My first double entry (I couldn't find Marcus's review, so I hope not to double observations).
I have many shortcomings as an avid film viewer; watching enough documentaries is one of them. But, if you are going to watch any, watch the best. And with little hyperbole, this is by far the best documentary I have seen to this point. Any production team that is dedicated enough to spend five years with two families as they support their kids' dreams of the NBA gets my respect. Roger Ebert calls this film "alive," an apropos description considering the film makers did what astute documentarians should do--run the cameras and get out of the way. Life inherently has drama, all you need to do is know how to edit it.
I found it refreshing to see a story about inner-city youth that did not deal solely with the cliche, albeit horrific, influences that plague our destitute urban landscapes. A seductive life of drugs and gangs were elephants in the room, but they were successfully kept at bay by loving families and hints of maturity. We genuinely like these kids; even when there are hiccups in their young basketball careers or questionable life choices, we feel no compunction to judge. Of all the stories, I found Curtis Gates the most compelling--a promising athlete whose arrogance derailed his career, leaving him to live vicariously through his younger brother (I did some follow-up research after the film, Curtis was unfortunately shot and killed on September 10, 2001, over a love triangle).
There are countless touching and humane parts in the film. Watching this film, I was struck by the role of luck in art (I think Marcus may have made a similar point). These film makers, who set out to do a 1/2 hour documentary on the youthful aspirations of getting to the NBA, lucked into a perfectly brilliant film. They had no idea how these careers would unfold, but each twist and unfortunate accident brings the film's social commentary into sharper relief. But then again, sports is a great site for drama and social insight.
Michael Moore has no game compared to this slam-dunk.