When he and his wife of more than eight years, Ayesha Curry, got married, "I was 23; she was 22," the three-time NBA champion told Parents magazine in 2016. "But I knew I had found the right woman and I wanted to start a life with her."
Considering all the Basketball Wives who are no longer, or never were, wives of basketball stars, and all the drama that seems to cling to NBA players' personal lives like so much lint, the heartwarming story of Steph and Ayesha Curry is one to be savored.
So long as you get one thing straight first.
"I don't like to call myself a basketball wife," Ayesha told ABC News' Robin Roberts in 2016. "I like to say I'm just a young woman who happened to marry somebody that ended up playing basketball. And for him, I don't think he would identify himself as a basketball player. He's a young man of God placed in a great position doing what he loves, playing basketball."
And even though she has no qualms about calling a foul when she sees one, she's a "mom and wife first," Ayesha, who's made her own name in the cooking, restaurant and lifestyle worlds, happily clarified to ABC News in 2018. "Those are the two most important titles." She did not say "NBA wife," because, "I mean, I don't think my husband would call himself 'chef's wife.'"
She enjoyed a good laugh at that one.
The couple met when they were just 14 and 15, and members of the same church youth group in Charlotte, N.C. But the future Golden State Warriors superstar was apparently too shy to ask Ayesha out—and she wasn't allowed to date in high school.
"We always laugh that we were both focused on God," Ayesha, whose family moved to Charlotte from Toronto when she was 14, told Parents.
"He's actually one of the first people I laid eyes on when I moved to the States," Ayesha told E! News' Jason Kennedy in October 2017. "Didn't say two words to him." She did tell her sisters she'd spotted a cute guy, "and then they made fun of me because they said he looked like a relative." She shook her head. "Which I don't see it, but everybody else seems to think that! Maybe it's 'cause we're on the same wave-length, I don't know."
Steph, a son of former NBA player Dell Curry and older brother of the Philadelphia 76ers' Seth Curry, went on to play basketball for Davidson College, where he was a two-time Southern Conference Men's Player of the Year, for 2007-'08 and 2008-'09, and appeared in three straight NCAA tournaments. On a trip out to Los Angeles to attend the ESPYs in 2008, he and Ayesha—who'd moved west to pursue acting—reconnected.
"That was just kinda fate right there, two kids from Charlotte, meeting again in L.A. on a whim," Steph said in 2016 on In Depth With Graham Bensinger.
Ayesha remembered their re-meet-cute slightly differently...
"We were friends up until I was 19, and I thought we were just friends," Ayesha told E!, admitting that she did dodge Steph's first attempt at a kiss. "I didn't know we had those feelings—I was flattered once I realized halfway through the dive-in that he had other feelings...Oh, he came all the way in and I went like"—she ducked back. "It was mid-conversation, it was very..." she shook her head. But "we had a do-over!"
Eventually they did have their first kiss—in the driveway of her parents' house back in North Carolina. Steph proposed in that very spot a few years later.
"Yeah, it was like The Notebook," Steph told Parents. "The plan was to act like we were going to a family cookout. So we pulled up to the house, and I stopped in the middle of the driveway, got down on my knee, and went into my spiel. Little did I know the whole family was looking out the window, videotaping the moment."
They got married on July 30, 2011, and a few months later found out they were going to have a baby. Ayesha admitted to Parents that she "struggled with that for awhile" because at the time she was still trying to figure out her own next career move. Steph was drafted by the Warriors in 2009, signing a four-year contract worth a reported $12.7 million, so they had moved to the Bay Area.
But when daughter Riley Curry, destined to become queen of the NBA press conference as well as the apple of her father's eye, was born on July 19, 2012—"Riley came so fast I almost didn't have time to get my scrubs on," Steph told Bensinger—they wouldn't have had it any other way.
Having a child "puts everything into perspective. I don't ever have a bad day," the athlete said. "When I go home, knowing I have a wife and daughter to enjoy life with...especially with basketball and having that as my career...that used to be my world. That was it...Now obviously I get frustrated when things don't go your way [on the court], but when I go home, there's nothing more gratifying...I don't really know what I used to do with my free time."
Becoming a mom actually inspired Ayesha's next career move, which was to start her own lifestyle blog and launch a YouTube channel, Little Lights of Mine, to get her cooking game on in front of an audience. "Food and my family, and making people through food" was her passion, she told E! News.
Luckily for everyone involved, another big passion is basketball. "I'm such a passionate fan. I can't help myself," Ayesha said while a guest on E!'s Daily Pop in November 2017. "I'm such a fan."
In normal circumstances, Ayesha is a fixture at home games during the NBA season, often bringing Riley when she was a baby but not as much once she was older so as to not disrupt the growing young lady's bedtime routine. She and Steph have a swoon-worthy pregame ritual where he taps the tattoo on his left forearm, two arrows pointing at each other, and Ayesha does the same with her matching ink.
But do not mistake Ayesha supporting her husband at work for a date night. "We're in the same building, but it's all eye contact from the stands to the court. And then we have the drive home," Steph explained to Parents. Added Ayesha, "The drive home is the date."
The couple do make a point of stealing away for parents-only time when they can, such as when they went to Paris and Lake Como for a romantic getaway in the summer of 2017, or their adults-only trip to Cabo San Lucas for this past Valentine's Day. Ayesha agreed with Jason's assessment that Steph has helped make it cool for an athlete to visibly be in love with his wife.
"I think he's just never been the stereotypical guy in that environment. I'm proud of him for making that cool," she said, laughing. A proud homebody, her ideal date night is getting the kids to bed early, staying at home, "and just hammering through wine, watching TV and just cuddling."
The most romantic thing Steph's ever done? Breakfast in bed on Mother's Day, preparing recipes out of Ayesha's cookbook. "And for him to wake up early is, like, a big deal," she told Jason. "So when he does that it's really, really special to me, and he puts so much effort into it."
They welcomed their second child, daughter Ryan Carson Curry, on July 10, 2015, after which Steph tweeted, "My wife is a champ!" Ayesha wrote on her blog, "The gift of life is truly an indescribable thing. We were fortunate enough to experience it all over again Friday night... Riley is completely enamored with her little sister and has taken on her role as big sister beautifully."
"We named him after my granddad," Steph shared on Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes' All the Smoke podcast in January. "He's the first boy on either side [of our family]. First boy grandbaby. He's spoiled rotten, but he's unbelievable."
The only perk of being sidelined with an injury, as Steph was for most of the 2019-2020 after breaking his hand in October 2019, is more time at home with the family. "I have three kids, 7, 4 and 1, and the first three weeks that I was hurt I was like a stay-at-home dad," he told All the Smoke.
"Do all the stuff that I'd always wanted to do, like take 'em to school, pick 'em up, go to all the extracurricular activities," Steph continued. "My daughter's in horseback riding, playing soccer. Just being at every event without any excuse like, 'Oh I gotta be somewhere,' or having to be on a road trip and stuff."
When he's on the road, he relies on FaceTime to check in with his wife (who uses the undisputed TV time to catch up on This Is Us) and kids, and when he's home he's a hands-on dad, one who knows all the words to the Moana soundtrack, as evidenced by a Carpool Karaoke appearance. And we're fairly certain that the family has stock in matching pajamas.
"The thing I love about him is that he's not too cool for school. He'll get down on the floor and play with the girls. He'll put on dress-up clothes if he has to, and he's very patient, which is something I'm not. We balance each other out," Ayesha told Parents.
After Riley stole the spotlight during one of her dad's postgame interviews (that came about when she spied her dad walking past the room where family members hang out to get to the interview room and insisted upon joining him), Steph said that Riley had automatically become more famous than him or his wife.
"People recognize her way faster than they do me or Ayesha," he said. "And if we go somewhere and she's not with us, that's the first question they ask, is 'where's Riley?'"
Nothing has changed—Riley even co-starred with her dad in an ESPN commercial.
As for bonding with his little boy, Steph told Barnes and Jackson, "Low key, I feel like I just met him. My wife was holding him hostage the first whole year. My girls also got a hold of him. I'm like, 'Canon, I'm over here man! What's up?'"
But you can't blame Ayesha for wanting dibs on Canon's attention.
After two relatively easy go-rounds, she had severe morning sickness and was hospitalized five times in three months during her third pregnancy. Often she was left too exhausted to cook or even eat.
"The mere smell of food averts me," Ayesha wrote on GoInspo in February 2018. "This all has got me in a funk that I️ can't seem to shake. I️ don't want to say I'm depressed because I️ take mental health very seriously but I️ am truly very, very sad. When you can't do what you love all of a sudden because of an uncontrollable situation, it sucks."
Her husband, she added, was being "an absolute angel," and Riley and Ryan were kissing her belly goodnight. "I've never seen two little people love something/ someone so much that they've never met or seen before," Ayesha shared.
Happily, Canon was born healthy and Ayesha was back on her feet in swift fashion. And when she's on her feet, she's unstoppable.
"I may have to cut the Wi-Fi off at my house," Steph joked to reporters before Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals (which Cleveland went on to win, storming back from a 3-1 series deficit) when questioned about some tweets Ayesha had fired off after Game 6, criticizing the officiating and calling the game "absolutely rigged for money...or ratings." She, in turn, was criticized for weighing in at all.
Steph added, "There's nothing really that's going to distract me from what's happening on the court. You're going to get asked about it and it's between me and Ayesha, the conversations about what happened."
"Other than that, it doesn't take any spotlight off of what my job is on the floor and what these next 48 minutes are going to be like in Game 7, so that's all I'm worried about."
The Warriors may not have repeated as champions that year, but the Currys still looked like winners at the game of life when they jetted off to St. Tropez to unwind that July. And they still had plenty to celebrate: Steph won his second consecutive league MVP title and Ayesha had opened her first pop-up restaurant, International Smoke (now a four-location franchise) with chef Michael Mina, and was about to release her first cookbook, Seasons of Life.
Her own Food Network series, Ayesha's Home Kitchen, premiered in October 2016 (originally Ayesha Homemade) and she has since launched a line of signature kitchenware, meal-prep kits and other items, all now sold on her website, Homemade.
She has also added CoverGirl model to her resume, partnered with farm-to-bottle juice company Züpa Noma, was given No Kid Hungry's Champion Award for her efforts to end childhood hunger, and landed on Forbes' "30 Under 30" list in 2017.
Steph, who's returned the career support by appearing on her shows and collaborating with her on a food-themed app game, has said that his wife really is always cooking at home, whipping up late-night snacks at a moment's notice and making family dinners. He told ABC News that he's happy to go to the grocery store—when Ayesha says he can.
"My wife doesn't let me do it that often, 'cause I always mess somethin' up," he said, laughing. "I'll forget one of the main ingredients for the recipe...So I'm on a short leash, when it comes to the grocery store runs. But I like doin' it."
Ayehsa told FabFitFun, which previously featured her Homemade-brand mugs in its Winter Box, "As a mom, I hit road bumps really often. There are days when you feel you aren't good enough or not doing enough. My husband is the one that keeps me going. [He] is my driving, motivating force, and I'm really appreciative of him for that."
Steph and the Warriors bounced back to win the 2017 NBA Championship and that July he signed a five-year contract extension worth a reported $201 million. Also that summer, a year after the drama, the two-time league MVP said that he really had no problem with what his wife tweeted in 2016.
"I encourage her to do her thing, to—to always speak her mind," he told ABC News. "Like, never—never, you know—muffle any of that." Ayesha should "never, never not speak her mind in any situation."
The sentiment held last May when Ayesha was dragged online in response to her candidly admitting on Red Table Talk that she doesn't love all the attention her husband gets from women, and that she didn't feel as if men ever noticed her.
"Proud of you for being authentic and putting yourself out there—not being afraid of the potential bulls--t and nonsense that could and did come at you," Steph wrote to his wife on Instagram. "Way more positive than negative with all of this. Keep being you. I love you."
That kind of support has been baked into their marriage, with Ayesha revealing in 2019 that the key to their family unit's long-term success is she and her husband prioritizing each other above all else.
"Because when you become a parent, you want to put your kids first, and we do," she told Hello Giggles, "but we do it second to our relationship. Because ultimately, when our relationship is good, the kids are happy and they're thriving and our family life is good. We have to put that into perspective and realize that it's not us being selfish, it's making sure we set a strong foundation."
(Originally published April 14, 2018, at 6 a.m. PT)