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Tuesday September 27th 2016

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Dear Steph Curry, Now That You Are MVP Please Don’t Come Visit My High School

StephDear Steph,

I am a Dubs fan. Always have been, always will be. I pass by Oracle Arena every day to and from work. Traffic is so bad on 880 I often get to admire, at length, the giant hanging posters adorned with your face and the gaudy playoff decorations in blue and gold. Those also happen to be the school colors of the high school nearby where I teach. I have a Baron Davis jersey from We Believe, I grew up watching Run TMC. I giggled each and every time Manute Bol drained a three. When I was a wee lad one of my favorite things to say over and over was Sarunas Marciulionis. I am a Bay Area native, and the Warriors are my team.

And I love you. You would be my favorite player except for I have a soft spot for emotionally unstable crazies, and so I really love me some Draymond Green. But you are amazing and I also give you credit for being an amazing person off the court as well.

But I have to ask you to do me a solid and make sure you don’t ever come visit my high school.

I know the NBA does great things in the community, and I realize the Warriors are no exception. Your boy Klay Thompson is a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for having such an impact in and around Oakland this year. The NBA Cares campaign continually shows the league is committed to getting out in the community and helping those in need. When you get involved in soup kitchens, wrap Christmas presents for needy kids, and build homes for the homeless I am inspired. But where those kinds of civic-minded activities have clear benefits, I have to tell you something you probably haven’t heard: Coming to poor high schools like mine isn’t going to help any of these kids out, in fact, it might make things worse.

You see, Steph (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Steph), if you come to my school you will be your usual inspiring, humble, hilarious, kind self and you will say all the right things. But the reason I don’t want you to come has to do with what you won’t say.

You won’t say that since the day you were born you had a professional one-on-one tutor who helped you hone your skills on a daily basis. Your father Dell Curry was an NBA great just like you are after him, but you will not remind the poor kids at my school that they have never had such a wonderful instructor and they never will.

And if you do ever visit my school, you also won’t mention that along with your father’s success came all the monetary rewards NONE of my students have, like three square meals a day; a full sized court and hoop in the backyard; a sense of safety; a mother and a father; top schools, top peers, and community resources. I know you might not think of it like this, but you might as well have come from another planet. But you won’t say that, will you?

I mean, look at Klay Thompson. I wonder if anyone else finds it odd that the best shooting back-court in NBA history were both born with silver balls.

You also won’t talk about the fact that you are a giant man and taller than almost all of my students will ever be. Even though on the court you look like Peter Dinklage in high tops, when you are around real people you are very, very tall. Six-foot-three is nothing to laugh at, and if you did walk into my classroom, you might hit your head on the doorframe. You won the genetic lottery in addition to the monetary one, but you probably won’t be reminding my students that their size alone has already kept them out of competing in most American professional sports.

What you will do is shoot some threes, dazzle everyone with your dimples, high five the homies, and sign some autographs. It will be wonderful. At least, it will seem like that at first. But what you won’t see is the fact that most of these kids don’t have a backup plan for their dream of being you. If you ask the boys on my campus what they are going to be when they get older, the answer will involve a sport. They will claim they are going to play in the NBA or NFL, and seeing you there will make them think they can actually do it.

Because the worst thing you won’t tell them Steph, is that they can’t do it. You won’t tell them that will you? You won’t be able to bring yourself to tell them it is already too late. You won’t tell them about all those years when you were playing in top competitive leagues as a child. You won’t tell them that if they haven’t played organized basketball by the age of sixteen (twelve, really), they have no chance of going pro. You see, the kids I am talking about do not play year-round, they are not in a travelling league, and they have never even heard of a McDonald’s All-American; they just eat McDonald’s two meals a day and have Hot Cheetos in between.

Because by the time they are sixteen, boys in this country, if they have even a tiny, tiny chance of going pro, should already be on the radar of colleges and scouts. They should be the best player not just at their school but in their entire city. Probably their entire state. They should already be 6’3” and growing. You know this and I know this, but the kids who you will inspire with your presence will simply see you and think they too will be MVP one day, even though they don’t even play for our high school team. So instead of doing homework the night after your visit, they will grab their lopsided old ball and go play on the court with their little brother and shoot the ball badly, improbably thinking every time the ball actually does go in it means they are on their way to fame and fortune.

You see Steph, once you leave my school, the boys here are not going to run home and finish that essay, which is one thing they could do about their future that is in their control. Just like if Beyonce came here, the girls wouldn’t head back to their one bedroom apartments filled with two families and begin their science labs. When Beyonce tells them to make sure they pass Algebra, they look at her and ask “What for? Did Algebra help your voice?” Instead they will go home and look in the mirror and wish they were tanner and thicker and a better singer and dancer and they will cry into their mascara. Because that is what celebrity worship does, Steph, and we need these kids to do less of it rather than more. They are already very good at dreaming about being rich and famous, what we need them to do is get a little more realistic about what is in their control. We need less of an emphasis on sports and celebrity in high school, because it is hurting these kids too much as it is.

Really the more I think about it, the crazier it sounds to write to you and tell you NOT to come to my high school. I mean, you are such an awesome guy, you are a family man with a wife and daughter, with another on the way. That video your wife made is hella funny. You are humble, a leader, and clearly our young men need to meet a man like you. Maybe I’m wrong to write this letter.

Or maybe not. When I tell my students they are not going to be professional athletes, they like to say, “Won’t you feel stupid if one of your students does go pro?” And my answer is always the same: “No, because even if they do, that means I will still be 99.9% right. Right now I am one thousand for one thousand.” Steph, you and I know they have a better chance of winning the lottery, but no one seems to tell them these things but me. Would this letter make you feel better if I told you I discourage the California Lottery from giving inspirational speeches at my high school as well? If I wrote them a letter, would anyone think I was out of line? Probably not.

At risk of making Dub Nation mad at me, because I know how we can get, I don’t want you to think it has anything to do with you personally, or the team (I will be screaming every time you hit a three all throughout the playoffs). It’s me, not you. I mean, you are the man, and I am just a teacher–no one really. The truth is, every person on earth would probably get something out of meeting you in person. For you symbolize everything people in this country value most, you are the epitome of all we hold dear, you are the pinnacle of humanity: You are good at a sport.

Reader Feedback

189 Responses to “Dear Steph Curry, Now That You Are MVP Please Don’t Come Visit My High School”

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Matt,

    After reading your blog post several times, and being saddened by some of your thoughts, I have to ultimately agree that the message you’re trying to get across is the ultimate truth. Too many kids, especially from harder backgrounds, only look at sports or entertainment industry as a way out but majority will probably never even graduate college. I do think you make some valid and strong points about Stephen Curry’s background story, as we’ve all seen the videos of him traveling with his dad and getting first hand experience shooting in the gym with his family. Majority of people in the world will never ever get remotely close to those experiences.

    However, I’d like to suggest perhaps a request from another player to invite, a fellow Bay Area native and self-proclaimed Warriors fan, a former Warrior in fact and whose dream to one day play in the NBA but never looked at the NBA as #1 goal. He was always over-looked, even to this day people say he’s probably going to be out of the league next season. He’ll probably never be the MVP or maybe even an All-star, was a 5’3″ freshman in high school, nobody really thought he should be playing basketball due to his race, but with a solid support system he had a backup plan and strong faith that reminded him that school was #1 priority. Focus on other things before basketball because although he had talent, nobody really was going to respect his game. 0 scholarship offers, and if he didn’t have the grades, it would have been impossible to have been recruited to and play in the Ivy league. He also knows there’s life after basketball and wants to be a preacher one day.

    That player’s name is Jeremy Lin.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqrrKLcvPSE (First person interview before Linsanity).

  2. AlexMoore says:

    Wow this is a great piece! One hundred percent accurate. Ignore the negative comments; from a teacher to another I understand where you are coming from. Athletes should do a better job of painting the whole picture, not just the good but the realistic

  3. Evangeline Woods says:

    I must say this was truly a good read. Just the massive response from many different people has showcased how strongly we believe in the importance a dream. You should take this and turn it into a book. I’m sure it will inspire children/students to do some critical thinking. It’s great to see society come together and voice their opinions. There is such a diverse group of people that there back story, inreguards to their response, would help future generations understand society. We come together when we strongly disagree or agree on a topic.

  4. Michelle says:

    You make such a good point here. We like to ignore the fact that who you know and where you grow up heavily weights your chances of success. The realities of privilege vs. poverty do not play well into the ideal of the American Dream. While we can all better ourselves through hard work, and while many of us have opportunities to be more educated than our parents and to improve our standard of living, most of those in the highest echelons of power did NOT start at the bottom.

    As someone who lives in Silicon Valley, I see this every day. Children in my neighborhood are well-fed. Many of them have after-school tutors. Many of them play on traveling sports teams. All of them have access to great coaches and great teachers. None of them worry about whether they’ll get to go to that camp they want to attend, or how their parents will afford the uniforms. All of this makes a huge difference.

    I did grow up with a lot less than my own child is growing up with, and I was able to give him a more comfortable life. But I also had two parents who believed deeply in education and who supported me emotionally. And I wanted to be a writer, not a sports star, so my options were different. No amount of desire would have led me to be a great athlete. Even though tmy parents didn’t pay for me to go to college, my mother did fill out the financial aid forms. Kids who don’t have that kind of support are at a huge disadvantage.

  5. A Teacher says:

    I’ve been teaching in urban schools about as long as the writer. What most of the comments that I’ve read focus on in negating the sentiment of the writer is that no teacher should “crush” a student’s dreams. Fair point. This article is clearly not about crushing students’ dreams, but understands that many students will abandon academic dreams in an effort to focus on their athletic dreams, which, as we all know, are so statistically improbably as to be next to impossible (http://www.theguardian.com/sport/datablog/interactive/2014/jan/29/what-odds-going-professional-sports). The point is to ensure that students don’t forget about their education to pursue next to impossible dreams. I’ve taught seniors for the past 7 years and have heard countless students who tell me that they’re going to be in the NBA, which is why they don’t care about their school work. THAT’s the heart of the message of this post. Not dream-crushing.

  6. What if he visits just to brighten their day and give them something to smile about and remember? Maybe that day they are happy and do something good because of it. Maybe for an hour kids can just be kids and see their favorite player. They may have a tough climb, but hopefully they are willing to put in the work, not to be in there NBA but to be a good employee, boss, parent, and spouse.

  7. Dominique Johnson says:

    From one teacher to ALL others…….finally, somebody to speak the TRUTH!!

  8. John Williams says:

    Matt, you remind me of a high school teacher I had. He professed to truly be looking out for disadvantaged youth. He assumed a lot about students that he perceived to be disadvantaged. He made assumptions about background and he mad assumptions about capabilities. I had a short-term encounter with this teacher. During the period of time that I was in his class, he gave us a writing assignment. I turned in my essay which he promptly assumed that I could NOT have written it on my own and gave me a C-. You see, his assumption was that a person who looked like me could not possibly have written a three page essay free of obvious syntax and grammatical errors. You see, he ASSumed that I must be incapable. He decided that he would use my obvious frustration as an opportunity to emphasize to the class the importance of “turning in your own work”. He read a paper, aloud, to the class that he viewed as an example of a paper that he KNEW was written by the student. It had a number of grammatical, spelling and other errors. He said, “now, I know this is written by a student because it had a number of errors”. You see, he had made up his mind that, even though he didn’t know me, that I couldn’t possibly author a mistake-free paper. I immediately got up and said, “I am out of here”, as I left class and went directly to my counselor and transferred from this person”s class.

    Why do I bring this up? I can’t help but feel that you are making the same kind of mistake that this person made about me. You do not give your kids credit for being able to understand that there are NO guarantees when it comes to being a professional athlete. Furthermore, you are operating under a false assumption that there IS a guarantee that absent a focus on long-shot aspirations such as sports, that a there will be a focus on academics.

    Mr. Amaral, the world is not a black or white. There are zillions of shades of gray in between. It is as foolish for you to tell them that a road is not open to them as it is for them to focus all of their efforts on a single road. Have you considered what will happen if they fail to make it through college? What if they cannot afford to go? What if they attend and are mediocre as students? What if they attend, graduate and cannot get a “college-graduate-level” job? Is it not as foolish for them to assume that all they have to do is go to college as it is to assume that all they need is a jump shot.

    Granted, there are more successful college graduates than there are successful athletes. But, what if they are that one in a million? It seems that the principal at your school did not give up on his dream of going to the NBA until it was clear that he could not make it. And, he seems to have done well for himself inasmuch as he is your “boss”. I am not saying that you should not be encouraging your students academically – not at all. I am though, saying that YOU should not decide for them that they cannot do something.

    Factoid: During my tenure in high school, I knew, personally, THREE professional athletes who made the equivalent of 7 figure incomes (today’s dollars). Two played 7 years in the NFL and one played in the NBA for more than 10 years. So, it is not impossible to be successful.

    Finally, it seems to me that Steph Curry is in a special position. He is one of a small set of individuals that has clearly achieved success in athletics and NOT sacrificed his intellect in the process. I would think you would welcome him to come tell his story – the whole story. Don’t try to decide for these kids what their future can hold. On the contrary, I wish you would use your “bully pulpit” to encourage them to hone ALL of their skills.

    John Williams
    aka @goBears74

  9. Richard T says:

    Matt, although you do make some good points, and yes stars whether sport or just entertaininers
    Should keep it real when speaking to our young underprivileged, teachers also have a responsibility to keep it real! I am a retired softball coach that has helped many young ladies achieve their goals, despite teachers telling them they would not amount to anything! Instead of telling people like Steph that it would not help having him inspire them, how about sending out a letter to the board of education to actually do what they are paid to do! As far as I know he was told he would not make it in the NBA! As I am sure his father was probably told the same! For your Info our current President of the United States was probably told he could never be President! And guess what he has a law degree he achieved without that silver spoon! Although your point is to have a backup plan you are correct, your job is to encourage not discourage! When I was young I went to the state track meet to try and make the Olympics, I did not qualify but my buddy did, I gave him hug and wished him well, did you ever think what Steph might be discouraged by your letter? Again use your job and your influence to turn that one thousand into at least100 that you help succeed and maybe another Steph Curry, or a President Obama!

  10. Sally Thomas says:

    I read Matt’s article and understood it to be rhetorical and thought-provoking, not an attack on Steph Curry or celebrities and their potential impact in the classroom. I think it’s clear, in his article and also in his replies to comments here, that his aim is not to discourage his students from pursuing their dreams or achieving success. I want to share that Matt spoke on a panel at the Hayward Public Library in April about the importance of education in promoting good nutrition and expanding access to fresh fruits and vegetables in areas of cities known as “food deserts.” We were glad to learn about his annual month-long challenge to students to improve their diets by skipping sodas and fast food, to help with food shopping and cooking of meals at home, and doing research about healthy eating and related subjects. He took a Saturday afternoon to participate in a community forum at the library; writes a blog about public education in an under-served, mostly working class community; and aims high in giving his students tools to think critically about the choices they make: sounds like a dedicated teacher to me. Even if you disagree with his rhetoric, let’s give more support to teachers like Matt who bring passion to their classrooms and encourage the community to engage in debates about the future of our young adults.

  11. Daniel says:

    I agree but disagree with some of his thoughts because the coaches that have trained me were once dirt poor living in mexico to becoming soccer stars. I also living in the bay know a lot of great soccer stars with bad backgrounds becoming very good athletes to the point that they become professional. I am a 15 year old that plays soccer for an academy and I am about to play for a professional soccer team in mexico.

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