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The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball Celebrates NBA Hopeful Makur Maker and HBCUs

What would you do if your dreams were suddenly halted because of the pandemic? Would you give up and succumb to whatever fate awaited you or would you to continue to strive your hardest to make them come true. Life has a way of changing our dreams but sometimes the best possible outcome is the future we never saw coming.

In Apple TV+’s new five-part documentary series The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball, it chronicles the inspiring, coming-of-age story of basketball phenom Makur Maker, the NBA hopeful who grabbed global headlines with his groundbreaking decision to forgo the NBA and play for Howard University, making him the highest-ranked high school player in the modern recruiting era to commit to a historically Black university (HBCU).

In celebration of the docu-series and inspired by Maker, The Koalition spoke to Maker about his choices, the importance of HBCUs, following his new dreams and why during the most stressful moments in his life would he want to document it all.

The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball is an intimate look at Makur’s life as a student-athlete with a dream of making it to the NBA, while unexpected physical challenges and a global pandemic threaten his college career. Off the courts, Bigger Than Basketball explores how his journey from fleeing war-torn South Sudan as a child and his tight-knit support system led him to go to an HBCU, and in turn, allowed him to make an impactful statement in the wake of America’s cultural response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“[My story] relates to everybody’s situation. A lot of people’s plans were altered during the pandemic, a lot of people’s plans didn’t go accordingly, and I think [Bigger Than Basketball] touches on aspects of everybody’s lives. [The pandemic] affected me a lot but mine was nothing compared to people losing homes and losing their jobs”

“Going through a pandemic and coping with extreme matters [what up you see in my] mind was just a snippet, but I think [how] other people [who] were really affected about things that went on [made it a] great time to have a documentary about what’s going on right now.” Despite other people’s opinions or his decision to continue to play basketball and pursue his dreams during a pandemic, this docuseries showcases Marker’s to navigate the waters as he stays true to his self, and this pushed him further to achieve his goals.

“Just where I want to go, I just wasn’t where I wanted to get. I wasn’t comfortable [and] that’s a good thing, a good trade. I’m never comfortable and I feel like I couldn’t quit and just be, ‘okay I’m going home, I got to go see my parents.’ It’s [about the] obstacles you face, and you don’t face; and even then, it’s going to hit you hard at the back end, so I felt like it was just best for me to just put my head down and keep going. I’m very competitive.”

“I don’t want to be last to nobody. I just want to be the best I can. I don’t want to leave the game of basketball or life saying, ‘oh I could have given it more’ and have any regrets in my life. I just give it [my] all and just go every single day without regrets.”

The Five-star college basketball recruit made national headlines when he decided to commit to Howard University. Maker, who had offers from Kentucky, Memphis, and UCLA in addition to Howard, believes selecting an HBCU program for high-profile basketball players like himself shouldn’t have been surprising. Howard represents not only his values but a direct reflection of why he loves the game of basketball.

“[Just like] in regular life you learn how to socialize with your teammates and different personalities. You learn how to overcome injuries, that’s a professional skill. You learn things [like] time management [such as] being on time, having to catch a flight, not resting well enough. You got to be at your top tier the next day, so you learn a lot of things off court, and it teaches you for life for what happens. You face a lot of obstacles in basketball. I love [basketball] so much because you can get better, you can never stop getting better.”

The Long Game: Bigger Than Basketball is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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