For three decades we’ve covered many amazing basketball characters, but some stand above the rest—not only because of their on-court skills (though those are always relevant), but because of how they influenced and continue to influence basketball culture, and thus influenced SLAM. Meanwhile, SLAM has also changed those players’ lives in various ways, as we’ve documented their careers with classic covers, legendary photos, amazing stories, compelling videos and more. 

We compiled a group of individuals (programming note: 30 entries, not 30 people total) who mean something special to SLAM and to our audience. Read the full list here and order your copy of SLAM 248, where this list was originally published, here.

Freshman year at Davidson had just concluded. Stephen Curry was still Dell’s son. Now, Dell is Stephen’s dad. But it took a minute for people to make the change. Right after his first year as a Wildcat, Stephen did a photo shoot and interview for SLAM 109. It was the issue that came out in July 2007. With just a little hint of a mustache, the young Curry looked up at our camera. His gray Davidson sweatsuit was loose on his 6-1 frame. 

“It’s a good honor to have Dell Curry as my dad and to have his name, but I’m trying to make a name for myself,” Stephen told SLAM. 

What was good with the basketballs that he effortlessly rifled into the hoop from long distance? Were they actually crystal balls? Were they seeing stones into the future? Because he did it. He made a name for himself.

Now the world knows Stephen Curry as the greatest shooter ever and one of the most iconic players in League history. We here at SLAM know him as the star of 11 covers. We know him as the participant in countless interviews with us. We know him as the voice printed in our stories and speaking in our videos. We know him as a generous partner, as somebody who has given us his time, even though he doesn’t have a ton of it to give. 

He spends most of that time breaking and then setting the record for most career three-pointers ever made. For real, though: That record gets broken and then re-set in every game he plays. Then he spends some of it winning championships. Then he spends some of it giving back to the community. Then he spends some of it as one of the very few people with their own sneaker company. And then, thankfully, he spends some of it with us. 

A good example of his time being spent with us is the cover of SLAM 219. Numero 30 was already three championships deep when he invited 150 children from around Oakland to join him on that cover. Other highlights from that day in 2018 include the fact that he debuted the Curry 6 with us, that he also wanted E-40, Andre Ward and the legendary Al Attles to be part of the shoot, and that he wore a pair of shorts reminiscent of the “We Believe” Warriors. It was a perfect day. Those kids got a memory they’ll never forget. Longtime SLAM photographer Atiba Jefferson got an image we’ll never forget. 

Throughout these last 16-plus years, we like to think we understand him. The world knows him fairly well, but we know a few different parts of him a little bit better. 

We know him to be a deeply passionate fan of good basketball; of setting screens, talking on defense and giving out high fives. We know him to be a scarily intense competitor. We know him to be romantic about the game. We know him to be a storyteller—his footwear has evolved into the equivalent of his life’s work. Different colorways continue to let him share what he finds meaningful without ever saying a word.

And when he does say words, he says things like this that further his romantic ideals about the game: 

“There is room in my mind and spirit for more imagination,” Curry told us in KICKS 25. “More self-expression, more moments where people see a different side of you because every year is so different. The challenges are different. It requires more of you, and that brings out the different reactions, different forms of self-expression and presence on the court. But the mystery of what that is and the unknown is what makes it so dope and so much fun. I have no idea what that’s gonna look like, but I’m going to keep living it. 

“You know, what happened this year and our journey to win a championship, all the accolades that I got, the night, night stuff, all that stuff I had no idea was going to be happening, but I fell in love with the journey and all that stuff takes care of itself. So now the challenge is to maintain that energy, maintain that perspective, go back to the drawing board and try to continue to be the best version of yourself. Because you’re never, ever complete.” 

Featured image via Getty. Portrait by Atiba Jefferson.

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