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Basketball or Nothing

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Basketball or Nothing TV Poster Image
Captivating docuseries inspires, challenges stereotypes.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This insightful series has strong themes of perseverance and determination. Viewers see the players learn and grow on the court and off, influenced by a hard-nosed but caring coach who wants his team to succeed for themselves and for the broader community. The show exposes viewers to elements of life on the Navajo Nation reservation, where the influences of poverty, drug use, and minimal opportunity threaten teens' hope for the future. Even so, the players' strong connections to their families and to their heritage inspires them to work hard on the court and in life.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Coach Mendoza stirs things up on the team with his new approach to basketball that counters what his players are used to, and there are some initial struggles as a result. As the growing pains subside and the team comes to trust his expertise more, his influence on them translates to better performance on the court and a mentoring role in their lives. Family and community members support the players in their quest for success.

Violence

Some discussions raise issues like suicide and violent behavior on the reservation.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The prevalence of drugs and drinking on the reservation is a topic of conversation at times, and some scenes show empty bottles and drug refuse littering the ground.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Basketball or Nothing is a captivating docuseries about a Navajo Nation high school basketball team whose players, coaching staff, and fans have their sights set on an Arizona state title. The show follows the team through the ups and downs of regular season games and the adjustment to a new coach's more traditional style of play than the teens are used to playing. Some exchanges get heated when stakes are high, but there's no strong language in the coach's stern and honest criticisms of his players. In addition to the drama on the hardwood, the series provides a revealing look at life on the Navajo Nation reservation, where depressed socioeconomics, suicide rates, substance abuse, and other harsh realities challenge the players to remain focused on the team's goals and their means of future success. That said, in many cases, the teens inspire with their determination, perseverance, and openness to the influence of strong role models in their coaches and family members.

 

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What's the story?

BASKETBALL OR NOTHING is a docuseries that follows the basketball team at Chinle High School on the Navajo Nation reservation through a season's effort to chase an Arizona state title. Under the guidance of veteran coach Raul Mendoza, who brings a new philosophy to his first season with the Chinle Wildcats, the team works hard to adapt to his expectations and the hopes of the broader Chinle community. As adversity on the court and off challenges the players, they strive for success and hope that basketball can help launch futures of limitless possibility.

 

Is it any good?

You needn't be a basketball fan to succumb to the captivating nature of this enlightening series. Drama plays out on the court as losses threaten the group's goals and players adjust to Mendoza's methods -- all while dealing with the pressures of playing a sport that garners a cult following that outnumbers the town's population -- but there's more intrigue in the subjects' backstories and the intimate picture they paint of life on the Navajo Nation reservation.

Basketball or Nothing's title is a nod to the harsh reality that if not for the popular sport, there would be very near nothing for these teens to do in and around Chinle, where drug use, drinking, and suicide rates are disproportionately high among teens and young adults. For these players, basketball is more than just a productive use of their free time; it's a possible ticket off the reservation and into college, a career, and a more secure lifestyle than many have known in their own childhoods. Despite hardships, this team is determined to succeed and to see where doing so can take them in the future.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what aspects of the players' lives make succeeding on the court more challenging than those of average teens. What responsibilities do they have beyond the usual school and sports? How do they balance all of it? What role does basketball play in their overall happiness?

  • Is Coach Mendoza a positive role model for his players? Do they respect him? Does he respect them? Teens: Who in your life influences you beyond the role of a teacher or mentor?

  • What is the goal of Basketball or Nothing? How does it promote the idea of counter-stereotypes? Do the players inspire you with their ability to persevere through adversity?

TV details

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