By Joseph Golfen
Jerryd Bayless was in a tough spot. Two towering players blocked his path, but the Phoenix native was determined to take it to the hoop. He swerved between the two giants, jumped and seemingly flew toward the backboard. Gracefully juggling the ball from hand to hand to avoid the outstretched limbs of his opponents, he then gently rolled the ball into the net.
It was one of many amazing shots made by Bayless and 23 other high school athletes participating in the first Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic, a high school all star game played in Harlem’s Rucker Park.
Now you can see the shot for yourself courtesy of a new documentary released just this weekend. Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot is the latest cinematic work from Adam Yauch who started directing independent films before forming a little rap group now famously known as The Beastie Boys and shooting many of the group’s more memorable videos.
“I thought it would be interesting to look at these players,” Yauch added. “It was amazing given the history of the Rucker."
This year’s first round pick for the Indiana Pacers, Jarryd Bayless was one of eight players selected to be featured in Gunnin’.
The eight players come from various locations and socio-economic backgrounds. Their diversity is obvious when Tyreke Evans is interviewed in front of a tattered court in Chester, Pennsylvania, while Kevin Love is shown working out at his school’s high-tech gym in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Yet whether a given player came from Baltimore, Compton or Maryland, the same kind of rhetoric kept pouring from their mouths. They spoke of hard work, dedication and a stubborn persistence to be at the very top of their game.
There’s even a section of the film where the players talk about how they have to stay away form their adoring female fans, branding them as “big distractions.”
A big fan of the game, Yauch plays ball with a few friends on occasion. So what did he think of Arizona’s own Jerryd Bayless?
“I think Jerryd’s amazing. His drive and his will to make things happen is incredible,” says Yauch. “He’s definitely one of my favorite players around.”
To accurately portray these kids as the athletes they are, Yauch made use of many of the same techniques he has been experimenting with for years while directing music videos. Beastie Boys fans will be at home with Gunnin’s use of fisheye lenses, fast-forward action and slow motion repeats, common in many of the group’s videos. Yauch goes a little overboard with his slow-motion replays of spectacular shots, but everything he dwells on is worth the second look.
Since he's a hip-hop legend, one would expect Yauch’s film to have a killer soundtrack, and he doesn’t disappoint. While only instrumental Beastie tracks landed in the movie, well-chosen cuts from Jay-Z, House of Pain and a few others add energy to nearly every scene and propels the action forward.
But all of this came second to the spectacle of how well these kids can play. By the end of the game, Yauch had the audience wanting the whole group to leave Rucker Park to pick up an NBA jersey.
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And many of them did. Besides Bayless’ move to the Pacers, several others featured in the film were top picks in last weeks draft pick. Kevin Love ranked 6th in the draft and went to the Memphis Grizzlies. Michael Beasley got picked up by the Miami Heat.
The younger players have all landed at top colleges across the country, including Brandon Jennings, who will play for U of A next year.
The great strength of Gunnin’ is that each time one of these players succeeds, it will resonate with viewers. The film shows what kids the media has spent years hyping are all about: love of the game.