More Basketball Documentaries: Iverson, Telfair and Bias

July 29, 2010 in Basketball, Movie Reviews, NBA

Since watching Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell on YouTube the other night, I’ve suddenly developed an urge to devour mote basketball documentaries.

And thanks to this excellent article on the Top 10 Best Basketball Documentaries of All-Time, I have watched 3 more in the last couple of days!  Here’s what I thought of each of them:

Through the Fire

This is a 2005 documentary which follows the life of Coney Island playground superstar Sebastian Telfair in his final year of high school.  As most probably know, Telfair had committed to attend college at Louiseville, only to reneg and head straight to the NBA (selected 13th overall by the Portland Trailblazers).

Through the Fire is a very solid film, and it’s not only because of the spectacular basketball footage (man, the kid had some serious promise).  The central focus is on Telfair’s background and his tight-knit family, which provides a very raw and emotional surge to just about every scene.  It’s also a commentary on the life of many African-American males growing up in the projects, and how they all hope one day to make into the NBA so they can buy their mothers a new house and give their families a better life.  The secondary characters, such as Telfair’s brothers and his coach, are clearly guys who are trying to live their dreams through him.  There were a couple of really stinging scenes in there likely to either make you sigh or make your eyes watery — especially the climax when Sebastian finally makes it to the NBA.

However, it wasn’t an entirely pleasing or sugar-coated depiction of Telfair’s family.  You do get to see the ugly side of the basketball star and the attitude problems that would continue to plague him in the future (as he keeps bouncing around from team to team in the NBA without ever being more than “average”).  Reading online it amazes me how Telfair can say he supports 17 relatives in his family and yet continue to do one stupid off-court thing after another.  It’s another sad reflection of what happens to some athletes once they finally make it big.

4/5

[PS: entire film available in parts on YouTube]

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson


Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Allen Iverson plays with unparalleled passion and is perhaps, pound-for-pound, the toughest athlete in the history of the game.  Personally, he’s always been one of my favourite basketball stars.  At 6’0″ (in sneakers) and 165 lbs (soaking wet), it amazes me how Iverson could have accomplished all he has in the NBA (MVP, Finals appearance, scoring champ, etc).

Anyway, I initially thought No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (a very new documentary) was about the “trial” of Iverson’s life, through all the ups and downs.of his NBA career  But no, this was actually about the real legal trial Iverson had to go through in high school, when he was charged with assault during a group brawl at a bowling alley.  It’s a fascinating look into racial politics in America, and you get the polarizing views of both the black and white communities.  For those who didn’t know about this dark chapter of Iverson’s past, they really should check it out.

This film was made and narrated by a white guy, so it’s interesting to see through his eyes.  I kind of wished the scope of the film would be broader though, and capture more of Iverson’s illustrious career.

3.5/5

[PS: entire film available in parts on YouTube]

Without Bias


This was the most haunting of them all.  Len Bias was considered the best college prospect in the country back in 1986.  Some scouts believed he was better than the other top prospect, Michael Jordan.  It was hard to argue, considering Bias was taller, stronger, and a better shooter than Jordan at that stage of their respective careers.

However, just two days after being drafted number 2 overall to a Celtics team that had just won the championship, Bias tragically died from a cocaine overdose, cutting short an unbelievably bright future.  It was the biggest news in the history of the NBA until Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive.

This was the documentary that affected me the most out of the three.  Bias was, from all accounts, a clean cut guy who had tremendous talent coupled with the rare determination to work hard and succeed.  He was charismatic and marketbable.  He would have no doubt helped the Celtics create a brand new dynasty (they still made the Finals that year without him).  That’s what makes his death so heartbreaking.  He had everything going for him, but one stupid mistake and it was all over.

Without Bias is filled with dramatic and haunting interviews with Bias (archived footage of course), his family and friends, and even the guy that he was with when he overdosed.  The basketball footage was also impressive, and it wasn’t until I watched it that I realised how good Len Bias was and could have been.  It’s essentially a very sad story (made even more sad by the shock epilogue) with a stern message about drug use and abuse.

4.25/5

Thoughts on the NBA All-Star Game

February 16, 2009 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA

Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

The 58th NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix on Sunday turned out to be an okay affair.  The Western All-Stars creamed the Eastern All-Stars, 146-119, and Kobe Bryant (game-high 27 points) and Shaquille O’Neal (17 points)  made up after years of public bickering by winning co-MVP (I feel all warm and fuzzy now).

The usual stuff

The game itself was what the fans expected.  Highlight dunks, flashy passes, plenty of silly stuff and minimal defense for most of the night.  The Western Conference thoroughly dominated the East with size and speed, though no one seemed to be taking things too seriously.  Shaq provided the entertainment with his dancing and stunts, including one of the highlights – a give ‘n go jam after going through Dwight Howard’s legs.

East played bad

Lebron led the East with 20 points (but on only 8-19 shooting), and provided plenty of eye-popping lay ups.  He may have been trying a little too hard.  There were actually quite a few poor performances on the East team though: Joe Johnson going scoreless in 22 minutes, Allen Iverson scoring 2 points in 16 minutes as a starter; and Devin Harris going -31 on the plus/minus charts in only 17 minutes!

Granger’s first Al-Star appearance!

Danny Granger (perhaps still bummed by the knee) played the least number of minutes (11) on the East squad but was tied for leading FG% with Kevin Garnett (both shot 100%, though Granger only took one shot whereas KG took 5 – but that’s beside the point…)!!  His first All-Star Weekend could have been better – injured knee, first around elimination at the 3P contest, playing the least minutes in a losing effort in the All-Star Game.  Don’t worry Danny, you’ll get more chances in the coming years (hopefully).

Gripes

My main gripe has to be Shaq winning co-MVP in playing only 11 minutes and scoring 17 points with 5 boards.  I know he was the star of the show and the hometown hero, but come on.  It must have left a sour taste in Amare Stoudemire’s mouth – he had more points and rebounds (19 and 6) than Shaq, plus he’s supposed to be the biggest star in Phoenix (I recall Shaq saying it was Amare’s team when he arrived in Phoenix), and yet Shaq’s the one getting all the attention and MVP trophy whereas he’s at the centre of all the trade rumours.  What about Chris Paul?  If anyone should have gotten co-MVP it was the sensational Chris Paul who powered the West’s engine all night.  14 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds – including an alley-oop dunk where he was the receiver!  There were a lot of quiet achievers on the West squad – Brandon Roy, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker in particular.  As a team they shot over 61%, whereas the East only shot 47% against no defense!

Also cringeworthy was the fake love Shaq and Kobe showed for each other.  At least Kobe was a little more honest with himself when he said: “We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff.  We had a good time. That’s all.”

I’ll leave it at that because I might start vomiting.

Finally…well, I got another 3 predictions wrong – the East didn’t beat the West, the final score wasn’t close, and Dwayne Wade didn’t win MVP.  I think out of all the events, I only got one thing right: Kevin Durant to win the Rookie Challenge MVP – but anyone could have seen that one.  Oh well, better luck next year.

NBA All-Star Reserves Announced!

January 30, 2009 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA

allstar2

The reserves for the 2009 NBA All-Star Game (as picked by league coaches) have finally been announced.

Eastern Conference:

F Paul Pierce, BOS
C Chris Bosh, TOR
G Joe Johnson, ATL
F Danny Granger, IND
G Devin Harris, NJ
F Rashard Lewis, ORL
G Jameer Nelson, ORL

Western Conferience:

F Dirk Nowitzki, DAL
F Pau Gasol, LAL
G Chauncey Billups, DEN
G Tony Parker, SA
G Brandon Roy, POR
C Shaquille O’Neal, PHO
F David West, NO

Just to recap, the starters of each conference are:

East: Dwayne Wade, Allen Iverson, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard

West: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming

Comparing my picks

Well, I’m glad Danny Granger made it, but let’s see how the other selections stacked up against my personal picks

The one selection that shocked a lot of people was David West

The one selection that shocked a lot of people was David West

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In the East, I had omitted Allen Iverson completely (due to his drop off in numbers and Detroit’s performance with him on the team) – but he was selected by the fans.  The other difference was that I didn’t have Jameer Nelson on the squad.  I mean, Orlando’s doing well and all, but to give the Magic 3 All-Stars was a bit too much.  Even though I didn’t select him, I thought Mo Williams (17ppg, 4.1apg) of Cleveland had just as much merit as Nelson (17ppg, 5.4apg), and probably would have picked him ahead of Nelson because Lebron’s the sole representative of the Cavs whereas Orlando already had 2 players on the squad. 

The picks I had that didn’t make it were Vince Carter and Michael Redd, but that was before Redd got injured for the rest of the season.  In hindsight I would have picked Mo Williams or Ray Allen instead (but definitely not Rajon Rondo).

Out West, David West was the only difference compared to my picks.  This was a bit of an odd one because while you can’t say he’s not deserving, there are plenty of other players that at least on paper look like they deserve it more.  Like the guy I picked instead of him, Al Jefferson.  If Danny Granger can make it for Indiana, Al Jefferson should make it for Minnesota.  Although I didn’t pick him, another guy that probably deserved it was Kevin Durant – he really is a scoring machine.  If the Thunder can just get a little bit better then he should be a lock for next season.

My All-Star Game Prediction

I had picked the East to beat the West in a tight one with Dwayne Wade named MVP.  Since the actual teams selected aren’t all that different, I’ll have to stick to my original prediction.  The Eastern Conference to beat the Western Conference by less than 7 points with Dwayne Wade taking out MVP honours (though I would not be surprised to see Dwight Howard win it).  If the West won, the MVP will have to be Chris Paul.  Lock it in.

2009 NBA All-Star Starters announced: my take

January 23, 2009 in NBA

The starters for the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix have been announced.  The starters are as follows (2 guards, 2 forwards and a center for each conference):

Eastern Conference
allen_iversondwyane_wadelebron_jameskevin_garnettdwight_howard

G – Allen Iverson – 17.8ppg, 5.3apg, 1.65spg

G – Dwayne Wade – 28.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 7.3apg, 2.27spg, 1.54bpg

F – Lebron James – 27.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 6.8apg, 2.03spg, 1.25bpg

F – Kevin Garnett – 16.1ppg, 9.1rpg, 2.6apg, 1.23spg, 1.25bpg

C – Dwight Howard – 19.9ppg, 14.0rpg, 3.2bpg

Western Conference

chris_paulkobe_bryanttim_duncanamare_stoudemireyao_ming

G – Chris Paul – 21.1ppg, 5.5rpg, 11.0apg, 2.72spg

G – Kobe Bryant – 26.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 5.2apg, 1.29spg

F – Tim Duncan – 20.4ppg, 10.2rpg, 3.5apg, 1.83bpg

F – Amare Stoudemire – 21.3ppg, 8.0rpg, 2.2apg, 1.08spg, 1.08bpg

C – Yao Ming – 19.9ppg, 9.6rpg, 1.69bpg

Comparing my picks

The line-ups were pretty similar to my picks.  However, my methodology was based more on merit (ie who I thought deserved it most), so there were a few differences.

Read the rest of this entry →

 
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