Not all NBA players are in the game for the mansions, the cars or the sneaker stardom. There are many nice, grounded guys who keep it all in perspective.
Here are four standouts of exceptional character to watch and emulate.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Many analysts and players already consider Curry to be the best long-distance shooter in NBA history.
He’s broken too many records to list here. In many cases, he was topping himself. In 2014-2015, the Warriors’ point guard led the team to their first championship since 1975. He’s twice been named MVP and is a six-time All-Star. In one year, 2015, he received the ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete, the ESPY Award for Best NBA Player and the BET Award for Sportsman of the Year. He’s the first player in league history to be elected MVP by a unanimous vote.
Apparently, none of this goes to Curry’s head. His warm personality and great sense of humor have made him a league and media favorite.
He has said that he values just being himself and working every day to get better. When he’s not draining 3-pointers, he helps fight malaria through his Nothing but Nets campaign. An annual golf tournament that he hosts raises scholarship funds for students in military families.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Conley has twice won the NBA Sportsmanship Award for integrity, fair play and ethical behavior. He’s a class act on the court and off.
Conley doesn’t play with a lot of flamboyance, so he rarely shows up on highlight reels. As a point guard, he’s skilled at getting his teammates set on the floor. He’s a formidable passer, but he can also blow past defenders to finish up at the rim. His game just keeps getting better.
In the 2016-2017 season, he improved in points per game, rebounds and shooting from beyond the arc. Playing against the Spurs in the playoffs, he broke a franchise postseason single-game record with 35 points.
After receiving a $153 million contract, Conley donated a portion of the money to the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation. He is also a regular supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Unlike Conley, this four-time All-Star is a highlight regular as he blazes past defenders for coast-to-coast dunks. That’s easy to do when you’ve got a 6-foot-9-inch wingspan. His athleticism and explosive speed enable him to attack the basket and push the tempo in transition. No one can predict his next finishing move as he continually adds to his game.
Wall didn’t have the best of starts in life. His father died when Wall was 8. His mother worked multiple jobs to support the family. As a teenager, he had a problem with authority. At least once, he was cut from a team for his bad attitude. A coach and mentor in high school helped him turn his life around.
The mentor’s efforts paid off. Wall recently received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for exhaustive charity work. His efforts benefit medical research, youth basketball and homeless children. He even outfitted several high school students who couldn’t have afforded to attend their proms.
Wall’s humble beginnings are never far from his mind.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
You won’t find a player who is less spoiled by fame and fortune than this 7-foot import from Germany. During the years when he was still very much a hot commodity, he twice declined more money to get better players on the roster. When he’s sidelined because of injuries, he’s the team’s most raucous supporter. That kind of selflessness is rare in the NBA. By all accounts, he’s warm, low-key, generous, humble and surprisingly funny.
Nowitski has an extraordinary work ethic. He’s widely known around the league as an all-hours gym rat. His signature fadeaway jumper is countless repetitions in the making. His teammates have said that he goes missing for hours at a time before they find him in an empty gym somewhere shooting free throw after free throw. He cares for his body by following a strict diet and abstaining from alcohol during the season.
Nowitski led the Mavs to a championship in 2011. He’s been named MVP of the league and NBA Finals MVP. He’s a 13-time All-Star who owns multiple franchise records, yet he remains completely teachable; he still trains with Holger Geschwinder, his German coach and mentor. With that same shot that no one’s ever figured out how to defend, he recently became only the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points.
The Dirk Nowitski Foundation benefits children around the world.
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