Opinion: Stephen Curry’s coronavirus interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci is most significant move of his career

The video may not have been as entertaining as watching Stephen Curry hoist a 30-foot jumper. But the Golden State Warriors’ star just made the most significant play of his 11-year NBA career.

Curry went on Instagram Live on Thursday to talk about the coronavirus with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Nearly 50,000 viewers tuned in — including former President Barack Obama, pop star Justin Bieber, rapper Common and former teammates Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa. More will likely watch the archived version. Either way, they will have witnessed something that does not usually match what they see on social media.

They digested actual information instead of fake news. They watched something substantial on a platform that often highlights the day-to-day minutia. They became informed about an issue that could either help calm their anxieties or realize they should take this virus and the subsequent social distancing rules seriously. Though there are already a reported 82,404 cases and 1,100 deaths involving COVID-19 in the United States, Curry’s interview with Fauci could lead more people to help flatten the curve and save lives.

For nearly 28 minutes, Curry asked Fauci informed questions about COVID-19, testing and social distancing. Fauci gave precise answers to all of them.

Fauci explained the difference between the flu and the coronavirus, which he considered "much more serious." Although young people are not as vulnerable to COVID-19, Fauci argued they should still follow social distancing rules because of the rare chance they could become ill and the likely chance they could pass the virus to someone older. Fauci predicted that large events, including the NBA season, will not take place until "the country as a whole is turning that corner." Fauci told Curry he "did the right thing" to get tested for the coronavirus after the Warriors diagnosed him with the flu less than a week before the NBA suspended the season, a test Curry said came out negative.

Fauci detailed why there are not have enough test kits for everyone who has symptoms linked to the coronavirus. Fauci confirmed that warmer weather reduces the ability for most viruses to spread, but it is unclear if that applies to COVID-19. Though Fauci cautioned against businesses reopening soon, he stressed that weighing how to prioritize the health of people and the economy "is not an all or none process." Fauci expressed optimism that medical experts could develop a vaccine in time to handle a potential return of COVID-19 next winter.

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The session became as informative as watching C-SPAN. But it was hardly boring. Through it all, Warriors fans and the general public saw a different side of Curry that makes him a beloved teammate and respected leader.

They observed Curry’s playfulness. He started the chat laboring through the first 10 minutes with technical difficulties, ranging from audio issues and connecting with Fauci. Curry then praised Fauci for having a basketball hoop in the background.

They noticed Curry’s preparation. He asked probing questions as if he were a White House reporter. Even if Fauci occasionally chided Curry for his asking multiple questions at once, Fauci often complimented Curry for his intelligent inquiries.

They saw Curry’s leadership. He complimented Fauci for his efforts to inform the public about the coronavirus. He deferred to his medical expertise.

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Viewers walked away much more informed about the COVID-19 than they could have by witnessing any White House briefing. There, President Donald Trump has either misstated the severity of COVID-19 or what he has done to address the problem. He has often contradicted Fauci’s advice on the use of certain untested drugs or when it is safe for businesses to open.

It appeared that Curry focused deliberately on the issues instead of Trump. Even when Curry said publicly in 2017 that he would decline a White House invite that Trump soon rescinded, the reasons had nothing to do with Trump’s policies. It had everything to do with Curry taking offense to Trump’s divisive rhetoric about minorities, women, the disabled, white supremacists and athletes that protest racial inequality.

Instead, Curry has cared more about his actions. Therefore, it is not surprising Curry was among the Warriors’ efforts to donate $1 million to their foundation to help with paying arena and concession workers during the NBA’s suspended season. He gave an undisclosed amount of money through his foundation, "Eat, Learn, Play," to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, which plans to provide more than one million meals to children while schools are closed. Curry and his wife, Ayesha, also launched a Facebook fundraiser for Feeding America.

"I appreciate your commitment to protecting the masses and bringing your expertise and knowledge on how this virus spreads," Curry told Fauci, "and informing the people on how you should take this seriously. Thank you for your commitment."

The general public should also thank Curry for what he did — nothing more than committing the most impactful act he ever performed.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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