Under the Armour: Reloaded
A Q+A with Brandon Jennings and director of the Under the Armour series Sir Fleming.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
One of the latest trends amongst NBA ballers (besides ridiculous glasses and questionable fashion choices) is using the internet to share their lives with their fans. A multitude of ballers have chronicled their day-to-day activities and turned them into popular web series over the last year; while most of them are worth watching, none are as endearing or as well produced as the Under the Armour series starring Brandon Jennings and directed by Sir Fleming that will be kicking off its second season on Wednesday, July 25.
Backed by a bangin’ soundtrack, Jennings and Fleming give fans a raw look into Brandon’s world as he works out and travels the world to partake in the always-entertaining summer streetball games and interact with fans. But instead of just showing the normal day-to-day basketball scenes, Fleming portrays his subject in a more humanized setting giving fans a unique look by using footage from intimate moments with his family and friends.
With last season’s success the two have teamed up again for what promises to be another excellent string of episodes that will feature some new twists while keeping the same rugged feeling. After the duo returned from a trip to China last month, I caught up with them to talk about the series and the direction it’s heading in season two:
SLAM: Where did the inspiration for the series come from?
Brandon Jennings: That’s all from Sir. He actually came up with the idea. I met him one day on a plane and he told me he had just quit his job and he was just rolling around with a camera now. He gave me his number and told me to call him if I was interested in having him follow me around during the off-season. We met back in Baltimore one time and that’s how it all started. He followed me to some of the open runs in D.C. and everything took off from there.
Sir Fleming: I met Brandon on a plane, he was sitting in the seat right in front of me but he didn’t get out of his seat to get off the plane right away. So I went up to him to talk to him about a web series, documentary type of thing during the lockout and shooting it in a unique style where he didn’t have to do too much—not like a reality show. More like his personal outlook on things…We just started making things happen all around the nation.
SLAM: The thing that struck me immediately was the raw feeling of the whole series. How did you guys create that feeling, or was it something that just happened organically?
SF: Since I met him everything has been organic. I’m a total fly on the wall. Right when I met him, we started working together that day until now. He never has to walk through a door twice, I never ask him to reposition anything. Everything you see is as it happens.
BJ: I thought it was good for people to see who I am as a person. I know not everyone really knows who I am. I thought it was a perfect time since it was the lockout for fans to see how I get down and what I really do.
SLAM: Speaking of the lockout, that was a huge focal point of last season and helped push the series along. Sir, as a “fly the wall”, what was it like to be around the players at that time? Was there a different energy?
SF: I played college basketball, so this was the stage where I thought I was going to be no matter what, no matter how I got there. When I met the players—Kevin Durant and all those guys—it kind of felt like I was supposed to be there. I never had the feeling where I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m in a locker room!”
It was organic with the players because Brandon accepted me and everyone else accepted me because I was cool with Brandon and I already knew the basketball environment…When I was at the Drew vs. Goodman games, once I stepped on the court and saw the fans, that’s when I realized that I was doing and it was pretty unbelievable.
The lockout kind of pushed everything along. Every episode we didn’t know if that was going to be the last one so we had to go extra hard in being creative and things like that. It was something dynamic and we didn’t know when it was going to end, so we had to go extra hard for every episode and make sure every one was perfect.
SLAM: Brandon, with the lockout resolved, will your approach to this season change at all?
BJ: We did a lot of filming in China already…This summer is going to be different since there is no lockout. You probably won’t be seeing me play as much basketball or football this year. A lot of it will probably be appearances here and there or me just hanging out with my friends and a lot of working out.
SLAM: A lot of the best moments were from the stuff shot off the court—Brandon with his son or the rest of his family. You don’t really get to see players in that humanized position. Sir, what was it like shooting those scenes?
SF: I was surprised at the access he was allowing me to get considering we had just met…Brandon and his whole crew accepted me as one of them and that was really unique…I also had to be Brandon’s friend in the midst of things and there were times when the camera wasn’t on and we would be talking as friends and I couldn’t always think about or say, ‘I gotta get this for the show’. There were times with his son that I couldn’t shoot and other times when I had to shoot. It was weird going back and forth, I never wanted to overcrowd him.
As the season went along, it got harder, Brandon and I had become pretty good friends‚sometimes I didn’t know when to pick up the camera. You don’t want to feel like you’re taking advantage of someone because you are still their friend. There were times I didn’t capture everything because it showed this meaningful relationship and friendship. If Brandon wasn’t in the NBA, would I still want to know him? Sometimes you have to take that outlook on it and be able to just hang out.
SLAM: One of my favorite scenes was from Episode 3 when Brandon is working out at the gym and talking to the camera about life and there are cut scenes to him missing the final shot to lose a game. Brandon, how did it feel to be portrayed in that light?
BJ: Usually I don’t really talk to the camera, but I was just working out and I felt like talking a little bit and Sir just put it together. We actually shot that the day before the game so it just kind of came into one and worked out.
I think that’s just who I am when it comes to basketball. At the end of the day, even though you’re always working hard, it’s not always going to pay off. Just because you’re in the gym working on everything at the time, you still have to keep working no matter what. That’s life. You’re going to fall but it’s all about how you come back from it. That was the main point, to let the kids watching know that sometimes you fail, but you have to keep going.
That’s all Sir right there, I was surprised when I saw that too, but Sir has some crazy ideas and they just work.
SF: Yeah, he wasn’t expecting that (laughs). It’s the good and the bad, though. You can’t just always show the good.