The new Stephen Curry documentary “Underrated” opens with Basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller reading pre-draft scouting reports on Curry from 2009.
“Far below NBA standard in regard to explosiveness and athleticism.” … “At 6-2, he’s extremely small for the NBA shooting guard position.” … “Do not rely on him to run your team.” … “Can overshoot and rush into shots. Doesn’t like when defenses are too physical with him.” … “Not a great finisher around the basket due to his size and physical attributes.”
The documentary then segues into a Golden State Warriors game against the New York Knicks on Dec. 14, 2021, the game in which Curry broke the NBA’s all-time record for made 3-pointers in a career. The scene ends with a celebration of family and friends at a New York restaurant.
Even though he was the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, no one expected Curry to become one of the greatest players in NBA history and the face of a Warriors dynasty. No one anticipated Curry turning into the best long-distance shooter in league history and altering the way basketball is played with his 3-point shooting.
Even Curry had his doubts at one time.
“I could not have ever imagined that this would be a reality,” Curry says in “Underrated,” set for release in select theaters and Apple TV+ on Friday.
In the film, he says he asks himself “How did I get here?” unintentionally referencing the Talking Heads’ song “Once in a Lifetime.”
“My mind goes to those places and I think about everything,” said Curry, who has proven himself a once in a lifetime player. Much of the film focuses on Curry’s college recruitment, his years at Davidson and surprising development into a lottery pick.
I sat down with Curry and Davidson coach Bob McKillop on a video conference call to discuss “Underrated.”
The Steph Curry-Davidson experience Q: What was it like reliving those Davidson moments?
Bob McKillop: “No surprise. Joy! Wow, don’t they know that’s Steph Curry?”
Steph Curry: “It’s a great moment of reflection because Coach has still been a part of my life since I left. And in the last, what, 15 years since I left school to then go back to before I even stepped foot on campus and all that led up to the decision to go Davidson and the belief that Coach had in me from day one. Just the community that was built around our team and the program that he – was it 34 years Coach you spent building, pouring your life into? So all that stuff is just special to kind of put into the framework of this documentary.”
McKillop’s everlasting faith in Curry Curry had 13 turnovers in his first game as a freshman at Davidson in 2006-07. Curry wondered if McKillop would bench him for the second game. He didn’t, and Curry had 32 points, nine rebounds and four assists in that next game against Michigan.
Q: Why didn’t you bench him?
McKillop: “In the summer of prior to his (high school) senior year, he was in a tournament in Las Vegas, and it was in an auxiliary gym. In the main gym were all the high-profile prospects and high-profile coaches were watching. Whereas in this back auxiliary gym, there were very few coaches. Stephen turned the ball over, missed shots, got beat defensively. Never once did he lament a mistake. Never once did he criticize an opponent. Never once did he question an official. He went to the bench, and he cheered his teammates on. He looked in his coach’s eyes directly during every timeout. He transcended time. He transcended experience. He did not let anything interrupt him. He was in a starting lineup on opening day because we believed that he transcended time and transcended mistakes. … He got us to believe in him.”
Q: Steph, I know this is a huge hypothetical, but you brought it up. Do you think your trajectory is different if he makes a decision to do something different with your playing time and minutes?
Curry: “I 100% do believe my trajectory would be a little different had he not acknowledged or been aware and believed in the patterns that he saw in me, to have confidence that I would find a way to push through some of those learning curves and those tough times based on how I approached everything.”
Finding ways to get the best from Steph Curry McKillop understood how to motivate Curry from his first practice through his last game at Davidson. He often put Curry on the spot in front of his teammates.
Q: How did you embrace the way he challenged you?
Curry: “I absolutely loved it. One thing is, he knew I worked and I wasn’t afraid of many environments or moments or challenges. … He was putting me to the test early to see how I would respond to the adversity that was eventually going to hit me at some point at that level. I embraced it all through all the ups and the downs. And it all comes back to, again, just the way that you apply yourself to anything and the work that you put in, that you earned that confidence to push through those lessons that you’ve got learn. He was going to make sure I was exposed to as many of them throughout those three years.”
Q: Bob, how did you know how to challenge him in ways that wouldn’t turn him in another direction?
McKillop: “Stephen checked the boxes beyond talent and one of the boxes that he checked was coachability. He wanted to get better, he wanted to be coached, he wanted to be taught toughness.”
One memorable season for Curry, McKillop and Davidson In 2007-08, Davidson finished 29-7 after a 4-6 start. They won 19 consecutive regular-season games, three consecutive Southern Conference tournament games and extended it to 25 straight with three wins in the NCAA Tournament coinciding with Curry’s rise to one of the best college players in the country. In the regional final against Kansas with a spot in the Final Four on the line, Davidson had a chance to win but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. McKillop said in the documentary it was “as if you never wanted the ride to end.”
In some sense, the ride has continued. Curry, McKillop and Davidson are forever connected in what has turned out to be a remarkable story.
Curry: “I’m aware Davidson is a badge of honor everywhere I go in terms of representing the program that coach created. I always say that Coach was the best, not just coaching the basketball player and the athlete, but coaching the person and the life skills that he provided for you to have on and off the court. So I carry all of that with me everywhere I go, and that’s part of the Davidson pride. … And you never want to forget where you came from. So there’s always a great reminder of that.”
McKillop: “Because of the way he lives his life, I’m convinced he’s one of the greatest leaders in the history of our country and the history of our world with the impact he’s had on people. Look at the way the game has changed, and the game has changed dramatically. … For him to be able to have that kind of impact on this game that’s been around for a hundred years is a rather extraordinary statement about this very average-size human being, and he is able to give people an example. And that’s why so many kids embrace him because they can see themselves being Stephen Curry.”
Curry reflects on career: No one does it alone Near the end of “Underrated,” Curry contemplates the career he has had, and understands that as much work as he has put in to become the player and person he is, he doesn’t get from there to here without help.
Curry: “If you walked into a gym and saw me 20 years ago, there’s no way you’d think any of this is possible. And that feeling of being overlooked or underrated will always be part of the drive that keeps me going. But also I’ve just been blessed to have so many people in my life that took the time to get the sense of who I really was. I’ll remember that forever.”