The great sports documentaries aren’t about scoreboards and overtimes, they’re about facing adversity, the will to succeed, the pain of loss, and the triumph of perseverance. They’re narratives following teenage basketball players trying to elevate their circumstances on and off the court like in Hoop Dreams or films chronicling the rise of would-be legends like LeBron James in More Than A Game. The court, the ball, the time clock — that’s just a backdrop to a much more compelling kind of story — and that’s the case for Us Against The World as well.
The ten-episode doc series from Uproxx Studios and Watchable follows a handful of promising high school athletes who relocate to Eastern Kentucky to play ball for Cordia High School and NBA veteran Rodrick Rhodes. The teens are trying to escape violence, dangerous neighborhoods, and literal wars in order to have a place on the court but the series makes it clear that their journey is a challenging one filled with mock lynchings, trolls dressed up as gorillas, and other examples of racism. It’s an unforgiving and enthralling glimpse into a battle waging in Middle America that will probably inspire you and piss you off at the same time.
Before you dive into the first episode of the 10 part series, which is streaming via Watchable, get to know the players and the people at the heart of this gripping story.
Rodrick Rhodes (Head Coach)
Rodrick Rhodes played for Kentucky basketball royalty as a member of the Kentucky Wildcats in the ’90s before transferring out and eventually making it to the NBA. A veteran assistant at the collegiate level, Rhodes had the right touch to transform Cordia from being a team that other teams played when they needed an easy win into a successful program, much to the ire of the rest of the county.
Alice Whitaker (Director, Cordia High School)
Alice Whitaker’s ancestors founded Cordia High School so she’s got a stake in seeing it prosper, on and off the court. The doc is as much about her struggle to diversify her town and maintain her community’s identity as it is about the game of basketball.
Ramon “Momo” Mercado (Junior, New York)
A star point guard, Ramon “Momo” Mercado struggles with a defeatist attitude in Us Against The World. Coming from a family affected by gang violence, Cordia might be his shot to escape the cycle of drugs and prison prominent in his family. And he’s got the ability to do it through the game of basketball. He just needs to show up.
Malik Henry (Senior, Queens)
The first thing you notice about Malik Henry is his size. The guy’s a bruiser who excels at plowing through defenders and driving to the basket. He’s also the oldest kid on the team and someone the other kids look to as a leader even though he’s had his own rough journey and spent time in lockup.
Kareem McDonald (Junior, Brooklyn)
Kareem McDonald is a mellow, unassuming kid with a talent for hitting threes. Another Cordia player with impressive leadership potential, Kareem’s got the ability to push himself and his teammates on and off the court.
Oumar Keita (Junior, Mali, Africa)
Oumar Keita is called “The Big Fish” and for good reason. The kid stands at an impressive 7’1 which means his game and his story stand out. A refugee whose family fled Mali because of ISIS, Oumar is a devout Muslim hoping to achieve his own version of the American dream – one that starts with basketball but definitely doesn’t end there.
D’Andre Reed (Freshman, Harlem)
D’Andre Reed goes from a kid whose mom wouldn’t let him play in his own neighborhood in Harlem for fear of violence to a kid living on his own in rural Kentucky. D’Andre isn’t on his own, though. Instead, he’s mentored and supported by his teammates who are experiencing the same growing pains as he is.