“Rez ball,” or reservation basketball, will provide the setting for an upcoming Netflix feature film about Native American basketball produced by LeBron James and his SpringHill Company.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie will be titled Rez Ball and is described as a combination of Friday Night Lights and Hoosiers. The story will follow a Native American high school basketball team in Chuska, New Mexico that needs to rally in pursuit of a state championship after losing its best player.
Rez Ball is based on the 2019 book Canyon Dreams, written by New York Times reporter Michael Powell. The book chronicled a Navajo high school basketball team’s season, the importance Rez Ball holds in the community, and the fast-paced, aggressive, trapping style of play that has drawn interest from coaches throughout the country.
In 2015, Powell wrote a piece about Rez Ball for the NY Times that eventually grew into his book:
“These teenagers — most are well short of 6 feet — will weave and cut, press full court, and rain 3-point shots.
“This is rez ball, a Roadrunner, beep-beep blur of legs and arms and sneakers. The former N.B.A. coach Mike D’Antoni’s claim to fame is that his Phoenix Suns tried to shoot within seven seconds after getting the ball. Navajos, who adore long-distance running and run-and-gun hoops, would view that as a slowdown offense.”
Rez Ball will be directed by Sydney Freeland, who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of Powell’s book with Sterlin Harjo. Freeland has worked on several TV series including Fear the Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy, and Station 19, in addition to the 2014 film Drunktown’s Finest. Harjo co-created the upcoming FX series Reservation Dogs with Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok).
This won’t be Netflix’s first project involving reservation basketball. The streaming network previously produced a documentary series on the Chinle High basketball team of Arizona’s Navajo nation titled Basketball or Nothing in 2019:
“Basketball on the Rez is like high school football in West Texas,” Freeland said in a statement announcing the project, via THR. “It has a fanatical following that few sports can rival.
“This is a story that’s commonplace on Indian reservations all over the U.S., but most people aren’t even aware it exists. What we want to do is bring people into our world, to tell a story about the people and places we know, and what better way to do that than through a sports movie?”
Rez Ball will be filmed on reservations in New Mexico, with the production getting permission from local sovereign tribal nations to do so.