ESPN Films Presents: Morningside 5

With the likes of Zion Williamson and LaMelo Ball taking the Internet by storm with flashy dunks and long range three-pointers, high school basketball is seemingly having an awakening of sorts. Before the aforementioned two became household names in this digital era–and even before LeBron James did for that matter–high school hoops were an integral part of any local community. In 1992 in Inglewood, California, the Morningside Monarchs basketball team were the kings of the prep hoops scene.

Fresh off a California state championship, the Monarchs were the biggest show in town after the Inglewood-based Lakers. With five players returning from their state championship team, Morningside was prepared to go for back-to-back titles. Led by Stais Boseman, the Monarchs seemed destined for history. But things didn’t quite end how they all envisioned it.

On Tuesday night, ESPN will air a documentary that chronicles the Morningside’s starting five.

The film doesn’t just focus solely on that 1992 Monarchs team. Instead the hour and fifteen-minute documentary breaks up the storyline into three parts, detailing their lives and the challenges they faced away from the hardwood. The first part tells the story of the Monarchs in 1992, touching on their on-court success as well as on the issues that the players had to deal with as a byproduct of living in the inner city.

The film then picks up ten years after the men graduated high school and finds them in the ‘real world.’ During this time, many of the guys find themselves still chasing basketball dreams overseas while others are trying to fit into society. The final chapter narrates the men in their current state, 25 years outside of Morningside High and well into adulthood. Some are fathers now and they take the time to reflect on the journey and how basketball helped shape them into the men they are today.

Morningside 5 is a unique story that chronicles the lives of five men through a 25-year window. It not only depicts the passion they had for the game but also documents how they coped with being local celebrities at the tender age of 18 and what came of their lives once the ball stopped rolling. Now more than ever, high school prospects are thrust into the limelight at such a young age while under a microscope. That perception of being on the fast-track to the NBA so early comes with lofty expectations. With highlights from AAU and HS games becoming ubiquitous thanks to social media and YouTube, instant-fame and chances of prospects losing track of their priorities as a result are bigger than ever.

The truth of the matter is that most prospects never quite meet expectations. The film does a fantastic job in showing that reality eventually sinks in. Life happens. “People have to ask themselves questions if you are not Zion [Williamson] or LaMelo [Ball],” Producer Mason Gordon tells SLAM. “You got to have a back-up plan.”

Morningside 5 airs Tuesday, August 8 at 9:30 EST on ESPN.