The highly anticipated Apple TV+ and A24 documentary Stephen Curry: Underestimated landed in Toronto and was screened as part of the city’s Hot Docs festival before releasing on Apple’s streaming platform in July.
Stephen Curry: Underestimated Director and producer Peter Nicks said in a Zoom call after Saturday night’s screening that Stephen Curry himself approached Nicks and producer Ryan Coogler and indicated he was ready to tell his coming-of-age story. This came amid Curry’s efforts to keep a promise he made to his mother that he would eventually graduate from college.
While it may seem like an easy decision to make a film about a four-time NBA champion, it’s actually very different from the documentaries Nicks is known for, mostly films about social issues such as social issues The waiting room And classroom.
“I was really wondering, what could I add? How can I tell Stephen’s story?” Nicks explained. “The more I learned about its history and how it came to be at this tiny college that no one had ever heard of called Davidson, and the more I thought about my work and Ryan’s work, . .. the issues really connected.”
“The feeling of being overlooked, this universal issue and idea, is one that I believe we’ve all had at some point in our lives. … That’s really why I started to dig in and think about how we were going to approach the story.”
Stephen Curry: Underestimated begins by stating that although his father, Dell, is a famous basketball player (who played for the Raptors) and his mother, Sonya, was a notable volleyball star, Curry’s physical appearance made him an outsider and “underrated.” Even as a teenager, he was considered too small and too skinny to be successful as an NBA player.
That feedback stuck with Curry, who explains in the documentary that those comments really made him understand that he was “different.” Much of the documentary focuses on Curry’s time at Davidson College, where he played under coach Bob McKillop. While Curry became a collegiate phenomenon, it was a rocky start with a 13-turnover debut that left the coaching staff wondering what they would do with him. But in Curry fashion, he started the next game and put on an impressive performance.
“Steph, he got really animated, he pulled out his phone, he showed me videos and pictures from his college days and this sense of nostalgia that he had was really fascinating to me,” Nicks said. “Also, as a Warriors and Steph fan, I realized I had never heard that part of the story.”
“That started our work to try and think about how we’re going to tell his story.”
“A very different movie if the Warriors hadn’t won a championship”
Nicks had to deal with a number of unknown factors in the making of this film.
First, he couldn’t be sure if Curry would actually graduate from college, which we see the athlete working on throughout the film. Additionally, the film was filmed just as the Golden State Warriors were winning their final NBA championship, which of course was a very living circumstance.
“As we put together the narrative for his time at Davidson, in that run in 2008 and into the NCAA tournament, we started to see that things were starting to click with the Warriors,” Nicks explained. “We started thinking about this parallel narrative.”
“Once they finally won the championship, we really had to work on the editing to try to piece that narrative together. That device that you see at the end where we jump back and forth between his time at Davidson and his time now…it really gave me chills because it really summed up his journey.
The Warriors Championship also moved some of the elements within it Stephen Curry: Underestimated. As Nicks explained on Zoom after the Toronto screening, interviews with players Allen Iverson and Muggsy Bogues were missing because “it would be a completely different movie if the Warriors hadn’t won a championship.”
“We wanted to go much deeper into this notion of underrated, undersized,” Nicks said. “We wanted to use her perspective to kind of bolster Steph’s journey, but then when the Warriors win the championship, we kind of had to rethink the narrative.”
Watching Curry with his family is particularly entertaining, including an hilarious scene where Curry and his daughters Riley and Ryan do their respective homework while his son Canon starts jumping on bubble wrap.
“So much for Steph is his family and community,” Nicks said. “There are two big themes in the film.”
“To a lot of people, which might go to their heads, … you’re the talkiest all-time, and it’s not like that for him. He is deeply connected to his family.”
There’s no denying that Curry is special, his tenacity and humility come through in a way Stephen Curry: Underestimated is organized, with unique editing to show his journey visually. At least it’s always entertaining to watch Curry shoot three-pointers.
The Hot Docs Festival in Toronto takes place from April 27th to May 7th. The next screenings of Stephen Curry: Underrated are on May 5th and 6th. The film will also be available on Apple TV+ on July 23.