SAN FRANCISCO — Oh yes, Stephen Curry always heard the noise, the constant scrutiny about his size and stature and how he looked years younger than most everybody else coming out of college.
He decided to embrace it, to make it his mantra: Underrated. And now one of the NBA’s biggest stars is sharing the story of his basketball beginnings and how being doubted eventually ended up fueling his pursuit to become one of the greatest players ever for Golden State. He still carries that chip when he takes the court today.
“That underrated kind of mindset and being undersized and all that was a badge of honor at a certain point and you kind of flip it on the head,” Curry said this week ahead of Friday’s release of his Apple TV+ documentary, "Stephen Curry: Underrated.”
“That’s where the faith of, ‘OK if I apply myself I can be as good as the next guy even though I don’t look the part.’”
He led Davidson College's improbable run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in 2008.
A year later when Curry went head-to-head with Patty Mills in a second-round NIT game as a junior at Davidson and lost at Saint Mary’s College, little did the basketball-crazed Bay Area realize the dynamic point guard was simply providing a preview of what he had in store at the next level right here in Northern California.
Curry believed he could be a star. He was driven by the chatter everywhere he went that he was too small and might not make it in the NBA — he’d already earned “The Baby-Faced Assassin” nickname years earlier as a schoolboy in Toronto.
“I definitely knew, I definitely heard it,” he said. “I fought it for a while, but then you finally embrace it and then you turn it into kind of an unlock of, ’OK, this is my challenge, this is my reality,' but what can I do to kind of overcome the challenges of trying to be successful at this craft where in theory it might require you to look a certain way or have a certain physical attribute or whatever the case was.
"It unlocked for me a work ethic in developing my skill set that has carried me through my entire career.”
The national scoring leader in his final college season, Curry finished that showdown against Mills with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists on March 23, 2009, in Moraga. All these years later he plays across the bay from the suburb in the East Bay hills.
Now a two-time MVP, NBA Finals MVP last year and four-time NBA champion, Curry’s latest big project will focus on his time before turning pro.
“I feel like it’s a great moment of reflection. We talk a little bit about the NBA accomplishments, but it all is through the lens of what helped me develop that underrated mindset while I was at Davidson and why I still talk about it and still refer to it even now," he said. "It’s always a part of my DNA because that’s how I truly learned how to approach the game and find my own identity in this world.”
In May of last year, Curry completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology at Davidson and received his diploma. He still cherishes everything he learned from Davidson coach Bob McKillop, who typically comes to see Curry play about once a season.
Reflecting on his college years and even hearing others recall their memories of those special seasons has meant a lot to the 35-year-old Curry, the league’s all-time 3-point leader who has emerged as one of the biggest faces in professional sports.
Curry hopes that his story could motivate others who have been overlooked in pursuing whatever their passion might be.
“It was always the question of ‘Why now?’” Curry said of making the film. “It was having the opportunity to inspire people from all different walks, not even just a basketball or a sports documentary but something that can be applicable to life and any walk of life and people of various backgrounds."