Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James are two of the biggest sports superstars in the world. Each player has led his team to a conference championship and they are now battling in the NBA Finals.
However, Curry and James share a bond that extends beyond basketball. They’ve also become some of the most visible examples of involved fathers.
While Curry led the Warriors to their first conference title in 40 years, his 2-year-old daughter, Riley, became a star of her own as she started making regular appearances with Dad at post-game press conferences.
After Golden State defeated the Houston Rockets to wrap up the Western Conference Finals, Riley stole the show. As reporters peppered her dad with questions, she yawned into the microphone, bounced up and down at the podium, showed off her bracelet, twice sang the hook from the song, “Blessed,” and then handed her gum to an employee so she could play hide-and-seek in the curtains.
Although adorable, Riley’s antics created a bit of a controversy as several reporters complained that Riley’s presence was distracting and that kids shouldn’t be allowed at press conferences where they are trying to work.
Nonetheless, the bigger picture is that Steph Curry is providing a high-profile public image of an engaged and loving father.
“I’m blessed to have a healthy baby that brings so much personality and spunk to our family,” he recently said. “Every day she’s got something new – some new pose or some new show that she’s watching. Just the way that she talks, I can communicate with her. It’s just crazy. She’s got a charisma about her that she’s not shy at all. She is wise beyond her two years.”
Curry has also spoken about the role his own father, former NBA shooting guard Dell Curry, played in his upbringing. In his acceptance speech for the Most Valuable Player award last month, Steph Curry choked up as he thanked his dad for the sacrifices he made for him throughout his life.
Steph Curry cries while thanking father during MVP acceptance speech.
The Currys are a stark contrast to James, who has spoken candidly about how his father’s absence from his life impacted him. Despite lacking a father figure of his own, James appears to play a significant role in the upbringing of his children. He frequently posts photos of his kids on social media and has been featured in a Samsung commercial embracing the dad life.
LeBron James’ Samsung “At Home” commercial.
“Being there for them and helping them with their homework and seeing them get hurt or seeing them cry or get emotional or get excited when they’re playing a video game or excited playing a basketball game, man, just there. That’s the ultimate,” James recently told ESPN.
Curry and James aren’t the only NBA dads embracing a progressive image of fatherhood. Derrick Rose and Chris Paul have spoken openly about the impact being a dad has had on their lives and careers. Former New York Knicks guard and assistant general manager Allan Houston is producing a documentary about fatherhood. And retired center Etan Thomas, who authored the book, “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge,” holds nationwide panels that connect many of the books’ contributors with fathers and kids.
It seems that across the entire league, it is considered cool to be a dad. Certainly some of this is clever brand management as athletes stand to gain millions of dollars by projecting such positive images. Regardless, by taking parenting out of the shadows, these athletes are smashing sports’ boys’ club and showing that being a dad is a full-time job.
Regardless of motive, these are encouraging examples that millions of sports fans, many of whom are young fathers, are seeing nightly. No doubt, this is a positive trend considering how maligned athletes have been for setting poor examples of parenting in the past.
In 1998, Sports Illustrated published an infamous cover story with the headline, “Where’s Daddy?” The piece, titled “Paternity Ward,” exposed how commonplace it was for NBA stars to dodge parental responsibilities for children that were fathered out of wedlock. One NBA agent even claimed that he spent more time dealing with paternity claims than negotiating contracts.
Image via Sports Illustrated.
Nearly 20 years later, it is at the very least promising to see some of the biggest stars in one of the world’s most popular sports embracing a much different style of fathering.