THE STORY – The remarkable coming-of-age story of Stephen Curry, one of the most influential, dynamic, and unexpected players in basketball history, and his rise from an undersized college player to a four-time NBA champion.
THE CAST – Stephen Curry, Bob McKillop & Jason Richards
THE TEAM – Peter Nicks (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
The effects of the Michael Jordan documentary series “The Last Dance” remain lingering three years after its release. It’s not that sports documentaries since “The Last Dance” aren’t good; they fail at trying to replicate what made that story so special. Besides being one of the more seminal works to release during the pandemic, there was something so fascinating about watching a legend like Michael Jordan in all his highs and lows. In general, it’s incredibly satisfying to watch people excel in talents not only they are great at but on a level that little to no one can compete with. When you think of great NBA superstars now, you think of Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Stephen Curry. The term underrated doesn’t come to mind when you think of these players whatsoever. Well, documentarian Peter Nicks is here to ensure that it’s brought up in the conversation about Curry’s career so far.
“Stephen Curry: Underrated” follows the nine-time NBA All-Star during two seminal periods in his life. One period is Curry as he fully dedicates himself as a young man in high school to the game of basketball. This eventually leads to his time at Davidson College and their iconic 2008 NCAA Tournament run. The other period focused on in the film is Curry’s 2021-2022 NBA season with the Golden State Warriors. A year filled with highlights (including winning his fourth NBA title), but it was ultimately one of the most difficult regular seasons of Curry’s career. The film also highlights other moments from Curry’s life off the basketball court, such as his life as a family man and finally attempting to finish his college degree. It leads to some of the more personally engaging aspects of the film, albeit it always comes second to the basketball highlights. Curry’s play style is perfect for film, as it’s incredibly splashy. Watching Nicks put together endless montages of Curry dropping three-pointers and making highlight plays is always entertaining.
Nicks takes advantage of Curry’s current status in the world of sports and sells you on the idea that he was once an underdeveloped athlete. This is captured through Nick’s use of testimonials from the coaches during Curry’s time at Davidson and even Curry’s parents, who were very important in shaping him as an adult. You see the undersized prospect slowly developing his skills and adapting to the game at another level. The film is also edited incredibly well. Towards the end of the film, a memorable montage perfectly cuts between Curry’s past and present. Curry replicates the mannerisms he’s preciesly imbued, but he’s an entirely different player. It’s amazing to see the vast growth he’s made over his career. Knowing who Curry is now, it’s hard to be sold on the concept that he’s underrated. That’s where the problems arise.
The inherent issue with “Stephen Curry: Underrated” is that it comes off as a bit of a vanity project. Everything with Curry’s past is interesting and earns the term “underrated.” The same cannot be said during the film’s current timeline, which begins with Curry breaking the All-Time NBA three-point record. It would’ve been far more compelling if the film focused on his first few years in the NBA. The beginning of Curry’s NBA career (fresh off the Davidson hype) was riddled with injuries that made it seem the player he worked so hard to become would be gone instantly. It happens to so many players that enter the NBA. The journey to see Curry finally mature into the greatest three-point shooter of all time and win his first NBA Championship would’ve been far more engrossing. It would’ve also meshed far better with the Davidson College timeline. Instead, the film chooses to focus on Curry when he’s already a three-time NBA champion and All-Star. By this time in his career, Curry has already fundamentally changed modern basketball and solidified himself as a future Hall of Famer. He’s also still playing well at thirty-five years of age as we speak.
Maybe that’s the problem with documenting a player who still has so much to give. Seeing Jordan so removed from his career in “The Last Dance” provides perspective. The relationships sacrificed, and the personal struggles gave a levity to the man behind the myth. What comes as a cost for greatness? “Stephen Curry: Underrated” never bothers to get beneath the surface and ultimately gives off an artificial gloss in the form of great highlights. The film never goes in-depth into the struggles of balancing Curry’s family life or his progression into his academic aspirations (which lends to the only emotional moment of the film). It’s hard to dislike the film when the subject is genuinely one of the most spectacular entertainers in sports. Once upon a time, Curry was underrated, but times have changed, and that notion now is far from believable.