Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Little Ballers

Little Ballers

Spring 2016 Television
Ages: 6 - 18 yrs.
Producer: Nickelodeon
Rating: TV G

Don't be put off by the name of this documentary focusing on young basketball players. These "little ballers" are 11-year old boys on the New Heights AAU basketball team in Brooklyn.

We follow the group - on and off the court - as they make their way through a national tournament, aiming to snag the championship title.

Former New York Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire serves as the film's executive producer. Other NBA stars including Carmelo Anthony and Walt Frazier make appearances to talk about how playing the game has affected their lives.

The documentary focuses on four boys in particular - Judah, Tyriek, Cole and Kevin, all of who play hard, struggle with the hardship of practice and coping with and learning from their tough coach. They dream of one day making it to the NBA.

It's not easy to see Coach Billy yell at Tyriek, that he didn't see "enough intensity" out there from him. Tyriek, who clearly gets upset, is told not to cry. Later, when Tyriek is interviewed on camera, he says he gets "sad" when the coach yells. But he adds that he doesn't think the kids would listen if the coach didn't yell.

The kids' parents are happy that they have found AAU basketball to keep them out of trouble on the streets. It's when kids have nothing to do that they find trouble, says one mom.

By the end, you'll be rooting for the team to win. Will the New Heights boys prevail? Life isn't always about happy endings, but these kids are so fearless that a national championship trophy seems like a slam-dunk. You'll have to watch to see. As Coach Billy puts it, "It was a journey we fought together."

What's really valuable, however, is that win or lose, the kids have grown, bonded and learned much from being part of the team. They have used basketball to help them focus, to grow, to learn sportsmanship and discipline. They deserve cheers for that. And so do the filmmakers.

Ann Oldenburg   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Ann Oldenburg, assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, began her career at The Washington Post and went on to spend more than two decades with USA Today, where she covered pop culture topics. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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