- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Landon Benton cooed as he bounced a basketball in the living room of his family’s apartment on Quincy’s south side May 23.

He and his father, Tommie Benton, bounced the ball back and forth. Every now and then, Landon would take the ball and try to munch on it, putting a little slobber on the ball before tossing it back to his dad.

In most ways, Landon is a typical 10-month-old baby boy with a huge smile and the requisite amount of baby fat on his 27-pound body. But how many babies can boast an Instagram following that is approaching 40,000 followers? Tommie and Jessica Benton’s baby boy is an Internet sensation.

Meet Stuff Curry.

Landon appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in April and was featured on ESPN on May 22 in a piece by business reporter Darren Rovell mostly because Landon bears a striking resemblance to two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Landon and Curry have the same skin tone, similar eyes and both have afro hairstyles.

“Every morning I wake up, and there’s another 1,000 people following him,” Jessica Benton said.

Landon is a hit everywhere he goes. He’s been recognized at the grocery store by total strangers. People online have written comments on his photos, saying he’s an inspiration. These days, everybody loves Stuff Curry.

The Internet fame wasn’t always positive for the Benton family. Jessica Benton saw an ugly side of the Internet before people latched onto Landon’s “Stuff Curry” identity. A blogger who loves to take photos, she decided she didn’t want to spam her friends’ Facebook feed with photos of Landon, the youngest of her five children. So, she turned to Instagram, a popular photo-sharing social media site.

One of her photos of Landon was picked up by a popular Instagram account dubbed “50 Shades of Black.” Comments there were positive. It wasn’t until a college student shared a different photo and wrote, “let’s give this Little Man a nickname” that the Bentons saw the ugliness.

“People say the weirdest things,” Jessica Benton said. “They’ll say, ‘He needs to go on a diet.’ Tell me when you’ve seen diet baby food or diet breast milk.”

Somewhere in that chain of mostly vile nickname suggestions was “Stuff Curry.” The person who dubbed Landon as “Stuff” reached out to Jessica Benton after he made his post and said he meant no ill will and merely thought he looked like Steph Curry.

Jessica Benton, who does not follow sports, had no idea who Steph Curry was. Her husband doesn’t follow sports much and only knew that Curry was a basketball player. Instead of hiding from the Internet trolls, the family embraced “Stuff Curry.”

The family has used Landon’s sudden Internet fame to help push an anti-bullying message. Jessica Benton lost one of her children last year to suicide. Kevin Charles, who spent some of his youth in Quincy, died March 8, 2015, in Beaumont, Texas.

“I don’t think Kevin died because of bullying,” Jessica Benton said. “He was loved by so many people, but those hurtful comments that people made to him when he was in high school, he really took those to heart. He was such a soft, caring person. He loved so many people. The teasing got to him, and I think that contributed to a low self-esteem and that contributed to the suicide.”

Landon, who weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces at birth, often has photo shoots with his mom a few times a week. In addition to wearing clothes supporting the Bentons’ new favorite NBA team, the Warriors, Landon will wear shirts or hats with an anti-bullying message on them.

“I don’t say it’s a specific platform that we stand on, but, man, watch what you say,” she said. “You never know how your words are going to affect someone else.”

For now, the family is happy to interact with people who can’t get enough of “Stuff Curry.” Landon will have a Golden State Warriors-themed first birthday party in July. Jessica Benton is inviting Landon’s NBA doppleganger, his wife and children to come join the fun.

“We know that he is not going to look like Steph Curry forever,” Jessica Benton said of her son. “His features are going to change. If we can make some memories now, great. We want to have fun with it.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/1VAxK4U

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

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