By Jim Williams
Special to S.F. Examiner
Warriors super star Kevin Durant is right now is hoping his team will make it to the NBA Finals with a chance at winning their third straight championship. Meanwhile, his production company — Thirty Five Media — is set to debut an outstanding new documentary titled “Q-Ball” that will air on FS1 on May 28th at 9 p.m. ET and is a joint production with HEIST and Hunting Lane Films.
Durrant is the executive producer of “Q-Ball,” which tells the story of another Bay Area basketball team called the Warriors — one you won’t see play on TV, and one you can’t buy tickets to see. “Q-Ball” will give viewers a chance to see a much different Warriors team than the one that plays in Oakland.
About 26 miles from the Oracle Arena, the Q-Warriors play all their games at San Quentin State Prison, one of the toughest and most secure jails in the United States. They play their games in a prision league, where basketball has become a way of life.
“My first visit to San Quentin with my teammates was an unforgettable experience that moved me and made me want to bring it to a larger audience,” Durant said in a statement. “This film shines a light on these individuals, their struggles and their connection through basketball.”
“Q Ball” is one of the best sports documentaries I have seen in years. It is shot in a way where the story is told by the people involved. No actors, no narration; just the real, cold, hard facts of playing ball in prison and how playing for the Q-Warriors impacts the lives of the men who make the team.
It is a gritty movie about how basketball brings people together, and how playing hoops as a team can give these men self worth. In some cases, it’s the only time some of these men feel free. The film tells the true story of how playing for a team can be the first step back in the long road to becoming someone who owns what they have done, and seeks to better themselves.
The film is directed and written by multi-award-winning Michael Tolajian, who now heads up Fox Sports Films. Tolajian opts to allow the key members of the team and their coach to tell their own stories on how they got to San Quentin in their own words, and it pays off. The stories are real, interesting and very compelling.
The coach is Rafael Cuevas, and the players featured are Lt. Sam Robinson, Cornell Shields, Alan McIntosh, Harry “ATL” Smith, Dejon Joy, Anthony Ammons, Tervin Fournette and Stacy Redman.
One of the key people that the film showcases is Smith — at 31, the best player on the team — whose goal upon release is to be the first convicted felon to play in the NBA. Cuevas, who is in prison for killing a man at a Giants games 15 years ago, is also featured.
Before the start of the first practice each year, Cuevas has all members of the team sign a contract. He stresses the importance of playing by the rules, not only of the game but being better as members of the San Quentin community. Cuevas is a coach as well as a counselor — a role he embraces and for which he has gained the respect of every player on the team.
At the end of the film, Smith has served his time, and was offered a chance to try out for the Warriors G-League team in Santa Cruz. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but the good news is we do find out the fate of every member of the Q Warriors featured in the film.
While, it might sound funny to say, this actually is a film for the family. It is real. It shows how one bad choice can change a life forever.
Each of the past two years, the Golden State Warriors front office and coaches come to San Quentin for a game against the Q-Warriors. It is the biggest day of the year on the yard.
So far this season, the Q Warriors are undefeated and have been very impressive in both wins.