The show will unfold over the course of the 2020-21 season, with exact participants and schools still to be determined. The goal is to provide an intimate look at the challenges HBCU schools face in competing with bigger programs to attract top basketball recruits. Waves of nationwide protests against racism in recent weeks have resurfaced the issue. Deadline reported Tuesday about an HBCU feature film project set up at Universal from producer Will Packer.
Paul’s Ohh Dip!!! Productions will produce the show with Roadside founding partners Ron Yassen and John Hirsch. The two companies have collaborated on Emmy-nominated documentary Crossroads, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. Paul and Roadside are both repped by CAA.
Speaking to Deadline from his home in Oklahoma City (where he plays for the Thunder), Paul said he plans to stay involved with the show even while taking part in the NBA’s season resumption in Florida. He said the subject of the series hits close to home given his upbringing in Winston-Salem, NC.
“There was an HBCU right in my back yard,” he said, alluding to Winston-Salem State University. “For some reason, I just didn’t really think of it.” Instead, he got a scholarship to attend Wake Forest. “Today, kids’ mindsets have changed. We hope that this show will keep that conversation going.”
Earlier this year, Paul formed a partnership with Anita Elberse, a professor at Harvard Business School, to bring her course in entertainment, media and sports to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Expanding to additional HBCUs in 2021, the course addresses emerging issues in the field of management as it relates to the business of sports, media and entertainment.
“HBCUs historically have been at a competitive disadvantage with their basketball programs facing many challenges with funding, recruitment, misperceptions, and exposure,” said Chris Paul. “With the current racial awakening in our country prompting young athletes to look at where they play, it’s now more important than ever to shine a light on HBCUs and showcase their value in sports and society.”
Becoming a father helped refocused Paul’s attention on HBCUs, and he listed for Deadline many friends and family members who have gone that educational route. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to pay more attention,” he said. “I did the research.”
He also got to experience the electricity of the crowd by playing in a 2011 exhibition game held at Winston-Salem State during the NBA lockout that year. Among the players on the court were LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, John Wall and Rudy Gay. “You can look it up on YouTube – the atmosphere was unbelievable,” Paul said. “I know people who still rave about that game.”
Achieving a point where HBCUs have that kind of consistent intensity, on the level of major conferences like the ACC, is possible, Paul said. “A lot of it goes back to funding,” he said. “I’m just excited that they’re starting to get acknowledged.”
Yassen said Roadside, a producer of sports docs and shows like the ESPY Awards, is “excited to partner with Chris on this project. He’s a proven leader on and off the court. He brings limitless knowledge, resources, and integrity to this story.”
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