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Basketball County: In the Water

Tough. Gritty. Second to none. The mecca. Those are just some of the words used to describe basketball in Prince George’s County by some of the sport’s top talents in the Showtime documentary Basketball County: In the Water, directed by John Beckham and Jimmy Jenkins. The county has the names to back up those boasts: Kevin Durant, Len Bias, Adrian Dantley, Victor Oladipo, Michael Beasley, Markelle Fultz, Marissa Coleman, and Steve Francis all hail from the area, and while Durant features as a central figure throughout the 51-minute film, it’s their collective pride and connection to their home that lifts up the documentary. The directors glide efficiently through several chapters of the county’s expansive history with the game, and given the amount of material, each could have been its own documentary. Edwin Henderson, considered the “father of Black basketball,” brought the sport to D.C. in the early 1900s. In 1968, many Black families moved from D.C. to Prince George’s County after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent uprising in the city. Kids turned to basketball as a haven, and with dozens of community recreation centers and parks in the county, talented players like Durant and Beasley had the opportunity to excel in the sport. Players like Beasley and Nolan Smith even credit go-go as an influence on how they play the game. But to these players, Prince George’s County is more than a place that produces basketball talent. It’s home. The film is available to watch on Showtime. Free with subscription. —Kelyn Soong