NBA star Russell Westbrook is expanding his imprint in the entertainment industry through the creation of projects that explore unsung stories embedded in the fabric of Black history. According to Deadline, he’s developing a documentary that will capture the narratives of trailblazing Black basketball players who competed before the NBA’s racial integration.
The project will delve into the history of the Black Fives Era; a period—that spanned nearly 50 years—in which the sport of basketball was racially segregated. It will detail how the game was widely introduced to the Black community in 1904—13 years after the sport was invented—and how dozens of pioneering African American athletes popularized it within the country; using their talent and innovation to shape and elevate its landscape.
The documentary will also explore how African American sports managers and promoters transformed ballrooms, dance halls and church basements into venues where all-Black teams competed since they were barred from athletic clubs and gymnasiums that were whites-only. Turning lemons into lemonade, they intertwined live music and dance performances into the sporting events; cultivating a synergy between basketball and entertainment that still exists today. The project aims to shed light on the resiliency displayed by these Black athletes and sports innovators in the face of marginalization, and the historic strides they made before the NBA was integrated during the 1949-50 season.
Westbrook—who is creating the project through his Zero World Media production company in collaboration with The Black Fives Foundation and Propagate Content—says he’s looking forward to bringing this significant part of sports history to the forefront. “I’m excited to work with Propagate and The Black Fives Foundation on this project,” he said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “This subject is obviously very personal to me for a number of reasons. These teams helped break racial and societal barriers and paved the way for the game and the NBA as a whole. These stories deserve to be told and I’m proud of Zero World Media’s involvement.” There is no word on when the project is slated to be released.
News about the documentary comes nearly a year after Westbrook’s project Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre premiered on the History Channel.