If you share Academy Award-winning director Leon Gast's (WHEN WE WERE KINGS, 1996) love of the game of basketball, you'll also enjoy this informative 2003 documentary. Gast traces the rich history of the game from its unassuming beginnings to its present day incarnation, where millionaire athletes play ball under a media microscope. Punctuated by interviews with past and present superstar players and coaches, the film presents a rich history of the game, giving fans and non-fans alike an enlightening glimpse into the origins and development of the game. Gast journeys back to the Jewish leagues of the early 20th century as well as the first all-black professional team, the Rens, before discussing the Harlem Globetrotters, whom many consider to be the forefathers of the NBA. Old footage of the original leagues (?) -- playing in dance halls, not arenas -- make for an entertaining juxtaposition to the electric modern day highlights Gast intersperses throughout the film. In one exciting segment, Gast deftly segues (from?) to "street ball" that highlights the extraordinary skills of the predominantly Harlem-based players who were greatly admired by both neighborhood fans and professional players. Especially poignant is the profile of one player who turned down an NBA contract and went from street-ball superstar to present-day drug user, never to play ball again. The film then shifts its focus to high-school basketball, particularly as its played in Indiana, where the game is worshipped, and then graduates to the frenzied passion of college ball. But while Gast clearly shares the fans' love of the game, his concerns over the changes occurring in basketball begin to surface when he addresses the subject of freshman eligibility and what it could do to college basketball and, in the long run, the NBA. The love of money also becomes an issue, thanks to comments made by such star players as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson; referencing the all-mighty shoe endorsement, the film also explores the current emphasis on individual players over the team. (Stay tuned through the credits for an amusing story which puts today's superstar salaries in perspective.) On the whole, Gast's film offers an entertaining and informative look at the evolution of basketball and its cultural influence that will leave viewers wondering what the future will hold for a game that, since the inception of "big-time basketball," has changed so drastically.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: PG
- Review: If you share Academy Award-winning director Leon Gast's (WHEN WE WERE KINGS, 1996) love of the game of basketball, you'll also enjoy this informative 2003 documentary. Gast traces the rich history of the game from its unassuming beginnings to its present d… (more)