Steph Curry breaking barriers to achieve gender equity in sports
After winning his third NBA title in June, Steph Curry could have easily stepped away from basketball for the rest of the summer.
But for someone who loves the sport the way he does, giving back and helping future players, regardless of gender, reach their highest potential are priorities that drew him back to the court.
Earlier in August, Curry hosted his fifth annual invitation-only SC30 Select Camp for the top basketball prospects in the country. The elite camp highlights the best and the brightest in the sport, with past alumni including De'Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz, each of whom is now in the NBA.
Curry is one of few NBA superstars, including Lakers forward LeBron James and Rockets guard Chris Paul, who host camps of this magnitude for developing young talent. For the first time, however, Curry's SC30 Select Camp extended invitations female prospects -- two of the nation's best, in fact -- in Cameron Brink and Azzi Fudd. Brink, a 6-foot-4 forward, is the No. 1-ranked prospect in the HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the Class of 2020, and Fudd, a 5-11 guard, is the consensus No. 1 prospect in HoopGurlz's Class of 2021 rankings.
"We've always been selective about the players that we invite," Curry told ESPN women's basketball analyst LaChina Robinson. "Having them get this kind of exposure is something that I think is pretty groundbreaking."
Fudd, who's from Arlington, Virginia, is entering her sophomore year of high school at Saint John's College in Washington, D.C. As a freshman, she averaged 24 points and helped her team to a 32-2 record and multiple championships. Winning her second gold medal with USA Basketball as a part of the program's U17 team, her game is often compared to Maya Moore.
When Fudd found out from her father that she was selected for the camp, she admittedly was uneasy at first playing alongside the boys.
"I was nervous," she said. "I didn't know anyone, but also nervous that they're boys. They're super athletic and super strong."
The physicality concerned Warriors assistant Bruce Fraser at the start of the camp as well.
"When I first found out there would be girls, I questioned it," Fraser said. "I just didn't know if they would physically be able to keep up."
However, after watching them compete and Fudd going on to win the 3-point contest against her male counterparts, Fraser saw things differently.
"I was surprised that they could hold their own and how skilled they were. [But] the guys have accepted them and they cheer for them and more than anything, it's elevated this camp," he said. "It's more diverse. ... [Fudd] is the arguably the best shooter in this camp."
Curry echoed the sentiment, and emphasized how beneficial it was to the entire camp to have Brink and Fudd perform at a high level.
"They were the two best in the first two (shooting) competitions," Curry said. "I've watched them play, and I've heard about Azzi and how great they are, and to see it all for myself just makes it all worth it."
Fudd and Brink were roommates on the U17 team. The goddaughter of Steph's parents, Sonya and Dell Curry, Brink had always been on Steph Curry's radar coming up through the basketball ranks, but the Beaverton, Oregon (Southridge High School), native is adamant her relationship with the Curry family did not play a role in her selection.
"I don't feel like I got here because I know them," said Brink, who reportedly has already received offers from Maryland, Ohio State, Oregon and Arizona. "I got myself here in a way."
Equality in sports is more than a statement in the Curry family. His mother played volleyball at Virginia Tech in the 1980s. His sister, Sydel Curry, played volleyball at Elon University. And as the father of two daughters, Riley (6) and Ryan (3), the guard knows the importance of inclusion and encouragement when it comes to female athletes.
"My mom and sister have been major influences in terms of instilling confidence in my daughters even at the age of 6 and 3, in terms of like, whatever they put their minds to, they can accomplish them. Whatever they're passionate about, we're going to support," said Steph Curry, a two-time NBA MVP. "For me to bring my two daughters to camp and they look out there and see Cameron and Azzi out there playing basketball, I hope it opens their minds to what's possible for them down the line, whether it's basketball or whatever it is. My whole family has been blessed by sports and I want to continue to pass that along."
Curry was very involved with the campers, providing shooting tips, advice on how to enhance certain techniques, participating in film session Q&A's and much more.
Justin Brown, head of brand marketing for Under Armor Basketball, which co-sponsored Curry's camp, said having Fudd and Brink participate this year helps keep the conversation moving forward of including more female prospects in the camp in the future.
"Steph was passionate about incorporating that co-gender aspect into the camp," Brown said. "Under Armor stands on the principle of inclusion. When you look at how impactful women's basketball is, not only in North America, but also globally, they have reach. We're primed to take advantage of that opportunity."
Camps like these often aren't available to young women, and the fact the WNBA season is played during the summer -- when most high school athletes are participating in other programs and the AAU season is in full swing -- professional female ballers aren't able to host these same kinds of events.
"This is awesome," says Fudd, "but all these NBA scouts here. We're not going to the NBA. I'll never get to play with Steph Curry. But DT [Diana Taurasi], I look up to her, that's where I want to be when I get older."
Shortly after the SC30 Select Camp, the reigning NBA champion Warriors hosted a free, two-day basketball camp for girls and young women in the Bay Area that included a shooting competition, autographs, photos with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and a panel discussion featuring successful women in the sports industry.
Curry continues to help change the stigma that men and women can't coexist in sports. Basketball is basketball.
"I envision this growing to having more girls come to this camp, but to also to having a select camp just for the women high school players that are coming up," he said. "We're kind of the same. If we'd invite the women from this camp to have their own camp that we support, that could be pretty special. This is a good start in that direction."