They ball hard in the Chicago projects and you either play or get played. Basketball serves as a ticket out for gifted kids like ISAAC. But as he sails through the air, there’s always someone pulling him down.
They ball hard in the Chicago projects and you either play or get played. Basketball serves as a ticket out for gifted kids like ISAAC. His is a pure, beautiful talent and he honors his gift with rigor and discipline. But as he sails through the air, there’s always someone pulling him down. His father, RODERICK, fresh out of Cook County jail starts pimping his talents to various college recruiters. Unbeknownst to Isaac, Roderick sells him off to the highest bidder – ISU – a basketball powerhouse in Reno, Nevada. Isaac is angry about the deal but gives in out of pity for his father. He manages to salvage the situation by convincing ISU to offer his best friend, KORLEONE, a scholarship to join him. Nevada. It’s hot as hell in heaven. The inner city kids are overwhelmed by the sweet amenities thrown at star athletes. Korleone is seduced but Isaac, wary by nature and nurture, fears the embrace is insincere and patronizing. We meet a wild cast of teammates and as the season progresses we sense they’re something special. We watch the team evolve and grow in unity – a unity shattered by the temptation of money. Isaac and Korleone are given a minder/roommate, KYLE, who emerges as the busiest bookie on campus. Korleone quickly becomes his most ardent customer. Kyle welcomes the action, burying Korleone in a mountain of debt and giving him sway. As ISU starts winning, Korleone resents the attention Isaac draws as the emerging star. But he’s got bigger problems when Kyle demands repayment of his massive debts. Kyle offers a deal. Korleone can work the debt off by shaving points to stay within the gambling point spread. After several erratic performances, Isaac confronts Korleone. He admits to throwing games but justifies it by claiming they’re the ones who are being exploited – mere chattel in a profitable sports factory. Isaac rejects his friend in disgust. During the next game, Isaac counters every Korleone “mistake” with a brilliant play, not fully realizing that he is sealing Korleone’s fate with the gamblers. Kyle and his thugs savagely beat Korleone and promise worse if he doesn’t come up with $70 grand. Isaac finds Korleone bruised and hopeless and is faced with a horrible choice – his love for his friend or his love for the game. He’ll get the money for Korleone by gambling on himself and his team. He raises some seed money and places it all on ISU to win against their heavily favored rivals, the MONARCHS. Though he’s risking his career, if Isaac wins he can pay off Korleone’s debts. But it’s a tall order as he faces off against MALIK, the Monarch’s star guard and finest player in the country. It’s a momentous battle and Isaac plays his heart out. He surprises himself by staying equal to if not surpassing the play of Malik. In the final seconds, Isaac seals the victory with a stunning drive over Malik. The team revels in jubilation and Korleone is off the hook. It should be a moment of supreme joy for Isaac but he learns, as the Monarchs leave the floor, that Malik has thrown the game. Suddenly the taste of victory sours. Isaac spies the layers of exploitation. He sees greed befoul his sweat and tears. He feels it. A win is not a win.