Sunday, November 16, 2008
Not to be outdone by Lattimer's excellent post, I have decided to enlighten you, dear reader, on the unsung hero of basketball documentaries.
The movie is called "Soul in the Hole." It follows a basketball team of just-graduated high schoolers through the summer of 1993 in New York City. NYC is the home of playground hoops, and has been for decades (the games were already well-established by the time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started killing cats as Lew Alcindor). Several tournaments exist across the five boroughs every summer, mostly at famous playgrounds such as Rucker Park, the Cage, etc. The film documents the team, Kenny's Kings, as they hoop while dealing with the urban blight of America's largest city.
The central personality is Ed "Booger" Smith, who, at the time, was a much-lauded point guard standout. While he had the skills, he never quite had the grades, and the life eventually caught up with him. The stories that Kenny's Kings share as they ball their way through the summer of 1993 (set against the impoverished inner city backdrop) are as compelling as any, but what makes this movie truly special is that it captures the best basketball played by Booger Smith, who unfortunately joins the ranks of the myriad of players who were sure-thing phenoms that for one reason or another never made it big.
This last point is what is fabulously interesting, because across the United States, in every major metropolitan city, there are legends and fairytales of failed hoopsters, dating even as far back as the '50s. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was once asked who the best player he ever played against was, to which he replied 'Earl Manigault' to a host of befuddled journalists. Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Drew Gooden and Antonio Davis have each said 'Hook Mitchell' to the same question. While these players never garnered the fame and fortune that several of their less deserving counterparts (looking at you, Drew Gooden) earned, their names still ring out in the parks and playgrounds that they inhabited. To put an exclamation point on this, Spike Lee was good enough to include Booger Smith in the opening credits of He Got Game, dribbling a ball across Brooklyn Bridge.
That is not to say that the movie is all about failure, the film also features a cat named Charlie Jones, who went on from Kenny's Kings to the University of Providence, where he led the NCAA in scoring twice, a feat that has yet to be repeated since.
If you can find it, which is not easy, it's definitely worth a watch, if for nothing else than the soundtrack.
Posted by Icehouse at 11:07 PM