LOS ANGELES, CA — “Shut up and dribble.” It was meant to belittle, to put LeBron James in his place after daring to criticize the president’s divisive rhetoric. But when rightwing talk host Laura Ingraham told the basketball star just to “Shut up and dribble,” she had no idea what she was starting.
Now James will be among the executive producers of a three-part documentary series on the changing role of athletes, focusing on NBA players, scheduled to premiere on Showtime in October. It’s called “Shut Up and Dribble.” The documentary announced Tuesday in Beverly Hills will chronicle the modern history of the NBA and its players, starting with the 1976 merger with the American Basketball Association.
The film explores the NBA’s popularity dating back to 1979 when Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league. Suddenly players became leaders in commerce, fashion and, much to Ingraham’s disdain, in the political sphere.
James, arguably the most dominant player of his generation, has struck a particular nerve with Trump, who has gone out of his way to muzzle the political expression of black athletes. This week, Trump triggered another firestorm with a tweet attacking James after he gave an interview criticizing the president for using sports to divide the country.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do,” the president tweeted.
James hardly seems cowed, announcing the “Shut Up and Dribble” project in the wake of the president’s twitterstorm.
The series will be directed by Gotham Chopra, who directed the 2015 Showtime documentary “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” and the Facebook Watch documentary series on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, “Tom vs Time,” released earlier this year.
The executive producers also include Maverick Carter, James’ business manager.
“If being a star athlete is inherently a political experience, `Shut Up and Dribble,” tells that complex and dramatic story from the past to the present and from the inside out,” Showtime Networks Inc. president and CEO David Nevins said.
“LeBron James is one of many competitors whose place in the spotlight has led not to silence but perspective, and he, Maverick Carter and Gotham Chopra have given us an important, insightful docuseries that should bring their fans and fellow citizens to a higher level of discourse, rather than the dismissal satirized in the title.”
The announcement was made Monday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour which is being held in Beverly Hills.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report. Photo: LeBron James addresses the media after the opening ceremonies of the I Promise School on July 30, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. The School is a partnership between the LeBron James Family foundation and the Akron Public School and is designed to serve Akron’s most challenged students. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)