Basketball is more than just a sport; it’s a culture uniting Harlem residents. “KINGDOME,” a documentary short by Shawn Antoine II, was recently screened at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem. The film vibrantly explores how the Kingdome Classic evolved into a community tradition, while paying homage to those who had a great impact on it.
Kingdome was founded by Terry “Huncho” Cooper in 1984. The tournament takes place in the middle of Martin Luther King Jr. Towers, also known as Foster Projects, and brings together the best young basketball talent and celebrities with the Harlem community. Huncho’s legacy has affected many, including Antoine himself, who was honored when Huncho asked him to produce a documentary on Kingdome’s history.
The 20-minute film features cameos from NBA player Mo Bamba and Harlem rapper Jim Jones—an example of the kinship between hip hop and basketball. Antoine grew up on the west side of Harlem, opposite Kingdome. “I didn’t know too much about that world and I think the biggest thing for Kingdome and its impact on hip hop and Black culture, even the world, is that people needed to be drawn in how I was,” he said.
The documentary pulls the audience in with its captivating characters, raw footage of Kingdome games, and clips of popular New York City music artists like Diddy, Dame Dash, and Teyana Taylor—in addition to shining shots from Harlem’s past.
At the recent screening, viewers were amused by a MySpace reference, the social media platform from 20 years ago. They laughed and reacted at timely moments during the film. Antoine made this screening very interactive, including his openness to feedback.
During the artist talkback after the film, Antoine said he was aiming for more depth in his vision beyond basketball. He wants to produce a feature film that focuses on Harlem’s collective fondness for Kingdome. “In a longer version of the film, I imagine myself following a player and following Kev [Kevin Joseph] as he’s putting together a tournament,” said Antoine. After asking the crowd for more suggestions, one response hit home from a resident who grew up in Kingdome.
Brenika Banks photos
“I have 20 years of seeing the Kingdome happen myself, but I’ve never seen somebody come to my projects and be able to vividly show the community, show the basketball players, the kids, and the people who started it,” said Rodney Noultrie. The Foster Projects resident said this short film was a great way to accurately display the hard work, dedication, and unity associated with the tournament. “It was very important to show how far we come over time and all the legends and elevation we created as a community for Kingdome to take place,” said Noultrie.
Noultrie told Antoine everything he showcased in the film was “dope.”
Antoine understands the importance of documenting the beauty of a united community, and not a violent one. As a youth, Antoine saw more athletes and musicians in Harlem than he saw filmmakers. Antoine described the support he feels as “amazing.” “I’m a filmmaker. I have to take on this responsibility of telling stories in my community as authentically and as positively as I can,” he said.
Maintaining positivity in Harlem is challenging, especially with gentrification and past neighborhood shootings. According to “KINGDOME,” in the mid-2000s, a child being shot led to the NYPD banning loud music at the tournament. The lack of music inspired Voice of Harlem to improvise chanting “no music” over a microphone in rhythm—and people danced to it. The creativity of “No Music” led to the 2006 viral hit “Chicken Noodle Soup” by Harlem’s own Webstar and Young B.
Antoine referred to Kingdome as a “special place” because it’s enjoyed by youth, older residents, and college and professional basketball players alike. He spoke about the importance of creating, building, and maintaining different relationships in the process of making his documentary. “It’s such an interesting experience as a documentary filmmaker,” he said. “You’re not just a filmmaker. I think that’s the last thing you are: More importantly, you’re a reporter, [and] you’re a historian.”
Noultrie values the essence of the universe witnessing “the greatest tournament in NYC.” “We are like no other tournament in the city because we are actually from here,” said Noultrie. He anticipates Antoine adding more vital characters to the feature film. “I’m from here and I can help Shawn connect with the community more than the basketball side of things.”
Antoine is very considerate in making sure the correct people are involved with the film, and looks forward to shooting the feature-length version in coincide with Kingdome’s 40th anniversary next year. For more information, visit www.shawnantoineii.com and his Instagram page at www.instagram.com/shawnantoineii.