A buddy of mine happens to know some of the people behind the movie “Jump Shot”, a documentary on basketball pioneer Kenny Sailors.
At first glance I was skeptical about this biography and blew it off, claiming I had better ways to spend $8 during a pandemic. After all, I’m one of those 20% out there who has filed for unemployment and applied for, like, seven PPP loans and even an emergency loan offered by the City and County of San Francisco — still waiting to hear back and probably the main reason I was in a dismissive attitude at the time.
Content-wise, what could possibly be so interesting about an obscure basketball player we’ve never heard of? Do I really want to watch grainy black-and-white highlights of a foregone era?
Shame on me.
Thankfully my buddy, who is Brian Yang of ”Linsanity” documentary fame, had a link and we bargained — I honestly forget who brought it up — for me to watch Jump Shot in exchange for this here review.
Still, I knew I’d get a good product, just with Stephen Curry and his Unanimous Media crew including Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton (I’ve met both and, to no one’s surprise, they are stand-up guys) as producers of the film.
But I didn’t know I’d enjoy it this much, that it would touch my heart and, as I usually and pridefully like to say as a Warriors dude, make me “bleed blue and gold blood.”
Five out of five stars, easily.
Please go watch it for the $7.99, if you can. You get a 48-hour viewing period. It’s a nice add to the shelter-in-place “new normal” of documentary hoops content that should already no doubt include ESPN’s “The Last Dance”.
Kevin Durant‘s “Basketball County, In The Water,” is right around the corner. Klay Thompson did a six-minute mini-doc, if you want to call it that, and Matt Barnes announced something as well on his Instagram, recently.
“Jump Shot” won’t get the fanfare that these others will, but it’s right up there with “The Last Dance.” Yes, it is. You heard it here first: Kenny Sailors was a 🐐 in life.
There are plenty of reviews out already. It’s still early, obviously, but Rotten Tomatoes had a 100% from the viewer side. The worst rating I’ve found is a 7.5/10 by critics on IMDB. I feel that’s kind of low. Maybe some of those critics just aren’t really that in to basketball?
So with plenty of accolades and spoiler-y content out for you to chew on (just Google “Jump Shot movie review”), I decided to try a different angle and give you the top five reasons you, a member of DubNation, should spend the eight bucks to see this movie asap.
Incidentally, I also found some great Q&As with writer/director Jacob Hamilton. Those links and excerpts of the behind-the-scenes can be found at the bottom of this article.
5. #RESPECT ✊ (DRAYMOND VOICE)
Hamilton essentially turned a two-minute audio tape of Sailors into a ten-year passion project that eventually got the undivided attention of not only Steph and KD, but also Hall of Fame greats such as Bobby Knight and Nancy Lieberman.
Now, I know Yang followed Jeremy Lin around for years — not quite a decade, though — to get “Linsanity” done and the fundraising and marketing of it was an enormous chore, so let me just tip my hat to anyone and everyone who has ever done a documentary. I suspect your $7.99 will definitely go a long way for Hamilton.
Moreover, they’ve pledged 10% of the proceeds to fight COVID-19.
4. SOLID “PLOT DEVICES”
The term “plot device” has a negative connotation to it, so I’m not sure of the best way to describe this, nor if it’s the correct terminology. You know how “The Last Dance” uses that time scale to go forward and back in Michael Jordan’s career? With all the complexities of MJ’s multiple sagas, I found it to be a neat feature and effective in moving the story along. The 80s and 90s hip-hop background music is widely lauded as well.
“The Jump Shot” has its own such devices. The one that stands out is the cartoon animation, in lieu of actual Sailors highlights, although the actual footage that they dug up is amazing, as it shows how differently the game was played so many decades ago. The animated segments that subbed in for any missing on-court storytelling was enjoyable.
The use of quick-panning, for lack of knowledge of industry terms, through a display of various photos was also a clever way to keep the momentum going without losing any of the history and nostalgia. I might add there’s an original music score by Joshua Myers. That’s surely an impressive feat for any small-budget film to pull off.
3. THE ACTUAL KENNY SAILORS STORY
The story sells itself. You could picture yourself by a campfire with marshmallows at the end of sticks and Sailors himself telling this tale. Hamilton’s execution is MVP-worthy. Looking back, he must have felt very fortunate to get Sailors on film at the age of 91 before he finally passed in 2016.
You even get to root for Sailors as the documentary moves into the “fourth quarter”, so to speak, plus an unveiling at the end that warms the soul.
2. STEPH’S INTEREST IN THE MOVIE
If you’ve been tracking our YouTube videos on the Curry family during the pandemic, you’ve gotten to know them a little better behind-the-scenes during this time. You start to understand their values and how they approach life and what they view as their place in society. Ayesha Curry even named food, family, faith, and female empowerment as the four “F” pillars to her new magazine, Sweet July (34:45 mark):
I wish I could’ve been there to see the Steph’s reaction when Sailors said — SPOILER ALERT! — the four biggest factors that drove his astoundingly diverse life were faith, being a husband, being a father, and being a marine. #currynod
By the way, don’t miss the Q&A anecdotes when Hamilton visited KD’s house in the East Bay, listed below in the excerpts. I kinda wish they had filmed that and included them as outtakes during the credits.
And we haven’t even talked about Sailors’ contributions to women’s basketball. This guy was amazing. There was a Sailors sibling rivalry. The humility. There are so many clear parallels with Steph himself! Unanimous Media giving Hamilton the boost he needed just reinforces what we admire about Curry.
1. THE JOY ON STEPH AND KD’S FACES
The stories of how Steph got involved with “Jump Shot” and KD’s awe of Sailors can be found in the Hamilton Q&As and excerpts below.
But to see them both with their eyes lit up (I see that hairdo, Steph!), praising Sailors and connecting him to their current place in the game, that was refreshing.
We all know KD’s name has — unfairly, IMO — been tarnished in recent months. I won’t get into that here, as I still plan to write something at some point, but it was great for this film to finally get us back to the game itself. To get back to what really makes guys like Steph and KD tick, the stuff that makes them smile, not the “he-said-she-said” clickbait that makes them upset.
A small faction of the media will tempt you to drink their Kool-Aid and many of you already have, but I’m just blessed to have witnessed first-hand so much of their joy on the beat, day after day, practicing their own jump shots in Oakland, and to be reminded of that, in this documentary.
I was probably there when they filmed KD that day at the Warriors practice facility atop the Oakland Marriott. That was always the one place where Warrior greats could hone their craft and you felt their love for the game. The way this film makes you feel. It brings you back to those days when you spent hours in the gym alone, trying to tweak your jumper.
HAMILTON Q&As AND EXCERPTS
SportsIllustrated: [No specifically interesting excerpts, but this was the first interview I found that convinced me the Q&As were all better than any of the reviews I googled.]
“I came across a two-minute audio interview that was titled, ‘The Man Who Created The Jump Shot.’…I began to do a little bit more research on who Kenny Sailors is and I just fell in love with this guy and what he represents, his character, his humility. At first, I was like, I think I’m going to do a short film. But quickly realized after I did a little bit more digging, this guy has lived an extraordinary life and I think there might be something more than just a short film [here].
When we shared it with KD, in the middle of it, he was just like, Can we pause this? I’m going to rewind this. I’m actually working on this today.
we began to expand our world to like, OK, who are some voices in the basketball world? We sat down with a majority of the folks that wrote stories about Kenny Sailors over the most recent years. That’s when we started shooting for the stars and aiming big to try to get some of these current players. I would say we had a pending, tentative picture lock film that was missing a younger voice in it. We knew that. So that’s the version of the film we were sharing with Steph, KD, Dirk, Nancy Lieberman and Clark Kellogg.”
“Hamilton is now 35. He grew up in Houston and has lived in Austin for 11 years. Recently, it dawned on him that he spent one-fifth of his life dedicated to telling Sailors' story.
The initial film took five months to complete, he said, but then the project went dormant for nearly two years. He applied for grants, eventually landing a Texas Film Production grant (now known as the Austin Film Society grant) that helped keep the film afloat until he started talking to potential investors in 2015.
The crew flew to Oakland and were invited to Durant's home. Partway through the screening, KD asked for the film to be paused. Hamilton feared the worst, a bored millennial. In reality, the former Longhorns star was mesmerized.
‘These are moves that I'm doing today,’ Hamilton recalls Durant telling them. ‘I was literally working on this in practice this week, and Kenny was doing this 60-70 years ago? This is unbelievable.’”
“Something special happened that night in the Oakland hills. KD fell in love with Kenny, as there are very similar life moments that they both share. There were instances where KD would scrub back and forth in the film watching Kenny on the court, replaying how he moved, and talking about how these are things he was trying to do! After the film ended, KD stood up and said, ‘All right guys, what do I need to do to be a part of this? It’s beautiful!’ We were all in tears. There is something about Kenny Sailors that moves in your soul.”
I agree with you across the board. It really is a great documentary about a truly amazing person. It is not the least bit surprising Steph came on board, as Sailors' story fits so well with his own values.