"30 for 30" is back on ESPN proper tonight at 8 with Steve James' "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson." James directed "Hoop Dreams," one of the greatest documentaries ever made (about sports or otherwise), and he and Iverson grew up in the same hometown of Hampton, VA, so I had high expectations for this match of filmmaker and subject. I was not disappointed. A few brief thoughts after the jump...
As the subtitle suggests, "No Crossover" focuses on the bowling alley brawl Iverson was involved in as a 17-year-old. But in a broader sense, the film is about the divide between the black and white populations of Hampton, as seen through the lens of both the trial and James's own upbringing. Some of the film's most affecting moments involve detailing little-known pieces of Iverson's biography, but just as emotional are ones where James talks to his mother, or about his father or, in one case, engages his African-American cameraman in an impromptu dialogue on race. There are documentaries where it feels like the director has inserted himself into the story for the sake of self-promotion, but here the two stories blend together beautifully. (And the whole point of "30 for 30" has been to let the directors tell stories they have a personal stake in, whether they include themselves in the action like James and Peter Berg, or not like Dan Klores.)
For those assuming "No Crossover" will be an apology for Iverson, it is not. Nor is it a condemnation. It looks at the case, and at his life, and lets you choose your own answers about The Answer. Iverson's not always a model citizen (and the film was made before some of the latest bizarre/sad twists in his story), but James tries to place his life and behavior in a greater context, to try to find some truth not only about the bowling alley trial, but so much of AI's story. It's a wonderful film, one of the best of this terrific film series, and I highly recommend it.
Watch it tonight and feel free to discuss it here.