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“Bigger Than Just Basketball:” Jarring Film Unravels Story in the Shadows of the Future of American Basketball

Philadelphia, PA. (The Hollywood Times — July 5, 2024) — The Spoils: Selling the Future of American Basketball is a documentary-style film depicting eye-opening problems within the world of basketball. The movie, shot over 11 years, focuses on AAU and grass-roots basketball, a system that feeds into college and the NBA.

The film follows the Compton Magic, a highly reputed AAU team that plays on the Adidas circuit. Its owner and coach, Etop Udo-Ema, as well as its many future NBA stars such as Evan Mobley, Onyeka Okongwu, Johnny Juzang, Dalen Terry, and others, are all at the forefront of first-person interviews and behind-the-scenes footage in practices, games, and off-the-court business decisions.

Fans will be able to see never-before-seen footage of major business collaborations such as meetings with Jay Z’s Roc Nation and Bitcoin investment firms.

The cameras capture one-on-one interviews with major voices in the basketball community such as Jay Bilas and Sonny Vaccaro. Fans will catch a taste of interviews with basketball icons Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and others as they share their opinions on the topic at hand.

Viewers will watch the story unfold and realize the business behind the players that are treated more like products in the ensuing lifestyle and system that they are sucked into.

Director Mike Nicoll describes his inspiration for creating the film. “I think having traveled through the basketball world my entire life, the initial motivation was about demonstrating the interconnectivity of the system…”

He added, “For me, it was always about demonstrating how and why our best players are effectively professionals at 13, 14, 15, [years old] but the deeper I got into the story…it became more about, ‘Why does that matter?’ ”

While the nature of the film is about basketball, the content dives a lot deeper, and answers and proposes systemic questions within our society and how that relates to the basketball world and its pipeline that the movie highlights.

“I think it has a lot more to say about contemporary American life just insofar as the way we’ve financialized everything,” Nicoll said. “I think that the pendulum has really swung in some long overdue ways. I think there are some pretty core questions facing the game, the system, the players, and families that travel through it in terms of what we want to optimize the system for.”

The movie delves into aspects of the fame that young basketball stars possess such as the huge followings on Instagram or proposed million-dollar endorsement deals that come across their kitchen tables.

“I have concerns about now multiple generations of kids moving through this system and this world that encourages a prioritization of—whether it’s expanding your social media following, whether it’s landing as many brand deals and NIL deals—the exposure and the visibility…and if you really break it down…all of these things are competing with the basketball, the main thing that they are there to do,” Nicoll said.

Nicoll and Executive Producer Jack A. Liechtung agreed that the movie works fantastically in describing the shift in attention from the actual game within the basketball community.

“The highlight-ification of the game is hand in hand with the brand building, visibility, and social media, and It’s dragging attention away from the main thing which is the game…there’s a lot of levels to this,” Nicoll said.”

“It’s the game’s transactional element that has taken a foothold in the community. Where and how did that happen and why does it matter I think are really core questions that our film is fundamentally concerned with.

Liechtung agreed, mentioning that, “We’re focusing on stuff that happens off the hardwood…we all care about dollar signs and numbers.”

During the 11 years of filming, viewers will see the transition of the sport through legal phases such as NIL developments and lawsuits in regard to million-dollar endowments to mere teenagers.

The film covers all bases of the fast-growing business side of basketball from social media to sneaker deals, to even deals centering around cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.

“You take a 30,000-foot view at the money avalanche that has besieged this entire culture…gambling money now bankrolls almost all of the media coverage, NIL deals are now beginning…the moment a player or kid presents value to a brand or company they can be understood to be a professional,” Nicoll said.

“When you look at the way that money works, the business has become the game and all of the various ripple effects of that financialization. You see it in the fanbases you see it in the players you see it in the media, you see it just everywhere, and there’s just so much momentum and inertia around it,” he added.

“I don’t think most people stop to think about [this]…it all starts with an honest inventory of where we are at and I think that our film does a special job of establishing and planting that flag.”

Nicoll and his colleagues filmed the documentary-style movie over 11 years, which he described as staying poised with a, “stay ready to be ready,” mindset.

He gave insight into the production process and his emotional connection to the film.  “It all flows out of a passionate place so it never felt like work…the reason I became a filmmaker is because I wanted to do meaningful work…It all flows out of having something to say.”

Nicoll spoke on the movie’s uniqueness, and how he thinks audiences will receive the film. “There’s never been a film like ours…I think people are going to be blown away.”

Stream the Movie Here: