Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey (2023) Review – A confusing underdog story

A confusing underdog story

Amazon’s new documentary about the journey from the minors to the majors in the world of professional basketball is a bit of a confusing underdog story. Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey follows a handful of NBA hopefuls as they work their way through the highs and lows of playing in the NBA’s G League, and try to secure an opportunity at the major level.

For starters, if you aren’t a fan of basketball, there is a good chance you will turn this off after the 25- minute mark. All the players the cameras follow in the documentary get a moment of introduction and discuss the journey they have had with the G League. Some have had it harder than others. There are some kids starting to age in the so-called “Junior Varsity” league. Some have been to the big time, and some are most likely going to the big time. It’s a great setup, but once that part is over, you realize there’s still 90 more minutes left in the film. And it’s here where Destination NBA doesn’t quite hit its groove.

The film follows players like Scoot Henderson, a recent draft pick by the Portland Trailblazers this past summer. There’s also Gabe York, an aging player at the Indiana Pacers G League team who comes close time and time again to getting an NBA contract. We also follow Denzel Valentine, a player who was drafted in 2015 by the Chicago Bulls and then was bumped down to the G-League and now plays for the Maine Celtics, Boston’s G-League team. 

The problem is, this film follows too many players. Three would have been enough with the three aforementioned players, but there are still two more we follow. Mason Jones is a 24-year-old player in Mexico City who battles through injury in the back half of the film, which leads to him missing opportunities with the big leagues. Oh, and who could forget fan favorite Ryan Turell, an orthodox Jewish player in Detroit. He stands out from the crowd because of his skill and his religion that he elegantly abides by.

We also diverge off their paths to follow a few other players and coaches in the G-League, and as an audience we’re not sure if we’re supposed to be following those people as well. Regardless of this confusion, the sports documentary does a brilliant job at capturing gameplay on the courts at games across the country. From California to Maine, there’s great work being done on the court, with a slew off footage spliced together. Essentially, this is kind of a two-hour highlight reel for these guys. So the question is, did this documentary need to be made?

Destination NBA is trying to be a great underdog story for its viewers. It points out the hardship of rejection quite well in professional sports. You want these guys to have an uplifting ending by the time you hit the end of the movie but there are undoubtedly some that you resonate more with than others. The problem is, when it comes to sports, the real nitty gritty is between the lines of the grind that these guys go through. This is said but never felt. There’s a lot of surface-level stuff being said in the film, like the cliched “You just gotta keep getting better”. Destination NBA, at times, feels like five guys being interviewed for two hours, all saying the same thing.

For a documentary that explores the journey you’re on, there needs to be something deeper said or shown here. But then to counter that, there is a perspective on what these players go through and what they already achieved in the film’s final moments. Despite these men not being at the level of Lebron James or Steph Curry, they are a few players out of about a thousand that are the best on the planet at what they do right now. And even if the G League is as far as they can get, that’s still pretty damn good. It’s just a shame that this documentary doesn’t quite follow suit.


Read More: Destination NBA Ending Explained

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 5/10

Leave a comment