“The Redeem Team”—currently playing on Netflix—is produced by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Jon Weinbach. You don’t have to be a sports fan to be absorbed by this documentary that focuses on the 2008 United States men’s Olympic basketball team and their thirst to recapture the winning gold medal that comes with the feeling of accomplishment.
This is the stuff that makes great docs because NBA’s biggest stars set aside their egos and allowed a strong coach whip them into shape.
The late Kobe Bryant’s voice is heard in the doc which opens with the late NBA legend sitting beside LeBron James where he shared that to win Olympic gold meant more to him than any league championship.
To place the story into context, the film retraces the history of America’s Olympic basketball teams, which lost two games between 1936 and 1988, with the last defeat in Seoul, Korea. This embarrassment inspired the NBA to allow its gifted players to participate in the games and inspired the creation of the Dream Team.
But the fact of the matter was that with Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson doing their thing they were promoting the sport to an international market and enticing gifted and motivated players who wanted nothing more than to go toe-to-toe with the best in the sport. To wit, it wasn’t very long before some of the NBA’s top draft picks were hailing from countries like Argentina and Spain.
The filmmakers utilized a rich archive of vintage footage (courtesy of NBA Entertainment) with the top-of-the-line interviews from those involved in the 2008 “Redeem Team” that includes Bryant whose voice is prominent in the doc. For a moment, too fleeting, it seems that he was still alive.
The manner that the doc is stitched together is the story of how America’s premiere athletes stood under the same flag for a moment—united—in their desire to win for a country.
It’s interesting to see how the power of natural pride is shined up and the film shines because the members of the 2008 team are wonderfully charismatic who love sharing those inside stories of their time together. Their memories quickly become our memories and it’s interesting how the legendary Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, inspired them to be their very best.
Then the tone shifts—dramatically—when Bryant joins the team at a tender moment in his professional career. The history of how he interacted with Shaq in LA is shown, and how he caused some issues for the Lakers, when he enters into the picture at a moment when he’s wrestling his younger self. It’s such an interesting moment watching the amount of energy that he brought.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the surviving members of the Redeem Team speak freely about Bryant, sharing about the issues he brought and the hard work he put into getting himself together.
There’s a lot to like and love about “The Redeem Team” and if you love the sport and the NBA then this is the documentary made just for you.