The Los Angeles Lakers have long been one of the most fascinating organizations in professional sports, an eyeball-commanding confluence of big-name celebrities, huge-money investments, sky-high expectations and global reach tied together by the palace intrigue that comes with the territory of remaining a family-owned (multinational) business. Even when they're not championship-level good — as has been the case these past couple of years — the high-stakes drama associated with stuff like the failed import of Dwight Howard, the unfortunate death of team scion Dr. Jerry Buss, the curious rise of son Jim Buss and, of course, the saga surrounding the team's courting/not courting of Phil Jackson to return to the bench last fall makes the Lakers front-page news for what goes on off the floor as much as (if not more than) what takes place on it.
Really, it was only a matter of time before someone in L.A. looked at it all and said, "Hey — that's a TV show." That time, it seems, has come.
Jackson, his fiancee/Los Angeles Lakers senior vice president Jeanie Buss, former Lakers great/current Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis and his wife Linda are listed as executive producers on a new project in development at Showtime — a "one-hour scripted series that takes a peek behind the scenes of a professional basketball team," focusing primarily "on the family that owns the team," according to Variety's Brian Steinberg:
Ron Shelton, the creative talent behind such noted sports movies as “Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” will write, direct and exec produce the project. [...]
In an interview, Buss said her experiences working with the Lakers as well as managing events, would inform the stories told in the potential series. “We’ve seen so much, the things that go on behind the scenes,” she said. “We go to events and people ask us a lot of questions about what they don’t see. They know the game. They see the game, but they don’t really know what leads up to getting the team on the court.” Most people “don’t know what makes a championship season or what it’s like to go through a losing season.”
The chance to work on the project came together after Buss and others were able to meet with Shelton, she said. “He is someone that understands a good sports story, and we just really clicked,” she said.
This isn't the first time Jackson and Shelton have both been involved in a TV project — the director interviewed the legendary former Lakers and Chicago Bulls coach for "Jordan Rides the Bus," a documentary about Michael Jordan's first NBA retirement and stint playing baseball in the minor leagues that aired as part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series back in 2010. It does, however, mark the first foray into production-side work for Jackson, Buss and Linda Rambis, and represents a departure from the long and distinguished acting career Kurt Rambis has carved out as "Kurt," "Coach [BLANK]" and, of course, "'Jumbo' Jim Knox."
The Variety report comes one week after news that Miami Heat forward LeBron James is serving as an executive producer on "Survivor's Remorse," a half-hour sitcom informed in part by his life in development at the pay cable network Starz. One can only hope that the four-time NBA MVP and the Zen Master are merely at the start of an NBA/scripted cable TV development deal trend, if for no other reason than I think we'd all love to see where that sort of talent-acquisition arms race would wind up. Caron Butler's backstory would seem to fit well on a premium channel, and it's pretty easy to imagine Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook hosting dueling fashion-focused shows (on, say, the new Esquire Network and Bravo, respectively). And if you think a Hamed Haddadi-helmed "My Giant" reboot wouldn't work as an ongoing series, well, friend, you just don't get it.
As we noted when discussing James' Starz deal, the Jackson/Buss/Rambises-produced project is still very much in the early stages of development and quite a ways away from ever beaming its way into our living rooms. Should it ever arrive, I have four hopes for it:
1. I hope it's better than the last Showtime original series about what pro basketball players, coaches and owners' lives are like off the court; I don't remember "The Hoop Life" fondly at all, although I suppose it's a small victory that at least I remember it.
2. I hope Shelton's touch results in something more like "White Men Can't Jump" and less like "Play It to the Bone," which was something of a yikes-fest.
3. I hope we get a Chaz-based recurring character.
4. I hope at least one episode deals with a coach high out of his mind on peyote who has to keep it together enough to avoid raising his boss/girlfriend's suspicions that he might be operating under the influence and has to convince his two star players — let's just call them Smack and Toby — to quit bickering for like five minutes so we can just get through practice, jeeeeeeeeez. (Also, maybe some type of spirit falcon played by, I don't know, someone from "Weeds?")
Those are my hopes, anyway. Please feel free to share yours in the comments below.
Hat-tips to ProBasketballTalk.