HBO Sports Greenlights Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Documentary

The film has gone into production for an early-2015 premiere.
Courtesy of PR
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

HBO Sports has greenlighted a documentary about the life and career of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The doc, from HBO Sports and Mandalay Sports Media in association with Iconomy Multi-Media & Entertainment, has begun production and principal photography in Los Angeles.

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The film, set to debut in early 2015 on HBO, will feature interviews along with rare archival footage of the Hall of Famer, who is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and is a six-time MVP and world champion. It will be directed by Ron Yassen, produced by Deborah Morales (On the Shoulders of Giants) and executive produced by Mike Tollin (the Oscar-nominated Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, Arli$$).

"Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a legendary figure and an American sports icon," said Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports. "While he has lived so much of his life in the media spotlight, his extraordinary story has never been explored in depth, and we are grateful to Kareem and his team for allowing us to bring this story to life."

Tollin, co-chairman of Mandalay Sports Media, added that the film will "reveal the complexity and genius of Kareem both on and off the court. By his own admission, Abdul-Jabbar has had a complicated and occasionally hostile relationship with the media. This is a unique opportunity to tell all sides of his story."

Drafted No. 1 overall by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks and the ABA's New York Nets in 1969, Abdul-Jabbar (then Ferdinand Lewis "Lew" Alcindor Jr.) opted for the NBA, where he was named rookie of the year in 1970. After playing 20 professional seasons, Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989.

In addition to his basketball feats, Abdul-Jabbar has appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies, including Airplane! and Game of Death, Bruce Lee's final film. He has also written eight books, four of them New York Times best-sellers. In January 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appointed him a cultural ambassador for the United States.

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Launched in 2012 by Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment and Tollin, MSM most recently produced a special for CBS called Summer Dreams, which followed aspiring draft picks, unsigned players, a coach and a female referee. Additionally, MSM produced six mockumentary shorts chronicling Baron Davis' comeback attempt that aired on TNT's Inside the NBA. Tollin is also an executive producer on the documentary Iverson, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.

Iconomy develops, produces, distributes and manages multimedia channels in film, publishing deals, music and audio soundtracks, as well as special events, for a select group of high-profile clients. This includes generating and signing lucrative endorsement deals with national and international brands and entities and raising capital for (as well as directing and producing) critically acclaimed documentaries.

HBO Sports has won 33 Sports Emmy Awards for its documentaries and has won the Sports Emmy for outstanding documentary in five of the last seven years.