Nearly two years ago, Stephen Curry and his team at Under Armour ventured out to Charlotte, North Carolina, in early July. The group was celebrating Curry's new five-year supermax contract with the Golden State Warriors, who had just won their second championship in three years. Dell Curry, Stephen's father and a 16-year NBA veteran, was hosting a low-key gathering at the family's house for relatives, basketball associates who have followed Stephen's much-chronicled rise, and his team from Under Armour.
During that trip, the team began to lay out plans for All-Star Weekend 2019, which -- after a two-year delay -- was headed for Charlotte. Rooftop venues were scouted. Event spaces and potential modern lofty gallery layouts were considered. Under Armour eventually sent a handful of team members from Baltimore to further dive into the city's history and begin mapping out its All-Star parties and other arrangements.
Then, the two-time MVP declared a firm aim for the weekend, some 18 months away: No party. No event space. Selling shoes shouldn't even be a focus.
Put the entire budget into renovating Curry's old rec center instead, the All-Star guard said.
"Stephen's overall focus as we look at 2019 and beyond is how can he leave something behind that's meaningful and useful," said Kris Stone, Under Armour's director of basketball sports marketing. "That's been his main point and challenge to us. Whether it's in the Bay Area, Charlotte or even in Asia, that's his goal."
Stephen and his younger brother Seth, a reserve guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, spent most of their childhood in Charlotte. Their sibling rivalry often extended from their backyard half court to the Carole Hoefener Center.
"This is where we learned how to play basketball," Stephen Curry said. "Charlotte will always be home."
Since opening in 1999, the center has become a staple for local residents, not only because of the multipurpose gymnasium for basketball, volleyball and other sports, but also thanks in part to its conference room, banquet room and business center. Whether it was home to meetings for aspiring real estate brokers or career fairs, booked for family reunions, birthdays and children's Halloween costume contests, or a host site for jewelry, arts and crafts showcases for local artists, the Hoefener Center touched a diverse web of Charlotte locals over the past two decades.
In what has been deemed a "seven-figure commitment" from among the Stephen and Ayesha Curry Family Foundation, Under Armour and sponsor Chase Bank, the family will be fully renovating the 20-year-old center, in one of the biggest undertakings of its kind. The NBA Players Association will also be donating a total of $150,000 over the next three years toward the revitalization project.
"We picked the Carole Hoefener Center for a specific reason," Stephen Curry said. "Their priorities are very similar to our family's, in terms of giving people equal opportunities in education, access to knowledge about nutrition and wellness and having a safe and inspiring place to play."
Rather than host an All-Star party Friday night, Curry was joined for the official reopening ceremony by his parents, Dell and Sonya; wife Ayesha; brother Seth and his fiancée, Callie Rivers, daughter of LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers; and sister Sydel with her husband, Damion Lee, Stephen's teammate. Also on hand were North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.
"It's easy to throw a party and have fun," Dell Curry said. "But to put the dollars back in the community, and have something that will last long after the All-Star Game is over -- that party is just a one-night thing."
Said Stone: "How can we leave something that's much more beneficial than an open bar?"
With an emphasis on health, fitness and education -- the three pillars of the Curry Family Foundation's "Eat. Play. Learn." ethos -- the renovated Hoefener Center will be relaunching with a new Curry Kitchen, Curry Court and the Chase Education Space. The center will also have overhauled bathrooms, locker rooms and a restored conference space, along with new ceilings and flooring throughout.
"Every child that comes through these doors will now have the opportunity to envision and explore their greatest potential in life," said A. Fulton Meachem Jr., Charlotte Housing Authority president and CEO.
The Curry Kitchen, Stephen's favorite part of the center, featuring Ayesha's signature along the entryway, will teach both kids and adults about healthy eating, while also highlighting some cooking fundamentals. Energy-efficient appliances have been added throughout, and the prior materials have already been donated and recycled. Ayesha walked students through one of her favorite pasta dishes before leaving them each with signed copies of her "Seasoned Life" cookbook.
A hallway leads to the revamped Curry Court, a sizable gym featuring six baskets in total. The main gymnasium has undergone a complete overhaul, with entirely new hardwood flooring, a new set of full bleachers, new scoreboards and murals from local artists.
The weathered purple and orange shades that flooded the court over the years have now been updated to gray and yellow hues. A painted No. 30 now marks the center court circle, along with a mural of Dell flanked by each son along the baseline, all in No. 30 jerseys. The old flooring was salvaged, donated and reinstalled at a community center in need in Greensboro.
Dell Curry recalls dropping his sons off for hours at a time at the Hoefener Center, leaving them to work at their craft on their own or play in pickup games against fellow teenagers.
"They were competitive at home, but it was good that they could take that competitive spirit and expend it on some other kids," he said with a laugh.
That competitive spirit will extend to All-Star Weekend itself, where Steph and Seth will both take part in Saturday night's 3-point shooting competition.
"I know [Seth is] going to be gunning for me, though," Steph said on The Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski. "That's the problem."
While most parents try not to play favorites, Dell definitely already has his pick.
"I'm going with Seth," he said instantly. "Steph's already won one, he's won titles, MVPs and everything, so it's Seth's time to roll. He's still leading the league percentagewise in 3s. He'll be confident, and I'm going with Seth."
While in town, the Currys will also be donating a refurbished basketball court at one of their other stomping grounds, the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center.
"To put funds into something that you can go back to, touch, feel and see the difference that it's making, not only in the community, but in the lives of young people and adults alike, it speaks volumes to who they are and what kind of person they are," Dell Curry said. "Also, how much they love this community and loved growing up here and want to leave a mark after the All-Star Game leaves."
Even after All-Star Weekend ends, the Curry Family Foundation will continue to make an impact in the area. The foundation has planned daily workshops, classes and events at the renovated center over the next 30 days, and Stephen Curry himself will be back in town to check on students just a week later, as the Warriors take on the Hornets on Feb. 25.
"The kids and adults that walk in through that door can get the best of both worlds between activity, health, exercise and broadening their education," Dell Curry said. "It's a one-stop shop for a lot of kids coming up in Charlotte."
Regardless of how All-Star Saturday pans out, the long-lasting impact the Curry Family Foundation is looking to leave on the Charlotte area, and the revamped community center that helped to drive the boys' love for the game, will be appreciated.
"I'm excited to see my hometown community engage with the space," Stephen Curry said. "I really believe that this is going to have an ongoing impact that's way beyond this weekend."