Charles Barkley is out to conquer a new arena. The NBA Hall of Famer is exec producing his first scripted series, “The Line,” based on a bestselling exposé of the gambling scandal that nearly destroyed college basketball.
RTG Features, the new sister studio to basketball media outfit SLAM, is producing the multi-episode one-hour historical drama, partnering with exec producers Barkley and the company he co-founded, Round Mound Media. The show is adapted from Charley Rosen’s 1999 bestseller “Scandals of ’51,” which documents the explosive real-life crime saga that rocked the nation after World War II. RTG is unveiling the project for buyers at AFM.
“I’m a big fan of Charley Rosen’s books, but ‘Scandals of ’51’ is especially timely to turn into a television series,” Barkley said. “It’s impossible to understand the present without knowing the past, and stories like this one — about cheating, racism and how easily amateur sports can be corrupted — are as true today as they were 70 years ago.”
“The Line” will examine America’s loss of innocence through the eyes of two college basketball players: one who recognizes the hypocrisy of the system and uses it to his advantage by point shaving, and another who plays solely for the love of the game. The 1951 gambling scandal brought down the powerhouse team from the City College of New York (CCNY), one of the most diverse and successful basketball programs of the era.
The show, which is also RTG’s first foray into scripted episodic television, will be produced by Round Mound Media co-founder Marc Perman, Randy Becker, Branyon Davis and RTG’s Aron Phillips and Matt Aronson. The pilot’s script was adapted for the screen by Davis and Kevin A. Garnett, who met while they played football together at Stanford University.
“Branyon has done an amazing job expanding on the world from Charley’s iconic book into a captivating and timely pilot,” said Phillips, COO at both RTG and SLAM. “We knew we wanted to go big with our first scripted television project, and we’re excited to bring in a seasoned showrunner to pair with him and bring this story to life.”
Barkley is now an Emmy Award-winning analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” His latest project, “Dreams,” is a series of short films that unearth hidden pieces of Black history with director Sheldon Candis (ESPN 30 for 30’s “Baltimore Boys”) and Jesse Dylan’s Wondros. Barkley previously hosted the TNT docuseries “American Race,” which he exec produced with Perman just before the pair co-founded Round Mound Media in 2018.
“The Line” is just the latest basketball project from RTG, now in post-production on a documentary about Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson. RTG is co-financing and co-producing the film with its director/producer Kirk Fraser and his May 3rd Films. (Jimmy Jenkins and Ronny Thompson, the son of Coach Thompson, also produce.) The company recently teamed with 1091 Pictures to acquire North American rights to its first project, the 2019 Tribeca entry “A Kid From Coney Island,” chronicling the rise and fall of NBA star Stephon Marbury. The doc feature from producers Forest Whitaker, Nina Yang Bongiovi and Jason Samuels and exec producers Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman hit theaters this year and is now streaming (in an exclusive deal) on Netflix.
The “Scandals of ’51” book rights deal was brokered by Michael Cendejas of the Lynn Pleshette Literary Agency.