Chance of a Lifetime
Best on the Rez
Win or Go Home
Anyone who knows me will tell you I love sport documentaries. With an incredibly generous pool of different documentaries out there in this genre, Netflix have done well to push their way to the forefront of this race. Between Drive To Survive, Icarus and Battered Bastards Of Baseball, the streaming giants have done well to hold their own against Amazon’s star-studded All Or Nothing series. Not one to miss a trick, Netflix return with Basketball or Nothing, a series following the high-school season for one basketball team.
With a rigid structure incredibly similar to All Or Nothing, the 6 episodes begin with an introduction to the players and coach of Chinle Basketball Team and follow them through a whole season of basketball. With all the highs and lows shown through an array of well-edited matches, the 6 episodes swing between each of the kids on the team and their family lives, as well as depicting the training that goes into preparing for the games. It’s all very familiar stuff and for anyone whose seen Amazon’s All or Nothing series, all the same tricks seen in that series show up here too.
On the one hand, the production design sticks very closely to the emotionally charged way All or Nothing tackles its subject matter but unlike that series, it can take a while to warm to the players here. As the episodes tick by and the focus shifts slightly to what lies beyond basketball at school, the series actually works better as we see a lot more emotional depth with the players that makes it a lot easier to really warm to their characteristics.
The fly on the wall approach is pretty good here and the build-up toward important matches are well paced to really add to that emotional depth. The problem is, none of it feels wholly original and a lot does feel far too similar to what we’ve seen before. While there’s nothing against shooting a documentary in this way, it also feels a little creatively starved as the rigid structure of family life/training/big match dominates the run-time.
Having said all that, Basketball or Nothing is a well paced, engaging sport documentary series well worth checking out. It does a good job depicting a tumultuous season for a team struggling to adjust to life away from Rezball, and setting their sights toward a championship. It may not be the best documentary series Netflix have put out, but it is another highly enjoyable one, one well worth checking out if you’re a sport fan.