Steph Curry on Why He Texted Drake, Peyton Manning Before Agreeing to Host ESPY Awards

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After picking up another NBA championship for the Golden State Warriors in June — the team’s fourth title in eight years — no one could fault Finals MVP Steph Curry for taking it easy through the off-season. But coasting isn’t Curry’s style.

On Wednesday, he’ll hit the stage at L.A.’s Dolby Theater as the host of the 2022 ESPY Awards. “It just sounded amazing,” Curry tells The Hollywood Reporter of why he said yes. “I respect the ESPYs and the honor of what the show is, and thought it would be a very cool experience to stretch myself a little bit.”

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But before he officially signed on, Curry sought guidance from two VIPs — former ESPY Awards hosts Drake and Peyton Manning. “I texted Drake and Peyton about what their experiences were like. They both spoke very highly and positively about it and how much fun they had,” he revealed. “I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a ‘Hell no, don’t do it,’ situation. I didn’t get that from either one. It was all very positive and encouraging that it was an opportunity and experience that I would love doing.”

I was surprised to get an interview opportunity with you about a new work commitment so soon after winning a championship. What is your decompression time like after such a major accomplishment?

Actually, I’m not in the best position to answer that question because I really haven’t come down from the championship yet. I’m just on the ride right now. With this opportunity, obviously, I knew it was on the radar before the playoffs started and I was going to be able to experience it no matter how the playoffs ended. But I’m glad that we finished out with the championship and I am on 10 days of a celebration, you know, of a run that is second-to-none. I’m blessed, man, and living a good life right now.

When the opportunity to host the ESPYs came up, why did you say yes?

With everything that has happened in terms of my career, basketball is always first and foremost. It’s the gateway that has opened up a lot of doors for off-court opportunities. I never in my wildest dreams thought that hosting the ESPYs was going to be an opportunity for me. It’s made me think back to 2008 when I got invited for the first time for breakthrough athlete of the year after our tournament run. Now to think about all the athletes and celebrities that have hosted the show over the years. I don’t know what the answer is to why [I said yes]. It just sounded amazing. I respect the ESPYs and the honor of what the show actually is and I thought it would be a very cool experience to stretch myself a little bit. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be able to report back on July 21 about how it went.

You were first invited in 2008 and since then, you’ve been fortunate enough to take home a bunch of awards over the years and sit in the audience to experience other hosts. Will you prepare like a game and go back and watch the tapes of other hosts to see how they performed as a way to prepare?

Oh, absolutely! I’ll watch film and study, that will be key. I texted Drake and Peyton Manning about what their experiences were like. They both spoke very highly and positively about it and how much fun they had. I’m probably going to be more nervous for this than when I play basketball — even in the Finals — and that’s going to be interesting. But yeah, I’ll study some film and pick out some patterns and tips to make it fun. Hopefully, it will be entertaining for everybody that’s watching, everything from what we do on stage to all of the skits that we do beforehand. During the show, it will be a little bit of everything, man.

Take me back to texting Drake. What was that conversation like?

I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a “Hell no, don’t do it,” situation. And I didn’t get that from either [Drake or Manning]. It was all very positive and encouraging that it was an opportunity and experience that I would love doing.

Seeing your name as host makes a lot of sense after watching you on the HBO Max series About Last Night. I was impressed by your ease in front of the camera, and your comedic and hosting skills. Did having that experience influence your decision to take this on?

Definitely. It’s like in basketball when you have to start in the paint and make some layups before getting to the free throw line and build your confidence up. Then you can start working your way to the three-point line. Eventually you might be able to hit a half-court shot. There are steps to building your personal confidence that help you take on some of these new opportunities. I didn’t even know that hosting the ESPYs was on the radar when we filmed that show, and I’m not sure if the ESPYs watched that film and thought that’s why I could do it. Maybe that’s why they offered it to me, but we’ll never know.

There are a lot of elements to hosting, but the monologue is the heaviest lift because you’re setting the tone for the show with some comedy bits in there, maybe some callouts to current events and punchlines directed at your peers. Have you thought about what kind of monologue you want to deliver?

Honestly, I just want to be myself as much as I can. That’s the thing I picked up from Drake and Peyton. I remember watching Peyton, who has such a dry humor that was very pointed, very matter-of-fact, and his material was so good. And, you know, Drake is a born and bred entertainer. He had more flair and theatrics, I guess you could say, and I think that I will probably be somewhere in between. I don’t want to be anyone other than myself. Obviously, whoever we go after with the material during a monologue, I want to make sure that it’s something that I’m comfortable with. I’m just going to go out and have fun.

What makes Steph Curry most comfortable in the dressing room? What do you ask for?

That’s a great question. I’m very low-key. I’m actually in a trailer right now on a production situation, and I’m getting a haircut and I’ve got a Jamba Juice smoothie. That’s literally all I need to feel comfortable. Then you just got to go do your thing.

Easy enough. A fashion question for you: Have you thought about the vibe you want?

Yeah, I’ve thought about it and hopefully have a good strategy. This year saw me stretch my horizon a little bit with fashion, especially during the playoffs when I wore a bunch of Black-owned brands and took chances with different styles that I probably normally wouldn’t have before. But, I guess at the end of the day, I could probably wear everything that I wore in my GQ shoot. That might be a fashion faux pas to wear something twice, but I had a pretty good run with that spread. That might be my summertime vibe.

You have three individual ESPY nominations and one with the Golden State Warriors as best team. Which one are you most proud of?

That’s an easy answer. For me, it’s the team nomination because this team was so different than any team that’s won a championship before. The fact that we got the Larry O’Brien Trophy is first and foremost, but now that we got nominated for this award means a lot. It makes me think of the guys who hadn’t been on a playoff run before, like Andrew Wiggins, a No. 1 draft pick who maybe had been cast aside as someone who couldn’t get the job done. We got a bunch of young guys that came on the scene and really made an impact. We get to share [this nomination]. All the experts in January said that we had about a 14 percent chance of making it to the Finals. Now we’re here, it’s pretty crazy.

We’re running out of time, but I wanted to ask about your production company Unanimous Media with Erick Peyton. Unanimous signed a major global partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal. What does it signal about your Hollywood ambitions? What is your vision for your producing career moving forward?

I’m thinking long-term. Right now it’s about setting up roots and producing content around faith, family and sports for all the different mediums available from TV, film, podcasting, publishing. There are so many avenues for storytelling. I have a clear line of the type of content I want to create around those three pillars, and to have a partner like Comcast and NBCUniversal that believes in what we’re doing and wants to get behind it, it signals amazing things for the future. We’re just getting started on that front, and I’m excited to know that people believe in what we’re trying to create and that they want to invest in it and partner with us.

Will we ever see a Steph Curry biopic one day?

(Laughs.) Two years ago, if you asked me if I would ever be hosting the EPSYs, I would’ve said, “Hell no.” So I have to change my answer to this and say I don’t know when it would happen, and I’m not going to say no. So, most likely.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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