The series, Swagger, draws inspiration from Durant’s childhood playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball in metropolitan Washington, D.C, where aspiring young athletes and their families find themselves swept up into the youth-sports economy at a startling early age.
Grazer said he has been looking for the opportunity to revisit the world of Friday Night Lights when he met Durant at Google’s summer gathering of power players in Sicily known as The Camp. The producer chatted with the Golden State Warriors forward on a friend’s yacht and and the two agreed to meet again in Los Angeles.
Over lunch at the Polo Lounge, Grazer said Durant talked about playing youth basketball on a Baltimore recreation center court that shared a common wall with a senior citizens facility. Durant described being courted by apparel brands and scouts from the age of 12, and how his mother, “a long-range thinker” carefully guided his future. Some friends, though, had parents who succumbed to the lure of fast cash.
“He created a beautiful world that the Friday Night Lights essence could inhabit,” said Grazer. “It has the same things. The fragility of how you were as a kid, and how these kids — 12-13 years old — are presented with money, real money, (from athletic apparel brands). It’s a fascinating universe of possibilities.”
Durant’s business partner, Rich Kleiman, said the athlete was able to give Grazer a framework for re-imagining his acclaimed football series through the lens of a different sport. “One thing we talked about is how much we loved Friday Night Lights and we saw this potential to do Friday Night Lights updated, inspired by Hoop Dreams and focused on basketball,” he said.
The project, written and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, is the latest project from Thirty Five Media. In January, the budding unit announced plans to help other professional athletes launch channels on YouTube. Durant’s own channel, which affords behind-the-scenes look at his life and the journey to his first NBA championship, has attracted more than 21 million views. Other sports-related projects are in the works.
“We want to tell great sports stories and produce great sports content,” said Kleiman. “We want to tell these stores on as many platforms as possible.”
Apple’s slate is a mix of straight-to-series orders as well as projects, which are being developed for straight-to-series consideration. Swagger is taking the latter route, joining drama Are You Sleeping starring Octavia Spencer and Little America, a half-hour anthology series from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the Oscar-nominated writers of indie hit The Big Sick.
Straight-to-series orders at Apple include a morning show drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, which has a two-season pickup, an Amazing Stories reboot from Steven Spielberg, a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a comedy starring Kristin Wiig, world-building drama See from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, as well as docuseries Home from Matt Tyrnauer and Matthew Weaver.