Zeroing in on eight of the 24 top high school basketball players invited to the first “Elite” competition at Harlem’s legendary Rucker Park in 2006, “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot” offers a snapshot of the kind of top players who one day hope to have a shoe named after them. After the gimmicky audience-shot concert film “Awesome … ,” Beastie Boy Adam Yauch proves he can make a comprehensive, state-of-the-art docu of interest to basketball aficionados. If, unlike “Hoop Dreams,” the pic has little crossover appeal for nonsports auds, fans should nevertheless turn out in droves on June 27 for this limited release.
The eight athletes singled out by Yauch are Jerryd Bayless, Michael Beasley, Tyreke Evans, Donte Greene, Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love, Kyle Singler and Lance Stephenson. Yauch roves far afield to observe his phenoms on their home turf, from rural Oregon to Brooklyn, buttonholing friends and family along the way.
While some players yet remain relatively untouched by media coverage and imminent hoopla, others are obviously the pride and hope of their neighborhoods. Among the young men are several whose names now figure prominently in projected NBA drafts, while others are still in high school.
In New York, Yauch accompanies the players as they get acquainted with each other and with the big city, video-effects weirdly curving the skyline in subjective approximation of Gotham’s overwhelming architecture. Yauch utilizes this fisheye-type distortion to assert the verticality of the city as well as to jazz up his coverage of the game.
Once on the court where Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dr. J held sway, the kids get their first, unofficial taste of the big time.
During the game, Yauch manages to loosely keep track of his eight stars while still following the action. The level of basketball skill is so high and the teams so well balanced that the lead swings dramatically from one team to the next and back again in nail-biting fashion, though the viewer has no dog in this race, the eight players being evenly distributed through both teams.
Soundtrack samples freely from jazz, R&B, funk and hip-hop.