When it comes to nailing the intersection of sports, race and culture, ESPN’s The Undefeated has been holding us down since 2016. With its masterfully executed articles, personality profiles and captivating conversations with some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment, it’s a must for every sports head eager to get their fix beyond what happens on the court.
And in remaining true to its commitment to telling Black stories and using its platform to celebrate HBCUs, The Undefeated is partnering with ESPN+ to deliver Why Not Us: North Carolina Central University Men’s Basketball, a new all-access docuseries executive produced by 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. This is the first project to debut under The Undefeated on ESPN+ banner.
Set to premiere exclusively on ESPN+, Why Not Us will provide viewers with a behind the scenes look at the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) men’s basketball team. This eight-episode docuseries will explore the distinct culture, experiences, and challenges of a HBCU athletic program from the perspective of its coaches, staff and student-athletes.
“Why Not Us will spotlight the importance and uniqueness of HBCUs by chronicling the NCCU men’s basketball team and the challenges they encounter throughout a season in my home state of North Carolina,” Paul said in a statement provided to The Root. “HBCUs face challenges to compete at the same level as PWIs [predominately white institutions] due to lack of funding, resources and awareness. Despite the obstacles they face, Why Not Us shines a light on these amazing Black student-athletes who attend HBCUs, and how these historically significant schools continue to enrich not only the Black community but our nation as a whole. It was important to tell this story with Roadside Entertainment as we have successfully partnered with them to tell a great story through Crossroads, another important documentary about inspirational Black athletes in North Carolina.”
“As a graduate of an HBCU—Winston-Salem State University—any issue that allows us to illuminate the great challenges that HBCUs perpetually face, yet overcome day-after-day, is something that is going to garner my interest,” Smith added. “After asking my coach, the late, great Clarence ‘Big House’ Gaines, what I could do for him in return for all he’s done for me, his answer was very simple: ‘Do all you can for this university, for any HBCU. Don’t let the world try and forget about it.’ This project is a step in that direction. It’s not just a project or a piece of work. It’s a mission. And I’m incredibly delighted and grateful that Chris Paul and ESPN asked me to come on board to make this happen.”
Why Not Us: North Carolina Central University Men’s Basketball debuts on Friday, exclusively on ESPN+.