Foremost, the documentary forcefully drives the point that these questions are nothing new, recalling how Jordan’s Chicago teammate Craig Hodges seemingly paid a price for speaking out, and Denver guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s 1996 protest by, yes, not standing for the anthem.
The last chapter also deals with the league’s embrace of hip-hop culture, and the eagerness to label players “thugs” during that moment; Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling’s racist remarks, and the NBA’s decision to banish him; the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; and President Obama’s love of basketball, which forged a strong connection between the NBA and the White House during his presidency.
The pendulum, obviously, has swung sharply backward since the inauguration of President Trump, who has repeatedly criticized African-American athletes, many of whom have publicly responded in kind. For now, the light-hearted White House photo-op has become a casualty of that dynamic.
With “Shut Up and Dribble,” James and his collaborators are serving notice — to Ingraham and everyone else — that basketball’s current generation of stars intend to use their platform for more than just postgame blather. While opponents can obviously reject the ideas, those who would try to cower or silence them, clearly, are playing a losing game.
“Shut Up and Dribble” premieres Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.