Editor’s note: This review was originally published at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It will be streaming Friday on Apple +.
As I did, you probably looked at the title and might have been puzzled at the words Steph Curry and underrated being put in the same sentence. At 34 years of age and 13 years with the Golden State Warriors, Curry is regarded as the best shooter of all time. His long list of accolades includes four NBA championships, two NBA MVPs, and an NBA finals MVP. His style has completely changed the game of basketball – making three-point shooting a necessity. So, would you believe that earlier in his career, he was supremely overlooked, and this story had a significant chance of possibly not being written?
Steph Curry: Underrated is not only a sports documentary that proclaims his ability to break out of the nearsightedness of what a “prototypical” NBA star could look like, but the importance of community. Director Peter Nicks places the spotlight on Curry himself, but makes his family and former coaches and teammates at Dayton University an equal part of his story. The documentary begins with Pacers legend Reggie Miller reading a scouting report discounting Curry’s size and ending with the words, “Do not rely on him to run your team.” It then switches to that December 14th, 2021, a night at Madison Square Garden, where Curry broke the all-time three-point record in a game versus the New York Knicks. Like many stories, this journey was marked by adversity and figuring out where he fits.
Much of the documentary switches between stories of Curry’s earlier years and the 2022 NBA season. Steph’s mother and father, Sonya and Dell Curry tell stories about his younger days when he was skinnier than many other players. However, Steph always knew he could shoot, which would be his advantage over people bigger than him. It wasn’t always a prosperous time – Dell and Steph speak about one summer when the greatest shooter on the planet had trouble figuring out his shot technique.
When he excelled at Charlotte Christian School, his success was confined to local means. When his want to go to Virginia Tech fell through, and other colleges didn’t come calling, this led him to Davision College, where now former head coach Robert “Bob” McKillop felt he could be a corner piece of the program. Nicks also blends in elements of Steph Curry during a 2022 season where many sports pundits were saying the Warriors were past their prime on the way to winning the NBA Finals. There, Steph is also working on finishing his Davidson degree – due to him declaring the draft his junior year. A big David and Goliath narrative is built within Underrated – one that sports fans and others love.
However, one of the messages this documentary provides is that while Curry has incredible self-confidence and work ethic through his extensive practices and work, his inner circle of family, friends, and faith all help to make that stick inside of him. Brief moments are shown with his wife, Ayesha, his two daughters, Riley and Ryan, and his son Canon. You can see where that sense of peace comes from inside of him.
The main crux of Underrated is based on Davidson’s 2008 Cinderella run to the Elite Eight. But even before then, things weren’t easy. Curry recalls his first freshman year when practices went rough, and he committed 10+ turnovers in his first game. Even then, coach McKillop allows him to play through it, and as Steph comes into his own, so does the team. Considering that Curry has a typical college experience (they said during that 2088 NCAA Tournament they would go back to the hotel and do homework), you can see why humility and coolness are still inside of him.
So, yes, Steph Curry was looked upon as somebody who wouldn’t be able to handle the next level. The documentary mixes Curry’s Davidson footage with some of the 2022 playoff run, where much of his play would elevate the Warriors to beat the Boston Celtics. It’s crazy to think Curry still has detractors, but this is proof that some people will jump on the bandwagon way after the promise of somebody is shown.