Moving Pictures
Jul 31, 2023, 06:27AM

Basketball Celebrations

It’s surprising how much is missing in Stephen Curry: Underrated​​​​​​​.

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The 10-part Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, which debuted in 2020, led to an endless series similar series about basketball stars and history. What’s notable is that most of those docs have lifted various elements from the Jordan film, from subject matter to filmmaking techniques. Stephen Curry: Underrated is the latest, and it begins by grabbing one of The Last Dance’s most ubiquitous innovations: An interview subject is handed an iPad, watches a clip, and reacts to it on camera. In this case, the interviewee is basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, and the iPad includes a scouting report for Curry, predicting that he’d be too short, skinny and soft to ever play guard in the NBA.

Steph Curry has been one of the best basketball players in the world for about 15 years now, so to call him “underrated” is a stretch that really requires going back to a time before his pro career. In between depictions of Curry breaking the three-point record, finally getting his college degree, and winning another NBA title in 2021, the film concentrates on Curry’s college career. The central section provides a blow-by-blow of the 2008 NCAA tournament run with Davidson that first made Curry a household name. A lot of the footage is compelling, and it’s enjoyable to watch the way Curry rose from boy to man. But the film doesn’t go that deep—and leaves out a lot of compelling angles.

Throughout, Underrated moves back and forth through time, employing a strange editing device in which it looks like a VHS is rewound and fast-forwarded. We see other aspects of Curry’s life in the modern-day scenes, whether he’s working on a college thesis, spending time with his kids, or shooting a commercial for Subway.

Directed by Peter Nicks, produced by Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler and now streaming on Apple TV+ after a Sundance debut, Underrated was produced in collaboration with A24- which is apropos, since Curry is the A24 of basketball players. More notable is that Curry’s own production outfit, Unanimous Media, is involved too. So we’re not likely to see much that goes beyond Curry’s preferred narrative.

Stephen Curry: Underrated begins and ends with celebrations. First, a party to celebrate Curry breaking the three-pointer record—visited, briefly, by Curry’s old teammate Kevin Durant—and finally, Curry’s one-man graduation ceremony from Davidson, which doubled as a jersey retirement. But it’s surprising how much is missing.

Curry’s parents, Sonya and Dell, are featured heavily in the film, and while the contemporary scenes mostly take place in 2021 and 2022, you’d have no idea from the film that the two of them were going through a divorce at the time, the one that inspired the great “You don’t wanna be out there” Twitter thread. Not much is said about Curry’s usually vocal Christianity, or his mechanics as a basketball player. I’d like to hear how he became the greatest three-point shooter to ever play the game.

That Under Armour shoe he endorsed, that was almost universally derided? His endorsement of Joe Biden for president? Not a word about either.


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