It took Steph Curry’s domination of the NBA for me to fully realize the power and masculinity of stability.
As an athlete – at the high school, college and professional level – I bought the locker-room myth that chaos and struggle molded the most indestructible on-field warrior.
The narrative pervasive throughout black-jock culture goes something like this: “The toughest and most hungry players come from the struggle, the bottom. If you match up a kid from the suburbs and one from the ‘hood, the suburban kid can’t win because he’s not tough enough and doesn’t have the fight and desire as the other guy. You can’t be the toughest or the strongest without the struggle of a broken home and socioeconomic disadvantage. Street cred and the fear it provokes are important weapons. Good guys finish last in sports, too.”
As a man and professional athlete, you are always trying to be the alpha dog. Every man wants to be the biggest and baddest dude around. We want respect, credibility, clout, and money. In my life, the recipe for being alpha dog could be summed up in one quote: “Men do what they want. Boys do what they can.”
It’s a selfish mentality that can lead to sexual promiscuity and baby-mama drama, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and irresponsible personal and financial decisions. The alpha-dog mentality certainly enhances your athletic-performance swagger. It makes you think you can accomplish all things through arrogance.
Derek Jeter is the exception, not the rule. His playing career seemed to be enhanced by remaining America’s top bachelor throughout his legendary baseball career. He managed to remain a bachelor and a gentleman.
But maybe the better path for athletes is choosing stability and a traditional home life? That’s what I believe I’m learning from Steph Curry. My favorite quote and life mantra – “Men do what they want” – is a path to hell? If not, it’s at least a path to not reaching your full potential personally or athletically.
I lived the dream of a professional athlete, but the mentality that got me there led me down a dangerous path.
How else do you explain a 6-foot-3 beanpole who couldn’t land a major scholarship being one of the best basketball players on the planet?
I believe Steph does what he wants on the court because off the court he’s remarkably grounded and stable.
Curry met his wife at a church function and married at just age 24. The absolute last thing I wanted to be at 24 was tied down to one woman and some sort of daily routine. I actually thought it would get in the way of achieving the respect I desired and that stability had no effect on my career. I now look at Curry’s life with his wife and his daughter’s famous press-conference appearances and wonder what the hell I was thinking.
Steph has defined himself as a man of faith, a loving husband, a devoted father, as well as an MVP basketball player and champion. Notice the order? Notice the priority? Curry focused on organizing his life properly, realizing this would help him organize his career properly. His life is consistent, his priorities are in order, and he realizes his purpose inside and outside of the NBA.
Deep down, I knew better.
I grew up in church and a two-parent home and the person I looked up to the most was a man of stability and integrity: My dad. I always admired the Tony Dungy’s and Kurt Warner’s of the world, but couldn’t reconcile the life I wanted with the life I created. When I was in the NFL, I chased alpha dog status and unwittingly created chaos. It was my drug. I juggled women and juggled all the drama that goes with that lifestyle. I had to be in the clubs with my boys. I thought those things would bring me happiness and I actually believed you reaffirmed your alpha dog status by being able to deal with drama. Stability was boring. I was a fool.
Steph Curry doesn’t fit the stereotypes of a superstar athlete, and that’s precisely what makes him so great.
Stability and consistency only help your life and make your life better. I have learned that in my own life. Even after I was done playing in the NFL, my life was unstable and chaotic. I didn’t even realize it. I had normalized chaos. I existed in a reality where lack of consistency was the routine.
I was failing in life personally. I was in and out of relationships and creating instability for my children. I was depressed. I reached a crossroads because of injuries and moving away from football. My mother always told me: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got.” This made me return to my faith, and focus on rebuilding myself into the man I wanted to be.
I began to remove the chaos from my life and stopped trying to be the alpha dog and prove to everyone I was the man. I had to prioritize what I wanted in life and anything that wasn’t helping me achieve my goals had to go. When I changed, everything around me changed. My second career started to blossom. I got married. I embraced routine. Knowing what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis and having that anchor of character and faith have been paramount to transforming my life. I am in no way perfect and still make mistakes. However, I can say with certainty that when I veer away from character and faith guiding my life, bad things happen. And when things start going left personally, I can attest that it impacts every area of your life.
Choosing the path of high integrity and character is difficult. It’s a struggle that builds toughness. That’s what I see in Steph Curry. He is one of the toughest guys I have ever seen on and off the court. He’s a hero. He’s a superhero. He’s a role model for kids, and grown men, too. He faces every temptation from complacency, hubris, sex, and drugs on a daily basis but he still stays focused and keeps his priorities in order. If you regularly fall into the traps of life, are you strong and tough? Or is the guy who stares them in the face daily and does the right thing the alpha dog?
It appears Curry doesn’t believe the lie. I bought the lie. Every now and then I catch myself making a comment that shows I am still a work in progress. I’m still battling a mentality that haunted me from childhood. I was a private school kid for most of my life, and guys I played with thought I was soft because of how I spoke and because I was “too nice.” I made poor decisions trying to disprove the thinking of small-minded individuals. Let me be clear. I loved my teammates. They were good guys. They were simply caught in the same culture and mindset I was.
The thinking is a bunch of garbage. Character trumps everything. I’ve seen rich kids who are the hardest workers and the most competitive. I have also seen people with special talents who didn’t have two nickels to rub together be extremely lazy. Your character and intestinal fortitude determine your toughness, competitiveness, and level of achievement as well as your ability to maintain it.
I’m glad Steph Curry is redefining for me and others how a real alpha dog handles his business. He puts a different spin on men doing what they want. Steph is doing EXACTLY what he wants, and he is the man.
The more men we have in this world, the better our future will be.