DALLAS -- It's 90 minutes before the Mavericks play and there's more people already seated in sections 104 and 105 at the American Airlines Center than there was at the last home game's tip off. They're all here to watch Stephen Curry.
Later on in the night, they'll watch him play the Mavericks, making shots that actually matter in the record book. Right now, though, he's just dribbling and taking uncontested three-pointers, something that has warranted an audience of at least several thousand. Consider this: The American Airlines Center opened 30 minutes earlier than usual so fans could get in their seat in time to watch the spectacle. When Curry finally runs onto the floor, there's an audible cheer around the arena. Before the game, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle compared the Warriors' popularity to the Rolling Stones on tour. Well, Curry is Mick Jagger.
Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston warm up at the same time as Curry. "Can't believe so many haven't seen Andrew Bogut shoot free throws," deadpanned one Warriors assistant to Livingston, somewhat incredulously at how many people were here to watch a man warm up. Zaza Pachulia shot free throws on the other end of the court. He could've been given angel wings and thrown down a 360-degree windmill dunk, and there's a chance no one in the arena would have noticed.
Anticlimactically, Curry's first action is tying both shoes. With cameras and media members crowding around, he progresses to dribbles on the baseline, followed by passing drills with a coach. The man best known for effortless long-range jump shots didn't even attempt one for the first five minutes.
When he finally moves out to the Mavericks' logo -- a few feet inside the half-court line, but easily 40 feet away -- there's an audible buzz. Curry makes the first one, of course, but proceeds to miss the next seven or eight. It's actually startling when Curry misses a shot, particularly several in a row, no matter what the distance is. Between SportsCenter highlights and looping Vines, we see him make so many impossible looks that a three-point barely grazing rim is honestly a bit jarring. This is the Stephen Curry phenomenon. This is why 3,000 people showed up 90 minutes before a game to watch him shoot jump shots.
Finally, Curry makes a few. Every time it goes there's a cheer; every time the ball just barely rims out, they groan. As his routine finally wraps up, Curry walks to center court -- for once, not to shoot the ball, but to embrace a fan of his work. It's Jordan Spieth, winner of the 2015 Masters Tournament and Dallas native. The two talk for a couple minutes as the cameras circle around them like vultures.
Finally, Curry leaves. He'll be back in an hour and the "real" event, for a basketball game between two Western Conference playoff teams. But in a weird, weird way, it feels like the real event already happened.
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