OAKLAND, Calif. » His voice cracked first. Then, his eyes got red. Finally, Stephen Curry cried.
He had felt like this in the past. When he barely received any scholarship offers out of high school. Or when some questioned whether his game could translate from tiny Davidson College to the NBA, or those times sitting in a doctor’s office searching for answers on how to fix his troublesome right ankle.
Curry could let it all out and laugh now. It was time to celebrate.
The Golden State Warriors point guard won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award Monday, a high point of a young career already full of overcoming obstacles.
Curry received the trophy in a packed hotel ballroom below Golden State’s downtown Oakland practice facility, shaking his head in disbelief as he was announced as the winner of the league’s top individual honor.
"There were obviously good times and bad times. Times I wanted to shut it down," Curry said. "It just made me feel like how blessed and thankful I am to be in this position."
Curry received 100 of 130 first-place votes for a total of 1,198 points from a panel of 129 writers and broadcasters, along with the fan vote on the NBA’s website. James Harden had 25 first-place votes and 936 points. Cleveland’s LeBron James, a four-time MVP, got five first-place votes and 552 points.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (352 points) finished fourth and New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (203 points) was fifth.
Curry was joined on stage by Warriors coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers and his teammates. He got choked up talking about his pregnant wife, Ayesha, and their 2-year-old daughter, Riley, who sat next to the rest of his family and friends in the front row.
But he shed a few tears talking about his father, Dell, and pounded the dais a few times while he gathered his thoughts.
"A lot of people thought I had it easy with pops playing in the NBA," he said, shaking his head.
Curry also called out all of his teammates individually. He thanked just about every team employee, including former general manager Larry Riley for "taking a chance on a scrawny, little kid from a mid-major school."
Curry carried the top-seeded Warriors to a franchise-record 67 wins, surpassed his own NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season and added to his growing reputation as one of the most entertaining spectacles in sports. He’s the franchise’s first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain in 1960, when the Warriors played in Philadelphia.
James called Curry the main reason for the Warriors’ rapid rise to championship contender.
"He’s the catalyst of that whole ship," James said at the Cavaliers’ morning shootaround. "And I think he’s had an unbelievable season. And I think it’s very well deserved, and I think it’s great that another kid born in Akron, Ohio, can win an MVP, so, I liked it."
Curry was born in Akron but grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he started in the shadows of his father.
Despite his famous name, most major colleges didn’t offer Curry a scholarship coming out of high school because they thought he was too small. Curry proved them all wrong, going from a shooting guard who dazzled at Davidson during the NCAA Tournament to a polished professional point guard who can shoot, dribble and distribute with the best of them.
In a game dominated by big men and played by some of the world’s greatest athletes, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Curry controls the flow without physically overpowering defenders.
But there were times it seemed Curry’s potential might not be reached. Two operations on his right ankle in his first three seasons with Golden State fueled questions about his durability. He even had to prove his worth to the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2009.
Curry signed a $44 million, four-year contract extension with the Warriors before the 2012-13 season. Back then, the deal looked like a major risk considering Curry’s injury history.
Myers got choked up recalling when he sat in a doctor’s office with Curry about four years ago listening to the results on Curry’s ankle. He remembered how everybody was frustrated and wondered if Curry could ever get a chance to play at a high level.
"This is a conclusion of four years of hard work," Myers said.
Later, he added, "If all you know of is what he can do on the basketball court, to be honest, you’re missing the best part of him."
AP sports writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.