Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors already is having a season – and a career – for the ages.
But suddenly, he is even better, and people are wondering if the point guard’s game got a boost from a tiny cancer-stricken basketball fan from Niagara Falls.
Since meeting 5-year-old “Baby Shawn” Kennedy last Wednesday and sliding the tot’s fundraising bracelet onto his wrist, Curry has been almost unstoppable. He scored 42 points in that night’s game against Miami, 51 points the next day against Orlando and 46 points Saturday against Oklahoma City, a game in which he broke his own season record for three-point shots and hit a graceful shot from around half-court that won the game in overtime.
“I think that’s something for a kid from Niagara Falls to have the best basketball player in the world wearing his bracelet,” said Mike Esposito, a basketball coach and family friend who arranged for Shawn, his brother Mykhi Brown, 12, and their mother, Nicole Vathy, to meet Curry in Miami last week.
And could Shawn be returning the favor with some extra luck?
“You never know. I think so,” said Esposito.
When the family met Curry before the Miami game, they gave him – and every member of the team – two silicone bracelets that say “Bravest Baller Baby Shawn,” which come in two colors, tan with yellow letters and brown and green. Although Esposito did not see Curry put the bracelet on, Shawn’s brother noticed after the game that Curry was wearing the tan one with yellow letters.
Since then, the bracelet has been clearly visible on Curry’s wrist in photos and in videos that will make plenty of ESPN “SportsCenter” Top 10 reels.
Vathy said she noticed that Curry was wearing the bracelet when she watched highlights of the Oklahoma City game. “I said, ‘That’s Shawn’s bracelet!’ ” she said. Then she examined photos from the previous games to verify that he was wearing it then, too.
Curry, whose team won the NBA championship last season and is expected to do so again, has had big games before, of course – he scored 51 points Feb. 3 against Washington. But that game was book-ended by two in which he scored 13 and 26 points. His career average is 21.6 points per game.
In August, Shawn, who has played basketball since he was able to stand, was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.
After finding out that Curry is Shawn’s favorite player, Esposito, a teacher at Niagara Falls High School, called his longtime friend, Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors. Kerr arranged the tickets and meet-and-greet, and Esposito set up a three-on-three basketball tournament Feb. 20 to raise funds for the family’s trip and other expenses. The tournament raised $1,950.
Before Wednesday’s game, Shawn and his brother met Curry and his teammates in the locker room. Curry autographed a pair of his sneakers and gave them to Shawn, who sat with the team on the bench during warm-ups.
Draymond Green, a Warriors forward, has also worn the Baby Shawn bracelet on the court, Esposito said.
Esposito hopes that having the bracelet on Curry’s wrist will lead to greater awareness of childhood cancers. In fact, Esposito has started a letter-writing campaign asking both the National Football League and National Basketball Association to devote a weekend of games to pediatric brain cancer. Anyone who wants to join that campaign may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vathy, Shawn’s mother, said that she plans to lobby the City of Niagara Falls to observe September as pediatric cancer awareness month, with gold ribbons and illuminating the Falls in gold. Since her son’s diagnosis, Vathy and Esposito have become aware of how little funding is directed to research for pediatric cancer. According to the Childhood Cancer Foundation, the type of cancer Shawn has is considered “terminal upon diagnosis and no new protocols have been developed in 30 years.”
The bracelets, which cost $2, are available from the family, which can be reached at 990-1173.
Esposito hopes Curry continues to wear Shawn’s bracelet. “He does wear bracelets a lot,” said Esposito. “I hope he keeps this one on, though, and I would think that he would, doing as well as he has been.”