Brandon Payne has worked with NBA superstar Stephen Curry for nearly a decade. He was there before the championships, before the MVP awards and before the shoe deal; spending long days in the gym to help Curry master his game, and in the process, transcend the standards of basketball greatness.
It is with this shared experience cultivating greatness that Curry and Payne recently launched the Underrated Tour, a first-of-its-kind series of basketball camps designed to help overlooked prep athletes elevate their skills and gain exposure.
Along with Curry, Payne worked to create a two-day training course that combines physical development, complex skill workouts and team competition, along with preparatory resources that enable participants to take their basketball journeys to the next level.
Stephen Curry, giving back
Aligning with Rakuten’s guiding principle of empowerment and track record of disruptive innovation, the Underrated Tour represents an entirely new setting for both players and coaches to cultivate and discover talent.
It’s a project Stephen Curry launched because he can relate to the young athletes he’s highlighting.
“This is Steph’s brainchild,” said Payne before kicking off the first tour stop on January 19 in Los Angeles. “As he was coming up through high school, he wasn’t a very highly-rated guy. He was a guy that had to really work for his opportunities and to get noticed.”
“It’s always been a passion of his and now he has the ability to put it into action. That’s why we’re here today,” added Payne of what inspired Curry. “This is something that he’s long wanted to do to give back.”
It starts with heart
Curry’s path to greatness was different from the usual top prospect. Repeatedly overlooked by college scouts and deemed “undersized,” he tirelessly worked on his game to become one of the most skilled players the game has ever seen.
Beyond what any tape measure could record, what burned within Curry was the desire to be great. When partnering with Rakuten to put the Underrated Tour together, Curry and Payne set out with the intended goal of finding players that share the same drive.
“You’ve got to have the heart and the desire to want to improve every day, because it is a process,” Payne stressed. “It’s learning how to assess daily improvement. How to extract improvement out of bad days. It’s hard to put it in somebody, but if they’ve got that foundation, a pretty good bit of skill and some heart, then you can mold them and put them on the right path.”
“Part of the fun of working with Stephen for the last nine, ten years, has been is that he doesn’t look like LeBron. He doesn’t have these big, physically imposing attributes, but he’s made himself the best player in the game,” said Payne of what makes Curry special. “He’s worked himself to that. He’s done it by overcoming adversity. He’s done it by carrying that chip on his shoulder. He’s done it by being detailed and driven in every aspect of his training, and I’m hoping some of that rubs off on these players.”
“But they’ve got to have it inside them,” he was quick to point out. “You can’t want it more than they do. If you as a coach or a trainer want them to be more successful than they want to be, then it’s just never going to work.”
How the tour empowers players
Curry and Payne’s curriculum establishes a baseline for players to work on beyond the two-day event. By experiencing what goes into the work of an athlete of Curry’s caliber and learning Payne’s training techniques, players will understand how to push their own boundaries. Much of any sport is mental, however, and Payne wants players to use their underdog status as motivation.
“You’ve got to find lessons, even through setbacks,” said Payne of the Underrated Tour’s ultimate goal. “Hopefully everybody will take away some small things about how to get your body prepared to get ready to play, how to be intelligent through game situations and how to be a good teammate even in unfamiliar surroundings. We’re also giving them some things to take with them, the drills I use with Stephen — warm-up stuff, ball handling, footwork — what’s so important to us.”
“With this process, by grouping overlooked players in this way, we feel we are giving them more of a chance to shine,” Payne concluded. “It’s a chance to show the side of their game that maybe they haven’t had a chance to show in the past. That’s how you eventually get noticed. You’ve got to have the exposure. You’ve got to have the opportunity to be showcased and to show your talent. Especially for guys that might not be as physically gifted or developed as some of the guys they’re going against. So we want to make sure they take that away from this.”
The Underrated Tour is currently running through seven cities throughout the United States. For more information on the tour visit here.