Phoenix Suns point guard, Chris Paul and ESPN host, Stephen A. Smith, released a documentary called “Why Not Us: North Carolina Central Basketball” on ESPN+ Feb. 12.
The documentary highlights the obstacles HBCU sports programs face due to lack of resources, funding and awareness. In the documentary, they follow North Carolina Central men’s basketball team during the 2020-2021 season as they attempt to navigate through a challenging period during COVID-19.
The Eagles played for the first time on Feb. 5 after 50 days due to COVID-19 issues. Nevertheless, they were still able to catch a 94-61 win over Carver College.
However, this is an example of some of the issues that will be highlighted in the documentary — showing the differences in resources between HBCUs and power five schools but also demonstrating that the standards of success aren’t lessened.
The documentary also highlights one of the most prominent Black coaches at the HBCU level in coach LeVelle Moton. Coach Moton has been the head coach of the Eagles since 2009, elevating the prestige of the Eagles with three consecutive NCAA tournament berths, and transitioning the program from Division II to Division I.
Coach Moton’s basketball success has been truly impressive but his focus has been on more than just basketball.
“I want to prepare these young men to be not only good basketball players, but good students, good men, good husbands, good fathers, good head-of-households,” he said in an interview with USA Today.
Nevertheless, coach Moton feels himself and other coaches at HBCUs still don’t receive their proper due stating, “We feel like we’ve accomplished far more, if not greater, than any other program in the country with far less resources.”
Stephen A. Smith when asked about the documentary emphasized the importance of illuminating challenges HBCU programs face while also acknowledging that this is about more than just a documentary.
“It’s not just a project or a piece of work. It’s a mission,” he says.
It’s clear that this documentary means more than just a show and has a deeper purpose to the sports world as well as the Black community.
“There’s not a lot of people who have the pen, or the power, or the net worth in control of the media outlets that look like us, so they’re not obligated to tell our stories. So, when you have a story such as this, that’s why I think it’s so pure and genuine because we’ve been just as successful, if not more,” Coach Moton told USA Today.
The documentary also includes one-on-one interviews with notable HBCU alumni such as director Spike Lee, actor Taraji P. Henson and fashion designer Terry Lorenzo.
This documentary will shine a light on the success HBCUs have accomplished with so few resources.
“Why Not Us” is projected to turn into a series highlighting multiple different HBCU programs across the country.