When the Golden State Warriors selected Stephen Curry with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, the hope was that he could be a cornerstone piece of the franchise. Over the last decade, Curry has worked his way toward being recognized as one of the best players in the league while he was a guiding force for the Warriors to multiple NBA titles. However, it wasn’t a completely clean process for Curry as he dealt with injuries early on in his career that nearly put him out of Golden State’s long-term plans.
Stephen Curry’s early career injury struggles
It didn’t take long for Curry to make an impact with the Warriors early in his career.
The former Davidson product faced many questions concerning his size and possible durability issues due to his small frame. In his first couple of years in the league, he had quickly shown to be a sharpshooting guard from beyond the arc that made the Warriors an exciting team to watch because of their young nucleus despite struggling to win games.
After a strong second season where he averaged 18.6 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 44.2% from 3-point range and 48.0% from the field, Curry underwent surgery on his right ankle in the offseason. The injury bug plagued him in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign as he played in only 26 games of the possible 66 regular-season contests.
Curry had missed 40 games because of issues with his right ankle and foot, which was highlighted by a sprained right ankle that cost him 28 games. That alone led to a second surgery on the ankle the following April after the season. It put a significant question mark over Curry’s long-term future with the Warriors as he entered the final year of his four-year rookie deal.
Golden State was put into a tight spot, which they committed to a lengthy extension that wound up being higher than initially anticipated for one reason.
Stephen Curry’s four-year, $44 million extension
In the offseason before the 2012-13 season, the Warriors had a decision to make regarding Curry’s next deal with the franchise. The former Davidson product had shown to be a promising player, but had a string of injuries and was coming off a second right ankle surgery. That alone made things more complicated and lowered the price tag that they were willing to pay.
Curry was part of a stacked draft class that had plenty of players lined up for extension with their respective teams. That made the Warriors quite aware of the other situations around the league. Golden State started the conversation at $8 million a year on his next deal, which was a number impacted by Curry’s injury history.
It was a figure that he could have passed on, but the Warriors had acted fast from something that was out of their hands. What changed the dynamic entirely was that Ty Lawson, who was in the same 2009 draft class, had agreed to a four-year, $48 million extension with the Denver Nuggets.
That upped the ante for the Warriors as they raised their offer to a four-year, $44 million and didn’t want to go higher than $11 million per year. They could have offered deals at the max for four-year, $61 million or five years, $78.9 million.
According to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic, Curry had his options to weigh as he could have played out of the final year of his deal to prove he’s moved past the injuries to get a max contract. He also had the option of taking a three-year deal to hit the free-agent market earlier. Still, in the end, he chose to take the four-year, $44 million contract as he had concerns about the long-term health of his ankle along with realizing the Warriors weren’t going to offer more than that.
Stephen Curry’s deal worked out for the best
In hindsight, it was a pivotal move for the franchise that set them up for a great deal of success in the next several years to come.
Curry proved to be well worth that extension and made that contract look like a complete bargain. It opened up opportunities financially to add key pieces to the puzzle, such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in free agency. The Warriors built a championship contending-team that saw them eventually bring aboard Kevin Durant for a few seasons.
Beyond that, Curry became the first player to garner a $200 million contract with his five-year, $201 extension. Years later, the Warriors and their star guard have reaped the benefit of five trips to the Finals and three NBA titles. It was a crucial moment in franchise history that worked out for the best on both sides.