“The county is good at saying to its residents in very many ways, that no matter what we’re going through, I got you.”

First thing’s first: In case you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Prince George’s (PG) County. My life started in PG County Hospital Center and moved from Landover Hills to Landover, Maryland—Kentland, to be exact, where I made friends and hung out way too late at night in neighboring Columbia Park and Palmer Park.

Map of Prince George’s County and its proximity to Washington, DC.

Growing up in a neighborhood like Kentland, I always used to say that I had no idea I was poor or lived in a bad neighborhood until someone outside of the neighborhood told me so. In that way, ignorance is bliss: I lived a relatively happy childhood and my fondest memories were made at summer camp (shout out to Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning and FREE CAMP). Like many kids, my dad was rarely around and my mother worked, a LOT. That’s just the way life was. Y’all know I’m an unshakable optimist.

Sign entering Prince George’s County on Route 704, Martin Luther King Highway.

Despite my optimism, there were plenty of boys and girls who didn’t experience life through this rosy lens, and turned towards darker options. Boys and girls who hurt each other and themselves, sold drugs, sold themselves, used drugs, used each other, and worse. If this sense of despair and worthlessness is your experience, day after day, it’s no surprise that you’ll become a product of your environment.

Crack. Although wack for some, a way of life for others.

It cannot be ignored that this very same environment also births straight A students, community activists, political leaders, nurses, doctors, attorneys, entrepreneurs, engineers, accountants, corporate leaders, and athletes. People who have “made it”; people who are self-sufficient, contributing members of society. We all know someone who started from the bottom, now they’re here. 

I’m not gonna lie: when you’re from PG County, you’re surrounded by them.

So when the debut of Basketball County: In the Water was first announced, I was hype. Of course the documentary features hometown hero and Brooklyn Nets’ player Kevin Durant. Even people in neighboring Montgomery County never heard of Seat Pleasant before his famous parade. But who else would be featured? Since I grew up and attended college right here in the county (Go Terps!), I had ideas of who I would see, like Len Bias and Steve Francis, maybe John Thompson and Brenda Frese. More than the who, what would the producers include? Barry Farms? AUA? The Goodman League? Where would they include? Would you see your own court? Would you see players you’ve played with? Your school?

SEAT PLEASANT, MD – August 17, 2017: Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors holds the NBA Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy as he rides on a Chevrolet Corvette during the Kevin Durant Day celebrations parade in Capitol Heights, MD on Aug 17, 2017. (Ting Shen for The Undefeated)

You’ll see all of that and then some in Basketball County, which is refreshingly not centered around Kevin Durant. He is one of many, many, many Prince George’s County basketball success stories, told and untold. Watching it was like flipping through the pages of my own life, seeing places I’ve been and faces I’ve seen. The documentary uncovers the migration of basketball greatness from Washington, DC to PG County as a result of racism, and walks you through the foundation of its ever-present foothold today. Watching this documentary was like bumping into an old friend, one with whom you’ve experienced highs, lows, and a lot of fun, but haven’t seen for 10 years. Once you see them, all of the memories come flooding back, and you’re filled with a nostalgia so great that you can’t believe you’re watching it on TV for everyone to see. 

Len Bias [1963-1986], a cautionary tale, and one of our most memorable PG County basketball heroes.

That said, it’s not a perfect documentary. It’s produced by people from PG County, and it’s obvious in its execution. That familiarity won’t be lost on natives–honestly, you probably won’t even notice and will love it even more because it’s as if it was written just for you. References to “the Farms” will flow like water for us but might leave a foreigner with questions that aren’t answered in the doc. Additionally, it’s tough to discuss products of the DMV without mentioning the influence of go-go music. Basketball County made a valiant but thin attempt to do so, but I was honestly so happy to see and hear go-go in a Showtime documentary that I didn’t care. 

Go-go fans rally in the DMV, 2019. (Associated Press)

So if you’re not from The County and want to dig deep into the roots of our history and learn why things are the way they are and why our basketball players are so good, know that Basketball County just skims the surface. This 52-minute Showtime Sports documentary film could’ve easily been three hours long, or better yet, a series. And I would’ve watched every bit of it.  Watching it today, I felt a pride I’d never felt before about where I am from and where I still live. I honestly had no idea of the breadth of so many talented players from PG. I learned so much about DeMatha, Quinn Cook, DC Assault, and more. I was reminded that we are so good because we have to be. No spoilers here, because I want you to ride the wave just like I did, with wonder and surprise. 

Whether you’re from the DMV or anywhere else in the world, watch Basketball County: In the Water. If you love basketball, watch it. If you don’t love basketball but you’re from PG County, watch it. If you’re feeling hopeless about your current situation, watch it. I hope it reminds you that there are better days ahead.