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Last Chance U: Basketball – A docuseries that transcends sport (Episode 3 Review)

If you’re not a sports fan, you may be reading this and thinking that the Last Chance U: Basketball series isn’t for you, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

This is no ordinary sports docuseries, sport is just the vehicle that director and producer Greg Whitely uses to tell the enthralling personal stories of a team of misfits working towards a common goal; winning the state championship.

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Following the Emmy award winning Netflix docuseries “Last Chance U,” Director Greg Whitely produced his best work to date with his follow up docuseries “The Last Chance U: Basketball.”

The Netflix production focuses on the East Los Angeles College Huskies basketball team full of young men aspiring to make it to a division one college to play basketball on a scholarship.

The series follows ELAC’s state championship run in the 2019-2020 season, taking the viewers through the highs and lows of what it’s like to be a college athlete.

What separates this series from sports docuseries alike is its story telling, the series doesn’t just recap ELAC’s basketball season, it’s much deeper than that.

The series runs in a chronological order through the basketball season, with each episode giving a voice to a new character as they tell their own personal story.

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Episode three stands head and shoulders above the rest of the series, with the powerful story of young Deshaun Highler and his personal struggles, it is honestly enough to make a grown man cry.

Episode three – “Jenny” is by far the most powerful episode I have ever seen in a sports docuseries in my twenty years of life so far, telling the story of a young man who continues to work towards his dream despite everything life throws at him.

*SPOILER ALERT* “Jenny” follows the story of ELAC’s star shooting guard and team captain Deshaun Highler, who tragically lost his only parent in 2018 with his his beloved mother losing her battle to cancer.

Throughout the episode, the interview scenes reveal the adversity Highler faced while his mother was sick and how he always had to be strong, to give his mother something to fight for. Highler’s interviews invite viewers into the most intimate moments of his life, from his mothers death to becoming a responsible and independent adult within weeks of the tragedy.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As you’re sitting on the couch with your eyes glued to the screen, you forget you’re watching a documentary about basketball, this is much more meaningful. The subtle music sets the mood as you become entrenched into the story beyond the court, beyond the game of basketball.

Deshaun’s story reminds you the true purpose of sport, to bring people together and give people of all circumstances something positive turn their energy too.

This is the constant theme of the docuseries as a whole, telling the stories of troubled young men who turn to basketball to better themselves and escape their demons.

The way that the director transitions such a deep, emotional story telling moment back into regular basketball is why the show is so easy to watch.

Whitely gives depth to Deshaun’s story as he portrays him at his most vulnerable, yet in the very next scene you see him as the most vocal player on the court. This complements the interviews so well, revealing the strength of Deshaun’s character.

These transitions give the viewer the greater understanding of how basketball affects their life, because for some players it is the only thing keeping them together. That is how impactful the game can be.

As a viewer you connect with the subjects on a personal level, whether you’re a fan of basketball or not this is a series that will make you want to plant yourself stationery on the couch and binge the whole production.

What makes this series so enjoyable isn’t the successes of the basketball team, It’s about learning these athletes inspiring stories that you would never have the chance to hear.

That’s the power of sport, it gives people with a story the chance to share it. That’s worth a whole lot more than what transpires between two teams and a ball.





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