Director: Peter Nicks | Cast: Stephen Curry (himself), ea | Time to play: 110 minutes | Year: 2023
Small, stout, and probably not strong enough. The preliminary verdict of a player report on a young Stephen Curry was clear: The absolute top probably wouldn’t reach the current NBA star. Curry persevered and proved otherwise. In control, but not very high Stephen Curry: Underrated he looks back.
In 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022, the energetic Curry won the coveted NBA title with the Golden State Warriors. Enough material for a lyrical sports documentary, but director Peter Nicks prefers a different approach: More attention is paid to his formative years with the Davidson Wildcats varsity team, where Curry was drafted in 2009 to make his professional debut. An underrated talent grew into an absolute player, at the touch of the people who used to be closest to him.
With the focus on the ‘then’ state Stephen Curry: Underrated diametrically opposed to the flashy sports series that Netflix has since Formula 1: drive to survive create furor. Especially in the first half of the documentary, match footage is sparse, and when it does appear, the emphasis is not on sensation, but on interpretation of context (for example, by means of newspaper headlines) and moderate personal commentary. Key figures from Curry’s past have more time to talk than the leading men in today’s NBA circus.
The relatively narrow focus on Curry’s peak performance makes him all the more impressive when some footage of a training session rolls around. NBA fans know exactly what the now-experienced star has to offer, but for outsiders it will be like watching a machine in action. That said, this documentary isn’t the most engaging introduction for viewers with a more general interest. The film is rather dryly directed, with the typical talking heads and a regular alternation of archive footage and interviews (with or without voice-over).
Because of this almost boring approach, it helps if you already know Curry and would rather see his greatest achievements live, so that the documentary itself doesn’t have to excite you. Curry’s own contributions are also rather subdued and understated, as if the American sees little point in really putting himself out there. The retrospective portrait that Nicks paints between the lines is entertaining, but great. Only towards the end, when the NBA star has cleared his backlog and graduates on time, is there more room for excitement.
A more lyrical and spectacular approach would not necessarily have resulted in a better documentary, quite the contrary. The problem is more that the game clips and Curry’s contributions in this presentation lack some urgency. How does he look at these moments and, above all, what does he experience when he walks step by step that long road to and at the top? It would have made a difference if the protagonist’s words and looks during that process had appealed a little more to the imagination.