by Mia M. Jackson
The story of The Rens is fascinating and Abdul-Jabbar tells it lovingly, passionately.
About two weeks ago, the sports world buzzed around the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar interview in which he admitted that he felt a certain way about his relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers. Let’s call it “dissed.” He didn’t use that word, being the eloquent, intellectual man that he is. But to sum it all up, no coaching opportunities, no special treatment and lastly, no statute all equal a flat out diss. While I tend to agree with him based on sheer numbers and the never-since-duplicated Sky Hook, his real purpose was to promote his documentary, “On the Shoulders of Giants.”
The ambitious documentary focuses on the best team in basketball you’ve never heard of called the New York Renaissance – or “The Rens” as they were affectionately nicknamed. The story of the team is fascinating and Abdul-Jabbar tells it lovingly, passionately. From their creation, to their barnstorm games around the country traveling through the Jim Crow south and to their ultimate claim to the World’s Best Basketball Team, not a second of The Rens’ story should be lost. However, much of it was. We don’t hear about them when the greats are listed in glances back in time. They played during the country’s history when the sports world wasn’t ready for black and white courts, even if many of the players from both sides of the color line were. They all just loved basketball. They all wanted to play and beat the best.
Mistakenly, Kareem’s marketing efforts were misplaced just as his shyness and discomfort around crowds were labeled arrogance. In the middle of the NBA playoffs, any story about the basketball royalty West Coast team trots the globe in :60 or less. The incredible center wanted to really talk about the jazz, history and the wisdom nested deep in the memories of the few Rens still living or those whose fathers passed down the dazzling tales of sporting brilliance. Much of that was missed as Kareem’s daring openness took over for an hour on Mike & Mike, and in other subsequent interviews. The world wanted to discuss Staples Center statues.
Pros and Cons
You should definitely watch On the Shoulders of Giants. On the pro side, the story is astounding and the basketball giants new and old speaking on the topic were awesome. The assembled artists embraced the story and captured it beautifully on canvas and in song. On the con side, too much music – but that’s who he is. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar is a noted jazz lover. At times I felt as though the soundtrack competed with the story. I’d replay segments to really get at the core of the message. The intro was too slow. It was a great showcase of African-American history, but the sports lover in me was ready for the game to begin.
Ultimately, thanks to Kareem for his persistence. This history MUST be shared. Check it out and let me know what you think!