Movie Review: The resilience of basketball star Stephen Curry explored in Apple TV+ doc

This image released by Apple TV+ shows Stephen Curry in a scene from the documentary "Stephen Curry: Underrated." (Apple TV+ /via AP)

“Stephen Curry: Underrated” is easily one of the most inspirational movies of the year.

This is a portrait of a man — the greatest three-point shooter of all time — who has felt inferior playing the game he loves since he was a scrawny kid playing on his local under-10 team. It’s easy to roll your eyes at supermodels who say they were teased when they were kids or famous actors who look like the captain of the football team insisting they were outcasts in high school. In the rear-view mirror, when things have gone so well after that origin story, it just always rings a little false.


But in this documentary, directed by Peter Nicks and streaming on Apple TV+ Friday, the filmmakers put you in Curry’s shoes. They show you video of him on that under-10 team, indeed looking scrawnier than his counterparts and with the posture of someone who’s already self-conscious about it.

They have Reggie Miller on hand to read the draft report which says Curry is “far below NBA standard in regard to explosiveness and athleticism,” extremely short for a shooting guard position, and cautions “do not rely on him to run your team.” Ouch.

And they close in on his face at some of the biggest moments of his career, both in college and in the NBA, to show a reaction that’s neither smug nor nonchalant or overly celebratory: It’s authentic astonishment.

And as if to upend expectations even more, the present timeline of “Stephen Curry: Underrated” is not focused on a season or chasing a title — though there is plenty of basketball, including the moment he breaks the three-point record. It’s almost more about college — deciding he wanted to play at school, finding the right school for himself and, many years and championships later, studying to finish what he started, while juggling his career, his contracts and his family.

In 2009, Curry decided to leave Davidson College a year early, without graduating, to pursue professional basketball. But he made a promise his mother, Sonya, that he’d go back and finish at some point.

Curry and Davidson, like most healthy athlete-school agreements, seemed to choose one another at exactly the right time. When he got in, feeling good about himself, he went to tell his friends: They’d never even heard of the small liberal arts college in North Carolina. That was a bit disappointing but what would have been even worse is if he’d accidentally sabotaged the whole thing by not responding to coach Bob McKillop, who started to worry whether his recruit was being pursued by other schools when Curry went dark.

From high school to college on into the pros, something that struck many about Curry is how he makes a lot of mistakes but never seems to wallow in them. When he goes up against Michigan for the first time in college, he describes how everything that could go wrong went wrong. Later, his coach said he was going to start the next game. McKillop saw in his perseverance a toughness that was rare in players.

His parents, Dell and Sonya, helped shepherd that discipline but always because he wanted it — not some horrifying reversal in which the parents are the drivers of something.

You don’t need to know much about basketball or care about Steph Curry to watch this film, though many probably will. But much like the Michael Jordan doc “The Last Dance,” this beautifully constructed (and much more economical) narrative operates on its own terms, with a beautiful score guiding the viewer through his life.

As he says in a zen sort of way, he’s just, “Trying to find the space to survey my life … Let my mind think about how I got here.”

“Stephen Curry: Underrated,” an Apple TV+ release streaming Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “brief, strong language.” Running time: 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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