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In her first post-ESPN gig, Jemele Hill will narrate LeBron James’ basketball documentary Shut Up and Dribble, which bows in November on Showtime. The three-part series is directed by Gotham Chopra (who also helmed the Tom Brady doc Tom vs. Time), and it is among a slew of new projects from James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment.
The title was inspired by conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, who last February used it on her Fox News program as a rebuke to James and Kevin Durant for anti-Trump opinions they expressed during a segment on James’ Uninterrupted digital platform. James, who has been an outspoken critic of the president, is in effect trolling Ingraham — and his critics on the right — with the title.
“I think LeBron, like a lot of people, has been very frustrated by the behavior of this administration,” Hill tells The Hollywood Reporter. “[Black Americans] feel very insulted and vulnerable within this time because of who’s in charge.”
Hill — who has covered the NBA for ESPN and began her journalism career as a sports writer (at the Raleigh News & Observer and then the Detroit Free Press) — was originally booked as an interviewee. But the fact that Hill famously expressed her dismay with President Trump in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., makes enlisting her all the more apt. After she became the target of virulent comments and threats from the alt-right, James voiced his support for her. “Once you’re in the club,” she says, “it’s something that binds you.”
The film includes an array of revealing interviews and is a who’s who of NBA greats and provocateurs (Isaiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Durant) and pop culture influencers (Sway Calloway, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake). Naturally, James also sits for an interview.
Still, it’s unusual — though it shouldn’t be — to hear a woman narrate a sports documentary. “Especially,” adds Hill, “a black woman.”
“Lately LeBron has talked about gender and wanting to uplift and position black women in particular,” says Hill. “I get the sense that this is all part of that. He was raised by a black woman, he is married to a black woman and he is raising a black woman (daughter Zhuri, 3). If you look at the societal ladder, black women remain on the lowest rung. He clearly understands that we are facing a unique battle. It means a lot that he understands the intricacies of that.”
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