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Zen and the art of basketball: an evening with Stephen Curry and director Gotham Chopra

“He’s very present. You know he’s very Christian...but I joke that he’s almost Buddhist also.” Upcoming docuseries will show a deeper, personal look at Curry

“Typically as a storyteller, you are always looking for conflict. With guys like Kobe Bryant that’s easy to find. But with Steph? He’s a conflict-free guy. There wasn’t any of that. So at some point we realize that this is more of a celebration -this guys love of the game, love of his family is the story.”

I was tucked away in the back of an abandoned rail station in West Oakland - not that you could tell now. They had brought power in, added furniture, an open bar, and a popcorn machine. Sitting across from me was Gotham Chopra, the director behind Stephen Curry’s upcoming docuseries, Steph vs. the Game, premiering May 2nd on Facebook Watch. I had asked him about working with Curry, and who was driving the overarching narrative.

I’m not a reporter,” Chopra continued. “It’s not like I’m there fishing for a story. I’m a partner, a film maker who’s got a great subject.” When Curry was on stage earlier in the night, one of the reasons he gave for even acquiescing to such an invasive film making process was that he wanted to “control my story... to the extent that I can.” So I was curious to hear about the nuts and bolts of how this works. No, Chopra clarified, Curry is “very much the real deal.” This series is a true capture of Curry’s personality and interactions with those that are closest to him; but it’s not fake. These aren’t “put on” pre-scripted events, but a real and honest look at what it’s like within Curry’s inner circle.

Check out the trailer:

Stephen vs The Game - Premiering 5/2

The ultimate access to the ultimate champion. Meet the man who ruined the game and follow Stephen Curry's journey on and off the court. Stephen vs The Game, premieres 5/2 only on Facebook Watch.

Posted by Versus On Watch on Friday, March 29, 2019

You’ve probably seen it by now, Curry’s list of best NBA players, or his quip about Kerr was the toughest defender he’s faced. I was posted up in the corner, leaning against a wall between the door to the outside and a popcorn machine that was an endearing Curry-centric nod. Breathing in the heady scent of high end marijuana wafting in through the door mixed with the familiar buttery popcorn smell while watching this glossy production unfold, I felt like the outside observer that I was. This wasn’t my world, but it sure was interesting getting such personal insight from Curry.

Being there, I got to see first hand that context behind those quotes. How Curry demurred calling himself the greatest shooter of all time, how he refused to single out players as especially troublesome of easy to play against. And this nuanced approach to greatness seems to be on full display in Steph vs. The Game.

“When we first floated ideas, we wanted to call it Curry vs. Goliath. In keeping with my stature and what not. But... we kinda became Goliath with our recent success... So it’s more about me, playing true to myself, being true to myself. Ruin the game, you know?”

Curry was referring the the infamous jab from ex-coach Mark Jackson, who (wrongly) insinuated that Curry’s carefree play style and willingness to take crazy shots was “ruining the game.”

Curry, according to Chopra, is trying to “balance his fame with what he wants to share” so this upcoming docuseries is incredibly interesting to a guy like me, who will likely never get the chance to sit with Curry one-on-one and chat him up. Both Curry and Chopra were clear - multiple times - that this is not a reality show. “We aren’t trying to capture every angle, capture every sounds bite... it’s being there at the right time, when he’s comfortable sharing.”

Get up, Steph. Stand up!

The screening I attended showed the first episode, and the opening of this series is still sticking with me days later. It’s clearly from an old home movie. The viewer sees what must be father, Dell Curry’s legs splayed out on the floor and infant Stephen, pacifier in mouth, turning his wobbly little head to the sound of his father’s voice - “Get up Steph. Come on. Stand up.” After some prodding, baby Curry does indeed stand (with great difficulty) and then quickly plops on his butt and stares back with a blank face.

The camera fades into a muted roar of a crowd and shifts to a behind-the-shoulder look as Curry, now fully a man, strides onto the court at Oracle Arena. This is the first true look we’ve gotten at this depth into Curry. A superstar in every sense of the word, that still manages to maintain a saint-like humility.

“He’s very present. You know he’s very Christian...but I joke that he’s almost Buddhist also,” Chopra chuckled. “He’s very Zen. He’s got a presence, a constant sense of the bigger picture that always seems to keep him from getting too high or too low. It’s obviously part of what makes him so successful on the basketball court, and I see that off the court too. That’s why the relationships within his family are so strong, he’s very balanced. He’s got a presence, like ‘I’m here’ no matter what he’s doing.”

People know who Steph Curry is, but this upcoming docuseries will be one of our best chances to hear his “voice.” From what I saw of it, you can see Steph evolving and maturing, so getting the opportunity to be as close to inside it as possible makes for an incredibly interesting narrative.

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