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While ‘The Redeem Team’ isn't perfect, when it shoots, it scores

Netflix's "The Redeem Team" isn't perfect, but it injects fresh life into a well known sports story. – Photo by Netflix / Twitter

Recently, Netflix released the documentary “The Redeem Team,” detailing the triumphs and tribulations of the legendary 2008 men’s Olympic basketball team. The 1992 team, dubbed the “Dream Team,” was a primary factor behind the U.S. becoming a dominant force in basketball. But after suffering a loss to Argentina in 2004, the U.S. vowed it would never happen again. Hence, the formation of the “Redeem Team.”

This team had incredible talent, which included the likes of Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and the late Kobe Bryant. While the American teams have always had incredible individual players, Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski felt that the team lacked the sense of unity other teams had. So when Krzyzewski was called in to take charge of the team, he made teamwork of the utmost priority. 

At the beginning of the documentary, the players appeared to be a series of fragmented individuals rather than a team. The collective experience and talent of the team were undeniable, but the tactics of the NBA made it so that players and people had no sense of unity as a team. Bryant was drafted at a rather unusual moment in his career, and his initial coldness with the other players did not aid in helping the team succeed.

Despite those roadblocks, watching the team slowly come together is every bit as heartwarming as watching the underdog suburban baseball team win its first county championship. What starts as Bryant waking up to train before practice, ends with the whole team following his lead. Their interactions gradually became friendlier and the Redeem Team feels more like a family toward the end of the documentary.

Jon Weinbach, producer of the ridiculously popular documentary series “The Last Dance,” directed “The Redeem Team.” Weinbach perfectly splices together vintage NBA footage with practice tapes and personal accounts from the players. This style of sports documentary is reminiscent of “The Last Dance,” only shorter and less detailed. Where “The Last Dance” appeared to tell a story, “The Redeem Team” displayed a few chapters.

Bryant is one of the most prominent people featured in this documentary. He is acknowledged as the man who seemed to bring the entire team together. His voice is interspersed over cutscenes, his training montages shown to the world, and we even see even shots of him sitting down talking to a camera in the traditional documentary style.

But where “The Redeem Team” falters is where it fails to acknowledge the passing of such an influential figure. While this isn’t a documentary about Kobe, there should have been at least some acknowledgment of his tragic passing.

Every single member of the 2008 team spoke about their interactions with other teammates and Krzyzewski with refreshing candor and charisma. James and Wade are obviously the other most featured members of the team, given their past and current fame.

Their heavy presence in the documentary also has to do with their interesting story. Both James and Wade also had to overcome significant struggles in order to play at the 2006 world championships and then again in 2008. Still, Anthony, Chris Bosh and others add significant weight to the story. The documentary would truly not be complete without the stories of all the team members, and each of them has a valuable story to share.

Despite us now being fully aware of the outcome, “The Redeem Team” audiences can still feel the tension in the final men’s basketball game at the 2008 Olympics. As I watched the impressive footwork of James complimented by Bryant’s strong leadership, I felt as if I had physically been on this journey with the 2008 team. When the second the U.S. team broke out in ear-to-ear smiles after the first quarter, I knew they had the game in the bag.

Overall, I give this documentary an 8 out of 10. Where it falters in some places, it somewhat makes up for these issues with excellent editing, personal interviews and nostalgia. If you’re a fan of sports, the underdog story or good documentary filmmaking, check out “The Redeem Team” on Netflix.

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