OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry’s pregame tunnel heaves have become such a spectacle at Oracle Arena that hundreds of cameras rise in the air to capture the moment.
He won’t have that anymore when the Warriors move across the bay to San Francisco to Chase Center next season.
Everybody figures Curry will come up with a snazzy move to replace it.
“Shoot, I don’t know, probably like a backflip or something like that,” quipped Splash Brother Klay Thompson.
A new signature shot? For sure.
Curry vows to do something new and fun, but will just let it come to him when the time arrives. He’s not pre-planning, and especially not now with the playoffs his top priority. The Warriors opened their first-round series with a 121-104 blowout of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I’ve got to let it happen organically, just like this happened,” Curry said. “I’ve got to let it happen organically. I don’t really know. It’ll come to me, though.”
Curry typically takes five tries total, fewer when he makes one, from just off the court by the end of the bench at the start of the tunnel before he sprints down the hallway back to the locker room. He takes a pass from security guard Curtis Jones and lets it fly for cheering fans who clamor in Oracle Arena’s lower bowl, desperate for a glimpse of the two-time MVP getting ready for another game.
Jones recalls a stretch when Curry made five straight tunnel shots, meaning he knocked it down on the first attempt in five consecutive home games — “which is almost unheard of,” Jones said.
“The word I always use is priceless. It’s been priceless,” said Jones, 67, who has worked security at Warriors games for nearly 2 ½ decades.
Before the final regular-season game at Oracle on April 7, Curry took his shots and then embraced Jones before sprinting back to the locker room.
The shot will no longer work because of the configuration of the new arena. The tunnel at Oracle is on a line with the rim but will be at an angle behind the basket at Chase Center. Jones plans to work in the new venue and hopes to be part of Curry’s to-be-determined signature move.
“Before the tunnel shot, people didn’t come in near as fast,” Jones recalled. “They come in early and have something to look forward to, so it made a big difference in the Oracle crowd. It made a major difference around here.”
Fans weren’t the only ones watching what became the NBA’s most must-see warmup.
“I love all his routines, pregame rituals. I know all of them. I watch all of them. We all watch them,” Warriors teammate Quinn Cook said. “I know he’ll come up with something to replace that — I mean, nothing will replace that. He has to have a new ending shot after his pregame shooting.”
Draymond Green knew a change was coming after recently taking a tour of Chase Center with Warriors COO Rick Welts.
“Rick Welts was telling me, ‘We had one mistake in making this arena.’ I’m like ‘What was the mistake?’ ‘Well, with the way it’s set up, Steph’s tunnel shot, the angles, it won’t work anymore,’” Green said. “It’s like, ‘Well, Steph better figure out another shot.’ And he will. I’m not sure what it will be yet but he’ll figure something out.”
Just don’t count on the typically outspoken Green to help.
“Nope. You can’t give Steph ideas,” Green said. “He’ll just figure it out.”
But whatever it is, it will be hard to top the tradition at Oracle.
“He has a lot of them here,” said his father, Dell Curry. “You’ve got to make new ones I guess. It’s been fun.”
Curry has been known to mimic moves from a range of sports like curling, volleyball and soccer. Coach Steve Kerr will be eager to see what Curry pulls out of his hat.
“It’s great for the fans. It’s great for me to get a nice routine down,” Curry said. “I didn’t realize it would be such a big thing. But it is.”