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Was Stephen Curry underrated? Warriors star explains why label defined early part of NBA journey

When Stephen Curry received his degree from Davidson College in August of 2022, he made a point to emphasize that after a 12-month run of crowning achievements, he still felt that he was in the prime of his career.

Less than a year later, Curry, still very much in the prime of his career, continues to add to his legacy while eying more achievements in the immediate — and distant — future. And while his story is far from complete, his origin story is the subject of “Stephen Curry: Underrated,” Apple Original Films’ feature-length documentary with a premiere set for Friday, July 21 on Apple TV+.

Ahead of the documentary’s release, The Sporting News spoke with the two-time MVP as part of a media roundtable in which he discussed the motivation behind the film, delved into the creative process of the documentary, and addressed some of the commentary that has surrounded the film’s title.

“There’s always the question of ‘why now?'” Curry said of the timing of the documentary’s release. “Having the opportunity to inspire people from all different walks (of life) — not even just a basketball or sports documentary but something that can be applicable to life and people from various backgrounds…

“…Everybody sees the finished product of where I’m at right now and what the NBA journey has been but not many people either remember or know about the Davidson timeframe of my journey.”

It’s no secret that as a “finished product,” Curry is one of the greatest the game has ever seen. That fact alone is something that quite literally no one could have predicted, even at the peak of his powers at Davidson College.

“Underrated” focuses on much more than Davidson’s run to the Elite Eight in 2008, covering the totality of Curry’s journey as an amateur athlete. That journey is juxtaposed with Golden State’s run toward the 2022 NBA title — two very different accomplishments that, when presented together, make for a compelling visual.

As Curry explained, “It’s all intertwined in terms of the way that I was speaking on each one of those accomplishments (in the 2021-22 season) and just the day-to-day grind of what motivated me. It was highlighted, accentuated, and proven to be what created success for me during those years (at Davidson).”

For those reasons, Curry calls the documentary a “great moment of reflection” because of its choices that take viewers through the lesser-known aspects of his path to greatness, including a focus on his years as an unheralded prospect that was mostly known for being the son of 16-year NBA veteran Dell Curry and former Division 1 volleyball star, Sonya.

Stephen Curry Dell Curry

That aspect of Curry’s origin story has been the source of some pushback that questions whether or not a second-generation NBA player could truly wear the “underrated” label. As Curry explained, it’s about interpretation and perspective.

“‘Underrated’ can mean a lot of different things,” Curry said of the documentary’s title. “I fully acknowledge my dad played 16 years in the league. I was around inspiration and greatness where I could see what they put into their craft on a daily basis, but my parents did an amazing job of creating perspective for us as kids early on. That was their success, it wasn’t ours. That was their reality, it wasn’t ours.”

And while the Curry family has proven that 3-point shooting may very well be genetic, Stephen doesn’t quite measure up to his dad’s height, which was especially true during his days as a high school recruit with limited scholarship opportunities and NBA hopeful with a number of knocks on his game. Just as his position allowed him an opportunity to see the blueprint of success up close, it also came with a different set of expectations.

“I didn’t pass the ‘eye test’ and I didn’t have the physical gifts that suggest that I’m an NBA player’s son and that this path is going to be easy for me to get to the next level. It was almost the exact opposite,” Curry said of how the underrated label came to be during the early part of his journey.

Stephen Curry Davidson 07122023

“I was kind of in that in between of trying to develop a confidence in myself while also acknowledging that there were almost inherent expectations that I wasn’t living up to on the timeline that people thought I was, so I had to be singularly focused on making sure I found joy in what I was doing.”

It’s that joy that allowed Curry to continuously exceed expectations while playing with a level of confidence that, at the time, may have seemed irrational but decades later, makes him one of the most entertaining players to ever play the game.

So, how does Curry, whose list of accomplishments now includes being a four-time champion, two-time MVP, and member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team keep that chip on his shoulder given all he has accomplished?

“I’m almost a creature of my own expectations now — for me it’s always about the work that I’ve put in. I can’t just show up somewhere and expect greatness,” Curry explained.

“I have that confidence because I’ve been able to deserve it through the work that I’ve put in, through the reps that I’ve put in, the grind that I stay committed to on a yearly basis to keep getting better, and that has to be the message to myself to avoid complacency because that’s human nature.

“I have to be pretty intentional about setting that as an intention to prepare myself for the next part of the journey.”

The mentality that Curry carries with him to this very day is exactly why he’s still in his prime, and why he will continue to add to his legacy.

Note: Some parts of the conversation were lightly edited for length and clarity.

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