TORONTO — James Lackey’s students at Brampton Christian School will have to forgive him for cheering on Golden State this week as the Toronto Raptors open up the NBA Finals against the Warriors. After all, he’s just rooting for one of his former students.
Lackey was a teacher and the boys’ basketball coach at Queensway Christian College in 2001 when Stephen Curry, the son of then-Raptors shooting guard Dell Curry, started attending the school. The young Curry led Queensway in scoring more than a decade before becoming a two-time NBA MVP and the central figure in Golden State’s five-year dynasty that includes three league titles.
“I’m sort of torn right now on who to cheer for and the kids are certainly asking ‘so who’re you going for? who’re you going for?’” Lackey said. “I have to tell them that I’m still going for the Warriors even though I love the Raptors. Because of the connection with Steph I have to cheer for him.”
The pair still speak regularly and meet for a quick chat once or twice a year whenever the Warriors are in Toronto.
Lackey still sees a lot of the boy in Curry, even now as a 31-year-old NBA superstar.
“Something that really stood out about him was that he always got more excited when someone else on the team did something great,” Lackey said. ”If another kid who rarely scored got a basket, that really got him jazzed, even more than if he did something incredible or amazing.
“You even see that now with the Warriors, I think. He really gets excited for other people’s success on the team.”
Curry has fond memories of his year and a half in Toronto — before he moved to North Carolina to attend Charlotte Christian School — including the culture, a love of Maynards candies, and his school.
“It was a great time there, met some really cool people,” Curry said at a news conference on Monday. “Still in touch with my middle school coach, James Lackey, who still supports me to this day. I mean, there’s a lot of connections.
“Even at the arena, a lot of the same people work as ushers or security or in the back that were there when me and my brother were running around causing trouble. It’ll be cool to take in that full experience.”
Alvin Williams, a teammate of Dell Curry’s on the Raptors in the late 1990s and early 2000s, doesn’t think Stephen and his younger brother Seth caused too much chaos at Air Canada Centre. In fact, Williams looked forward to seeing the young Currys on the practice court.
“They loved playing basketball,” said Williams, who is now an analyst covering the NBA for Sportsnet. “I would get there kind of early also and end up playing those guys 2-on-1 and 1-on-1 and stuff like that. It was always enjoyable to see them actually enjoy the game and play and just have fun around the gym.”
Although Williams hasn’t had contact with either of the Curry brothers in a few years, he was always struck by how kind they are to anyone they came across.
“Those guys, they were raised the right way. They’re very respectful,” Williams said. “They loved basketball so they were really respectful to all the guys playing on the Raptors back then. Vince Carter, myself, Morris Peterson, Charles Oakley, all those guys. If I see them (while covering the NBA Finals), I’m sure there will be nothing less than love there.”
Stephen Curry’s wife Ayesha was born and raised in Toronto and like her future husband she moved to Charlotte at the age of 14. He says that as soon as she returns to Toronto her ties to the city quickly become apparent.
“She’s got a strong Canadian accent that comes back like that,” Curry said, snapping his fingers. ”I’m always amazed when that happens.”