Podcast: Interviews with Draft Express guru Jon Givony, “Best Unsigned Basketball Player” Dre Baldwin; paean to Obama; The Great White Hype reviewed

Another week, another podcast. The latest episode of the “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now live over at heinnews; this time, Germany-based sportswriter David Hein and BallinEurope run the following gamut.

• A quasi-obligatory nod to the recent W notched by Barack Obama, significantly the US’ first unabashed basketball fanatic in the Oval Office;

• The typical rundown/running on about past and upcoming Euroleague matches, plus how ready Os-as-Los-Angeles-Lakers-fan is to hit the panic button;

• An interview with Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, certainly one of the – if not *the* – authority website on basketball prospects throughout the world. Definitely stay tuned to this portion of the ‘cast to find out who the youth guru identifies as the second coming of Lynn Greer(!);

• An interview with Dre “All Day” Baldwin, who’s currently promoting himself as “The Best Unsigned Basketball Player Alive Today”; and

• A review of the criminally underrated Ron Shelton-penned boxing movie, “The Great White Hype.” (Incidentally, for little good reason aside from basic awesomeness, the trailer for said flick runs under the page break.)

Enjoy the show and, as always, talk to you next week!

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And the Oscar (Robertson) goes to: Basketball Movies in 2010

So the envelopes have been opened and the celebratory parties in Tinseltown have yet to truly begin as Hollywood’s version of the NBA All-Star Weekend draws to a close. BallinEurope spent most of the weekend flipping between the ACB, NBA, “Black Swan” and “The Kids are All Right,” and is thus in perfect mindset to present the 2011 Oscar (Robertson) awards for cinematic basketball excellence.

Wait, did BiE say “cinematic”? That particular adjective may be slightly inaccurate for the films of 2010, especially considering the key noun “excellence” is also involved: In terms of basketball movies, the good news/bad news summation for last year’s roundball cinema subgenre informs that, while the volume of full-length features, documentaries and short videos was up in 2010, a single force dominated in terms of quality. And that force was ESPN. And last year’s best basketball films were, simply put, all on TV.

First, the field in the race for the “Best Dramatic Full-Length Feature” Oscar (Robertson).

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The greatest basketball movie ever made

In awarding the first-ever Oscar (Robertson) for the Best Basketball Motion Picture of The Year, Ball in Europe is pleased to be able to acknowledge not only truly the best basketball movie of 2009, but the best movie of 2009; not only the greatest film of the year, but the greatest film of all-time; and not merely the greatest film of all-time, but one of the single most significant accomplishments in the very existence of homo sapiens.

To that film – nay, this human achievement – goes the 2009 Oscar (Robertson) for Best Basketball Motion Picture of the Year.

That film is “Who Shot Mamba?”

As a mere mortal like yours truly has no business even attempting to encapsulate the breathtaking breadth of this film’s philosophical scope and no chance at capturing all the sharp humor in a movie that blows away discussion of formerly held cinematic comedy classics like “The Great Dictator” and “The Life of Brian” (Is it any coincidence that Mamba’s titular character is as serpentine as that Monty fellow from Britain?), I’ll allow the official website to provide the capsule description:

When Merri Sherman (screenwriter/worship-worthy genius Brian Spaeth) is framed for the murder of his best friend, a charismatic snake named Mamba, he must follow the ominous, doom-laden instructions of the Prophesy of the Orange Roundie in order to unravel the truth and clear his name.

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Confirmed: Divac’s “Once Brothers” in ESPN’s “30 for 30″ series

Thanks go out this morning to the folks at ESPN Communications and congratulations go out to Vlade Divac and filmmaker Michael Tolajian, whose documentary film “Jednom braća” (“Once Brothers”) has been confirmed as part of ESPN’s high-profile “30 for 30” documentary film series. The addition of Tolajian’s film to the series had been reported by Serbia media earlier this week.

The “30 for 30” series features medium-length films on a sports subject; among the notable names contributing directorial skills to the series are Barry Levinson, Steve Nash, Ice Cube and Morgan Freeman.

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Movie review: Streetballers

Amidst the NBA All-Star weekend festivities starting up tonight in Dallas, the independently-produced film Streetballers continues its distribution through America with a VIP celebrity/NBA charity screening and fundraiser. Set to host festivities is the Los Angeles Lakers’ Josh Powell, certainly the movie’s biggest fan (that’s his “best basketball film ever made” remark on promo material); P. Diddy will be hosting the post-screening bash.

Streetballers premiered in 2009 and stars Jimmy McKinney, the former University of Missouri/current Deutsche Bank Skyliners guard.

The film will be going on to local premieres in Miami, Washington D.C., and New York City – so how about bringing it to The Continent, Mr. Krentz? – but is available now in a special DVD edition (including lotsa extras) along with the soundtrack via NeoFlix. Click here for the official Streetballers movie website.

Review and official trailer follow.

It’s absurd if you think about it. Basketball itself, i mean. Seriously, what are we spending so much time doing, watching, obsessing over? An amusement involving humans displaying very specialized skills with the ultimate goal of inducing a ball to complete passage through a metal ring. That’s it.

Yet, to those who play the game, to those seek to make the game a life’s calling, to those who live and die with the games, it transcends. Strong individual personalities aside, team play in basketball requires a dissolution of the ego, a submission of self to greater altruistic good, to work best. Basketball can make one a better person, can bridge gaps in communication across fear and history, can bring pride to a nation.

Why? Call it the power of love of the game. And love, as we know, is its own reward.

Streetballers is a product of love of the game, and the first feature film from independent film quadruple threat director/producer/writer/lead actor Matthew Scott Krentz. It’s a deft exploration of true-to-life characters in a visual essay on how basketball links us all. (It’s no coincidence that the PR blurb on the film’s page leads with “Streetballers is for basketball what Field of Dreams was for baseball,” i.e. “Defining street basketball as America’s new favorite pastime” or, as an updated Terence Mann might say, “basketball has marked the time.”)

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