Before Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, Seth and Steph Curry’s sister, Sydel, flipped a coin to see which son’s jersey her parents would wear to the game. As fate would have it, Sonya, their mom, would wear Seth’s Portland Trailblazers jersey, while their father, Dell, would get Steph’s Golden State Warriors colors.
Steph and Seth were competing against each other for the opportunity to play on basketball’s grandest stage — the NBA Finals. While genes surely played a role, and a mom’s influence can never be underestimated, it was their father’s encouragement, involvement, and hard work that inspired his children to reach for — and ultimately attain — stardom. I had the opportunity to interview their father, Dell, when he wrote the foreword for my latest book, Most Valuable Dad: Inspiring Words on Fatherhood from Sports Superstars. While we won’t all have wildly successful NBA stars as children, the lessons Dell shared on family and fatherhood are indeed inspiring and relevant to all parents.
Teach Kids the Value of Hard Work
Like most of what he modeled and taught, Dell learned the value of hard work from his father. Dell’s dad worked on their family garden every morning. He was meticulous and proud of what Dell recalls was the biggest garden in their county. No weeds. Straight rows. Dell saw his father’s attention to detail, routine, and tireless effort on a daily basis. It was inevitable that it would motivate him.
“My father’s work ethic and attention to details strongly influenced my development as a person, an athlete, and eventually a father.” Far from leaving things to chance, and as certain as DNA, the same work ethic that Dell learned from his father was instilled in his own children simply through observation and involvement.
Dell also enjoyed and learned the value of an involved father from his dad. “My father took me everywhere with him,” Dell recalls fondly. It was his parents’ interest and attention to him that left another lasting impression. Dell’s mom and dad missed two games in his entire high school and college basketball career combined. “That kind of involvement and attention means something to you as a kid and you don’t forget it as an adult.” Dell and his wife, Sonya, remain just as involved in their children’s lives. “You become a parent, “Dell explains, “and you try to be just as involved and encouraging of your kids.”
Encourage — Don’t Push
That brings us to power of a father’s encouragement. You might think Dell was demanding of his children and constantly pushing them. You haven’t met Dell. Again, he learned the value of encouragement from his father: “My dad always encouraged me — whether it was baseball, basketball, or whatever.” Steph is now a very involved and admiring father. These values are passed on through the timeless power of modeling behavior. “My wife and I were always encouraging of them,” Dell explains, “and much like my parents, wanted to show them that what they do matters to us.” The fact that Dell consistently had his kids’ backs is not lost on him.
“Dad always told us that whatever we wanted to do, he’d support us,” Steph recalls. Never one to brag or tout his own parenting skills, the wisdom Dell attained from his father and modeled for his children is undeniable: “I think it’s important that whatever your kid does, you try to be thankful. Be encouraging. Be supportive.”
Keep an Open Mind
That leaves us with one final bonus attribute Dell picked up from his father that helped his children attain success: flexibility. “It’s important as a father that you’re flexible and open-minded and again, supportive of your child’s interests,” Dell reiterates. His children benefitted from all of these virtues. Steph’s children are now, too.
Dell’s sons are getting a lot of deserved attention for having met in this series. While the man behind the curtain certainly wouldn’t mind if we pay him no attention at all, let’s not ignore the reasons they are there and what we as fathers can learn from them: how important our encouragement and attention is and how our children are watching and emulating us all the time. Just like that, through Dell’s example that he learned from his father, the magic parenting formula is simplified. As Dell puts it: “Being a father and a parent is all about showing your support and modeling your values.”
Tom Limbert is a preschool director, parent educator, and author. His latest book, Most Valuable Dad: Inspiring Words on Fatherhood from Sports Superstars (Chronicle Books), includes a foreword by Dell Curry and reflections on fatherhood from the likes of LeBron James, Natalie Coughlin, and Tom Brady. Learn more about Tom at .