By Adam Johnson
Recently, ESPN produced a landmark documentary titled Basketball: A Love Story. Dan Klores was the director and main voice behind the project as it covered the entire history of the sport, focusing on the professional game. ESPN aired the massive project on their traditional networks and on ESPN+, their rebranded app and online content provider. All told, it took up 20 broadcast hours and over 13 real time hours. I watched the entire thing and naturally, had some thoughts.
Woven into each part is a segment called, “Signature Moves”, which focuses on a few players and something about them that makes them special. Those bits are a welcome change of pace and keep the doc from getting stale. Now, I could go on and tell you the contents of each of the ten parts, but that would be boring and I want you to watch it for yourself. What I will do is discuss some of my favorites and maybe talk about a couple of areas that they could’ve focused more on.
A few of the segments that stood out to me were the ones that tended to focus on stories that aren’t often discussed when people talk about NBA history. One segment was titled, ABA: The Red, White and Blue, which was obviously about the ABA and its wild nine years of existence. Brotherly Love was about the inspiring relationship between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. Wild Days was about the mid to late 70’s and all of the teams that won titles in that era that are sadly forgotten today.
Another one of my favorite segments was Glasnost: The Walls Come Down, which was about the European game and the first wave of players that made an impact on the NBA. Guys like Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac and Sarunas Marciulionis. The footage of some of these players’ European days is incredible. But this is actually one of my criticisms of the documentary as well, for as cool as this segment was, I actually think there could have been more coverage of the international game and it’s influence on basketball. I feel the same way about a segment like The W, which was about the WNBA. I think they could have fleshed out that segment more and maybe went more in depth on the great teams and players of the WNBA.
It does not really feel like any big topics go uncovered. They might have done a little more on Russell’s Celtics, or maybe a bit about Michael Jordan’s first retirement and the Houston Rockets two titles in that stretch. David Stern is interviewed in the film, but he might even deserve his own segment. The last part, Part 10, was all about pro basketball in the 21st century and I particularly enjoyed the segment titled, Battles Royale. That was all about the great Finals series’ of the 2010’s.
The documentary ended with a bunch of the interviewees catching a ball and talking about their love of the game. It was a nice touch to finish with. Maybe the film could have gone a tad more in depth on a couple of things, but overall it was an incredible project. An absolute love of the game is what inspired this film and it made me think about my own deep love of basketball. This is totally worth your time if you are a basketball junkie and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to learn more about the history of the game.