When Stephen Curry and Brandon Payne get together, they rarely focus on just conditioning.
Instead, Payne, Curry’s personal trainer, puts the Warriors star through rigorous drills designed to improve skill while also getting the 34-year-old point guard some wind work.
The result: arguably the most well-conditioned player in the NBA.
Particularly in this year’s run to the NBA Finals, where the Golden State Warriors will look to even the series against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 Friday, Curry’s fitness designation that has come up time and time again.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has frequently raved about it, noting that Curry not only runs relentlessly on offense but also withstands defenses trying to wear him down.
“He just doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality, and defense,” Kerr told reporters after Game 2 of the Finals. “People go at him to try to wear him down because they know how important he is to us offensively, and it’s pretty dramatic the difference in Steph’s strength and physicality and his body now than from eight years ago when I first got here. The guy is amazing; he just keeps working on his game, his strength, his conditioning, year after year.”
During the Western Conference Finals, Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd called Curry “the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA.”
ESPN announcers Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, who coached Curry for three years, regularly rave during broadcasts about Curry’s conditioning. Opponents frequently call Curry one of the toughest guards because of his tireless movement.
So, how does Curry get there?
Curry’s mind-boggling drills
Payne told Insider that Curry’s shooting drills often pit a score against a time, meaning Curry has to reach a certain mark within a certain time frame.
One example: “Full-Court Star.”
During this drill, Curry runs to opposite ends of the court: corner to corner, left wing to left wing, right wing to right win, corner to corner, then back to the top of the keys, shooting three-pointers at each spot. He has to do this in 55 seconds and make at least eight of his 10 attempts.
This is what a “Full-Court Star” looks like.
Payne said Curry beats the drill routinely, but if he loses, he shoots two free throws and does it again.
Payne also told Insider about a drill called “Six,” wherein Curry runs from the corner on one end of the court to the opposite end and must make six three-pointers in 55 seconds. Again, Curry regularly beats it.
Lest these drills sound easy, even other NBA players struggle with this type of workout.
While promoting the movie “Hustle” on “Jake’s Takes,” Minnesota Timberwolves star guard Anthony Edwards revealed that he failed a pre-draft workout with the Warriors while going through a drill Curry does.
“I’m doing this drill that they say Steph be doing,” Edwards began. “I’m running, touching the line, shoot. Running, touching the line, shoot. You’ve got to make five in a row. I couldn’t do it. I’m too tired. I’m like, ‘Man, it’s just too much.’ But I’m not saying this, so I’m just jogging. After the workout, Steve [Kerr] comes to me like, ‘You can’t go any faster?’ I’m like, ‘I thought I was going pretty fast.’ He was like, ‘Nah, do it again.'”
Edwards said he attempted to go faster, but Kerr said it still wasn’t fast enough. So Edwards began sprinting through the drill.
“Now I’m trying to sprint, and now I’m looking all crazy – missing left, missing right. So then we go to dinner and he’s telling me, ‘Man, if we’re going to draft you at No. 2, you’ve got to be a hard worker. You ain’t working hard enough.'”
Edwards said he called his trainer and said he needed to work harder, as Curry does.
Payne wasn’t surprised by Edwards’ recollection of the drill.
“Stephen does every drill like his hair is on fire,” Payne said. “The guy moves at such an incredible pace.
“You know, he’s already won two MVPs. He’s already won three championships. He’s been an All-Star over and over and over again. He’s got the three-point record. He’s done all of these things. He’s accomplished all these things. He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars in this game, and he still goes through every drill like he’s trying to make a roster.”
Curry has increasingly focused on his body to extend the prime of his career. A broken wrist in 2019, followed by the suspension for the pandemic in 2020, meant Curry played just one game in 12 months, a break he said allowed him to refresh. This season, Curry added more muscle to withstand the rigors of the season and handle opponents’ physicality.
Now, his durability is going to be tested. Curry is averaging 31 points per game on a blistering 49% three-point shooting in the Finals. Yet the Warriors find themselves down 2-1 in the series to a bigger, longer Celtics defense that has choked the Warriors half-court offense.
Curry is banged-up, yet might need to play more, as Kerr searches for answers from the rest of his roster. Can Curry do it?
“If he had to play 48 minutes, he could,” Payne said. “It’s the Finals. There’s no reason not to.”