A basketball TV show that's better than most basketball movies

Basketball season is about to be underway, and here I am with a busted ankle. So how do I get my roundball fix? Vicariously, through the pacifying device.

I just finished watching Nike: Battlegrounds on MTV2. If you're a fan of the sport, quite simply, I think you should check out the show (it just concluded, but it will likely be rerunning on MTV for months). Hosted by none other than Nike's LeBron James (or is it the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James?) and featuring Nike athletes Andre Iguodala (reppng Chicago) and Ben Gordon (repping New York, despite the fact that he now plays for the Bulls), the 6-part series follows the team tryouts, the coaching, and the final showdown (played between the two cities, in LeBron's hometown of Akron). It also stars a number of Nike's basketball shoes, although I found the cross-promotion between Nike and MTV to be completely bearable--in this case, the agenda of the corporations involved happens to match up well with what the audience wants to get out of the show, I think. And that is, promoting basketball, and all the highs and lows that go with playing it--in a team context, this year (previous seasons were devoted to one-on-one contests, which I thought were less interesting).

Directed by filmmaker Derek Cianfrance and produced by ad agencies Wieden + Kennedy and @radical.media (both of which I'll be sending out an unsolicited resume and reel to soon), the show completely lives up to its potential, with the exception of the mediocre theme song. Oh, and the Asian kid clearly made it only because he was Asian. What, in the whole city of New York they couldn't find an Easterner with game? The coaches claimed he made the team because of his "high basketball IQ." Well, he probably had a high regular IQ as well, but neither is going to help you much in a streetball game. The only contribution he made to the final showdown was an airballed layup. Way to go. (See comments) But: the black-and-white stills and graphics give the two cities gritty character, and the music selection (a blend of electronica and instrumental hip-hop) effectively heightens the drama and gives the show some extra heft.

Damn, there I go in "reviewer" mode. It's funny, as soon as I finished watching the last episode a few minutes ago, I told myself I was gonna hop on the computer, write a sentence or two about the show, post a link (every episode can be watched here at MTV2.com), and that was gonna be that. And then here I am writing all this.

But there's so much more to say about the significance of this show: about it being produced by two multinational corporations in cohorts with each other to essentially promote themselves, about the significance of ad-agency-produced television and the attention span it caters to, about the availability of television content online and the changing revenue stream, about the adeptness with which high-schoolers can give media interviews these days, about the contributions of reality TV to the Warholian idea of 15 minutes of fame...

But I'll leave all that to someone else, preferably some sort of qualified critic. I need to finish my reel, so I can start contributing to all these things myself.

Your Comment


by chance, I came across with your post..I definitely enjoyed reading it..and it is always good to hear "the flip" side of the story... I guess Freedom of Speech is something that everyone benefits from living in this country.. so u can say whatever you want , and think the way that you wanna think without worrying about anyone else...(and ironically sometimes people perceive things wrongly without any background knowledge hey.. more power to you that way... ). First of all.. I am not here to criticize anyone, because it's impossible to make everyone like you on this place that we call earth... (FYI, you might've needed some glasses to really tell who shot that "airballed lay-up"...I think everyone who was part of that NYC team should deserve some credit, even the ones that didn't play at all in that last game... lol you probably didn't even know that some players didn't even play, or did you?) it was an epic battle btw two cities for bragging rights, so it was really intense to begin with... let alone the thousands and thousands of ppl watching the game.. it was absolutely nuts... However, I already felt fortunate to be a part of the show and the game itself.... there is one thing that you might not have known.. it was up to MTV to edit the show the way they did... frankly, they created certain impressions of that "Asian Dude" to the public... all I NEED to say is that... they couldn't have possibly stuck with me out of 500 hopefuls if I didn't have anything more to offer in terms of basketball than my "High Basketball IQ"..and maybe a good story-line.. again, feel free to perceive things the way you want.... but thanks for your opinions on the show... I do agree that it was a wonderful production.. take care,,,

January 3, 2006 at 10:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:12AM


Thanks for responding. Since this is not a real publication of any sort, I don't typically bother with things like fact-checking. So thanks for calling out my mistaken airballed-layup attribution; that's what the comments are there for. Since we already spoke via email, I'm just posting a reply here to bring things up to date; I plan on interviewing you about the experience of being on a reality TV show, and the Plight of the Asian Baller (which I can say, since I am (half of) one myself). Talk to you soon and thanks again.

January 10, 2006 at 10:56PM, Edited September 4, 7:12AM

Ryan Koo

yes, watching TV show than novie is great. TV show are live spokes and great events of though. :)

January 2, 2010 at 8:25PM, Edited September 4, 7:25AM