It took way too long for players in the Negro Leagues to be recognized as part of baseball history. Now it seems it’s time for basketball to explore the untold stories of its past.
Through his Zero World Media, Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook is developing a documentary focused on the Black Fives Era, per Deadline.
The Black Fives Era encompasses 1904 to 1950, which is when basketball was first introduced to Black children until the first Black NBA player was signed.
Since they couldn’t play in “whites only” gyms, Black Fives teams played in church basements, armories and dancehalls, where there were often performances by jazz bands before and after the game.
The documentary “aims at capturing the stories of how the pioneering efforts of Black Fives Era players paved the way for the global appeal of the modern game against the backdrop of the cultural evolution of Black America itself.”
“I’m excited to work with Propagate and The Black Fives Foundation on this project,” Westbrook said. “This subject is obviously very personal to me for a number of reasons. These teams helped break racial and societal barriers and paved the way for the game and the NBA as a whole. These stories deserve to be told and I’m proud of Zero World Media’s involvement.”
Westbrook has always made his love of basketball history clear, so it’s exciting to see him involved in this project.
Westbrook, Donnell Beverly Jr. and Raynard Westbrook are executive producing for Zero World Media, alongside Ben Silverman, Howard T. Owens and Valerie Idehen for Propagate. The team is also working with the Black Fives Foundation’s Claude Johnson.
“Propagate is dedicated to telling culturally impactful stories that both entertain and educate,” said Silverman, Chairman and Co-CEO and Owens, Co-CEO of Propagate. “The Black Fives laid the foundation for the modern game of basketball that we know and love today. We are proud to partner on this meaningful project with Claude Johnson, Russell Westbrook, and Zero World Media.”
Marco Williams, who previously directed the Emmy nominated Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre for Zero World Media, will direct and executive produce the documentary.
“This important part of American history was buried in an unmarked grave, until now,” Johnson said. “I’m thrilled by this alliance because the passion, insight, and perspective of Russell Westbrook, an iconic member of the NBA Family, combined with the visionary and groundbreaking storytelling talents of Propagate, create a powerful formula that unearths and shines a deserving light on its once-forgotten teams, players, and contributors as never before.”
It will be interesting to see what current and former NBA and WNBA stars participate in the project, as we’re sure plenty of them will want to help tell these stories.