead 2-1.

During all that, the league's players and coaches used their platform to fight against systemic racism and police brutality and even decided against playing in playoff games in the immediate aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

"It's just great to know everybody put their heads together, I know how much sacrifice the guys went through when they were down there in the bubble to put basketball back on TV," Curry said. "And, not just that, but what they stood for in terms of social justice and speaking for those who can't speak for themselves and using that as a platform. I'm really proud of everybody that had a part in making it happen."

On the court, it was somewhat jarring to see all of that happen without the Warriors, considering they are the modern-day dynasty that, along with LeBron James, largely defined the last decade in the league.

Golden State made the last five NBA Finals prior to this season, winning three, all while Curry was a two-time MVP who further cemented himself as arguably the best shooter in league history and a surefire future Hall of Famer.

This season was far different for a team that no longer had Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson was sidelined as he recovered from a torn ACL, Curry played just five games because of a broken hand and Draymond Green dealt with injuries while missing 22 of 65 games.

The result was a 15-50 record and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, but Curry believes the front office will help turn things around quickly either with that pick or through free agency:

"We just need talent. At the end of the day, that's what you're always trying to get. I think we could use some size, but for the most part it's just trying to fill out the roster and get us as much depth as possible. I like the position that we're in with the assets that we got and the guys coming back off of injury. I think we'll get it right, our front office has gotten it right over and over, and I expect nothing different coming back from this tough year we had."

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Coming off a lackluster season is not an entirely unfamiliar scenario for Curry considering the Warriors missed the playoffs in each of his first three seasons as they were rebuilding around him.

However, he believes this time around is much different thanks to the legacies he and the rest of the members of the core built in recent years.

"It's totally different because we are now standing on the shoulders of ... proven championship pedigree and mentality and ability as opposed to back in the day when we still had to prove ourselves the first time," Curry said. "It's obviously a much better place to be in for me, Draymond and Klay knowing what it takes to be a championship team."

A healthy Curry, Thompson and Green alone would make the Warriors competitive in 2020-21, and they figure to add something via the draft, free agency or trades in the offseason. A return to the playoffs will surely be the baseline expectation, and the sharp-shooter is ready to battle again in the daunting Western Conference.

"You look at the West and look at the teams that are in the bubble and how deep it was, and you add us back to the mix next year, it's going to be wild," he said.

"I'm excited."