As the 2012-13 season approached, Stephen Curry was eligible for a rookie-scale contract extension. He showed plenty of promise during his first three NBA seasons, but he missed 56 games the season before with ankle injuries and hurt his ankle again in the preseason.
The Warriors offered a four-year, $44 million extension. Considering the injury risk, that deal seemed reasonable.
But Golden State apparently discussed a contingency if Curry wanted to wait for restricted free agency the following summer.
Curry’s agent, Jeff Austin, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:
“They said if he was healthy at the end of the season, they set aside the max money for him,” Austin said, remembering the negotiations. “The Warriors were terrific the whole process. They told him if he could stay healthy, he would get the max.”
Curry took the security of the $44 million extension. Most agreed that it was at least in the range of fair compromise, though opinion probably skewed in Curry’s favor. Kurt Helin said Golden State should have let Curry hit restricted free agency rather than pay so much. Brett Pollakoff wrote, “The deal seems like a better one for Curry than it does for the Warriors on the surface.”
Of course, Curry stayed healthy that season. He played 78 games and even received a few fifth-place MVP votes.
But he was locked into that four-year, $44 million extension – not a free agent eligible for a five-year, $79 million max contract.
The difference altered the NBA for a generation.
The Warriors squeezed just enough cap space to sign Andre Iguodala, who won Finals MVP for them. With their credibility boosted and Curry still stuck on that relatively low-paying deal, they again cleared just enough space to sign Kevin Durant, another Golden State Finals MVP. Curry’s bargain salary also made it easier for the Warriors’ owners to afford Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Curry’s contract extension was the root of Golden State’s dynasty.
He’s on a new max contract now (though he didn’t get all the bells and whistles he desired). The Warriors are a juggernaut, raking in money and spending a lot of it to keep their core in tact. They’re favored to win even more titles.
But it’s interesting to look back and wonder: What if Curry bet on himself in 2012?