In My Father’s House
Get Thee Behind Me
Bound for Promised Land
Whether it be Leicester winning the Premier League or a shocking upset like Holly Holms beating Ronda Rousey, there’s something timelessly endearing about a good sport story. Over the years we’ve been graced with numerous different small screen efforts trying to recreate this magic, ranging from the ever-popular All Or Nothing series to Formula 1: Drive To Survive.
Netflix’s Last Chance U dropped back in 2016 and instead of looking at the big time NFL, turned its attention toward the competitive field of college football. The result was an emotionally involving series that brought the best elements of sport with a more intimate touch, looking at the lives and community shaped by this wildly popular sport.
Fast forward to 2021 and Netflix is back, this time turning its attention toward basketball. After last year’s The Last Dance, it was perhaps inevitable that basketball would get a chance to shine and this season does no disappoint.
Split across 8 episodes, Last Chance U: Basketball focuses on community college basketball, following the 2019-2020 season of East Los Angeles College. Games take place on squeaky clean school gyms; a far cry from the NBL. However, they’re still undoubtedly one heck of a thrill-ride.
Across the season, the usual swathe of matches show up, with expository text helping to show the evolving and changing scores over time. While there are some dramatic comebacks and powerhouse performances, it’s what happens off the court that’s the real focus here.
Like any good sport docu-series, the bread and butter of this show comes from the characters inhabiting this world. Driving the team forward, and the focal point for the team’s success, is John Mosley.
Fans of Coach Carter will almost certainly draw some parallels here, with a no nonsense attitude and some eye-opening, scathing retorts toward his players. Screaming is the norm here, keeping his players in check – and on their toes – with a constant mantra of “What do you want?” along with prayers in the dressing room.
A captain is only as good as his team though, and thankfully there’s a colourful array of players under John’s wing that help to make this such a fascinating ensemble. From Players recovering from serious injuries like Joe Hampton or characters like Deshaun Highler who lost his Mother at a young age, every important player is given a good amount of screen-time and you really get a feel for who these men are.
This ultimately feeds into those aforementioned games, with a lot of the episodes here depicting a basketball game taking place. There’s the usual array of cliffhangers to keep you watching, and this combined focus on the court game and character stories will undoubtedly keep you glued to the screen. On more than one occasion you’ll be on the edge of your seat, and that really is the beauty of sport, summed up into 8 delightfully engrossing episodes. All of this builds up to a dramatic crescendo… which suddenly and abruptly ends.
No spoilers here of course but unlike other shows of its kind, finishing on a big game with the highs and lows that come with that, Last Chance U: Basketball stops short. The humbling, sobering reality of what’s happened strikes home – and strikes hard.
Last Chance U: Basketball is a slam dunk on and off the court. It’s an emotionally stirring, well directed and incredibly insightful series, making it an absolute must-watch.
Verdict - 8.5/10