Basketball, hip-hop, and NYC get treated to a slim overview in Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot directed by Adam Yauch,formerly MCA of the Beastie Boys and former member of planet Earth, since he sadly died in 2012. Gunnin’ was released originally in 2008 but got a second wind this week as a little-seen addition to the Film POP screenings.
B-ball at the high school level through the NCAA to the NBA has a strong following, and it’s probably why this doc got made with just a bit of access to players from all three levels. The main focus is on eight kids, ages 16 to 18, their prospects of being drafted by the NBA, and what it would mean to them and their families if they got to live out that dream. These aren’t just average athletes; however, these golden eight have been noticed by talent scouts and their PR machines, courted by magazines for cover spreads, and ranked as among the top high school players in the United States. Everyone already knows they’re good, and that may be why the doc falls short in terms of creating genuine excitement, even during clips of impressive “No, he didn’t!” Streetball moves. There’s not much revelation or discovery in watching these non-underdog kids play, especially when they’re all called on to compete against each other at famed Rucker Park, Harlem, as part of the Elite 24 series.
The time spent with the kids and their families while entertaining, isn’t quite enough to get to know who’s who with a certain insight in mind. The experts, who would be coaches, trainers, analysts, and Nike-Adidas-Reebok reps try to broaden the scope, but it’s more like watching segments from shows like NBA’s Inside Stuff that sound bite constantly. Where the choppy editing falls down in the interview segments, it somewhat works in the Rucker Park game itself, where everything comes together. The all-star music, courtesy of the Beasties, Jay-Z, M.I.A., House of Pain, and Nas to name a few, hits hard as the young phenoms handle the ball with their obvious talent. Better still, there aren’t any egos on display, except through one coach, who should cringe when he’s reminded of his motivational speech: “In Africa, they got AIDS. Here, you got the disease of me.”
Okay, the coach lost his way, but I also thought of Yauch and the doc in that light. What if MCA, considering who he was, didn’t totally miss an opportunity to have an insiders’ discussion on the link between hip-hop and b-ball? Is it even true that a lot of ballers listen to hip-hop, or is that a myth? Do ballers secretly want to be rappers? (Shaq Diesel, look it up.)
I guess I’ll never have the answers because Yauch/MCA is gone, and the golden eight have also moved on to careers in the NBA, their dreams predictably fulfilled.
Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot was screened at the SAT as part of the Cinéma Urbain à la Belle Étoile, July 8th at 9 p.m. Free admission. For other free films, click here.