There's only one athlete more beloved in the Carolinas than Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly, and he doesn't even play for a local team. Stephen Curry is lighting the NBA on fire by taking home the MVP award and decimating everyone who stands in his way to such an extent that Hornets fans are already pining for the possibility of a Charlotte homecoming. You might be surprised to find out that Newton had a major impact on Curry's road to NBA dominance.
A profile on the Warriors' point guard by ESPN.com shines a light on how Curry prepared to take on the world. It took some time to learn, and Cam was the inspiration.
Curry sat in on a full day of quarterback meetings and saw a contemporary in Cam Newton, who won the 2011 NFL offensive rookie of the year by playing quarterback like a point guard in shoulder pads.
One thing Newton did so well in 2011 was playing unafraid. At times his confidence bordered on hubris, but the Panthers quarterback quickly asserted that the league wasn't too big for him and that nobody was going to scare him away from playing his game.
Curry recognized how Newton was juggling the same dozen or so basic responsibilities that point guards also have to manage in real time: game situations, momentum, positioning, ball protection, elevating teammates, staying three steps ahead of the defense and, when needed most, making something happen all by yourself.
At times is maddening to see Cam be forced to carry the load himself, but there's no denying that it has been fun too. That's the part of Newton's game that is oft-overlooked by national pundits. He's painted as a player who tries to do it all himself, when in reality he's forced to. Curry realized that.
Most importantly Newton's game helped Curry see that he needed to have fun.
The difference was that even as a rookie, Newton wasn't hesitant, overly worried about mistakes or brain-locked by all the duties the way Curry had been. Newton was smooth. Effortless. In command. And having a freakin' blast. Curry realized that although a point guard has dozens of responsibilities, the toughest one is to let it all go and ball like you're back on Jack's country court.
There are a lot of criticisms that can be leveled on Cam Newton, but he always has fun -- especially when he's winning. His smile is what causes fans to love him, and doubters to loathe. You see this in Steph too. His game is more confident this year, and it's what elevated him to historic levels. Of course it doesn't hurt when you make the most obscene shots look easy.
Nobody knows if the allure of Charlotte will bring Curry home in the future, but maybe, just maybe we can thank Cam Newton if it happens.