‘The Spoils’ director discusses link between NBA and AAU basketball

“The Spoils” is a basketball documentary which looks at the innards of American basketball on multiple levels. Former USC basketball stars Evan Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu figure prominently in the film. We talked to the film’s director, Mike Nicoll. “The Spoils” will be released on June 13 of this year, in just a few weeks.

Trojans Wire: What will people learn in this documentary, “The Spoils”?

Mike Nicoll: I try not to tell my audience what to think about a story, because I think they’re smart enough to decide for themselves. To my eye, a successful film is a movie that asks important questions – and motivates the audience to continue thinking about them after the movie’s over. We spent 11 years, start to finish, shooting “The Spoils.” That stretch of time just happened to be the most transformational decade in the history of the landscape. Between the emergence of social media and NIL, the world we used to understand as “amateur sports” has been obliterated. The boundaries between levels are blurrier than ever … and, in many ways, the business has become the game.

Our film unpacks the interconnectivity of the system, the professionalization of every level … and the financialization of the sport from the bottom up. I think there are some important questions facing the industry — and, more importantly, facing families and young players — in terms of the incentive structures that drive the game.

It’s like, what do we want to optimize for? Brand building? Recruiting? Social media followers? Selling shoes? Or player development? I think that most people in and around the game would say the spirit, or soul, of the game is in trouble. I think our film asks important questions about what we want the American basketball system to be built for … and that starts with the choices that families make about what they want out of it.

Trojans Wire: What makes AAU basketball so fascinating and different from other youth sports programs?

Nicoll: I always tell people the reason I’m so fascinated by it (AAU) is because it’s sort of this quintessentially American space, where the streets are colliding with corporate America.

AAU and the NBA are interconnected pieces of the same system. Kind of like Lego pieces attached to one another. You can try to pull them apart and look at them as their own thing. But you’re gonna miss the bigger picture.”

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire