‘Swagger’ on Apple TV+ follows a high school athlete who dreams of playing in the NBA. Jace is one of the best athletes in the area but faces stiff competition and constant pressure from his sizeable online following. With the backing of his coach, Ike, who deals with his own tumultuous past, the young athlete alternates between heady highs and crushing defeats.
The sports drama series also delves into the world of youth basketball and the issues that confront the young players and their families on and off the court. Jace’s inspiring story sounds like the beginning of a sports legend. Could ‘Swagger’ be based on a true story? Let’s find out.
Is Swagger Based on a True Story?
‘Swagger’ is partly based on a true story. The sports drama series takes inspiration from the life of NBA icon Kevin Durant, who also comes on board as executive producer. Co-written and co-directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, the show uses instances from Durant’s time in the Amateur Athletic Union’s basketball league but also adds fictional elements to the story. A few other characters also loosely draw from real-life individuals.
The show centers around 14-year old Jace Carson — a top-ranked amateur basketball player who dreams of playing in the NBA. Through his journey, the show explores the world of youth basketball. Much like Jace on the series, Durant was also a heavily recruited high school basketball player who went on to play for multiple teams in college. Interestingly, he was reportedly the second-best player in his class, which is a detail that is carried into the show. Like Durant in real life, Jace grows increasingly dissatisfied with being second in the rankings and decides to do something about it.
Jace also shares a deep bond with his coach, Ike, who guides the young athlete at crucial moments and helps him regain confidence after crushing defeats. Well-liked by his team and respected by the other coaches, Ike is depicted as a positive force in Jace’s life and one of the few people that care about his skills rather than his popularity as a basketball player. As most fans of the real-life basketball superstar Kevin Durant would know, his No. 35 jersey was a homage to his late coach Charles Craig, who was fatally gunned down at the age of 35.
The show delves into the broader world of Amateur Athletic Union basketball and depicts many nuanced aspects of the sports organization. One of its central themes is the influence and responsibility that coaches wield in their players’ lives, and the show depicts some trainers using the AAU system to line their pockets or otherwise benefit at the expense of the young players. This is a likely allusion to criticism against the actual AAU. Similarly, the issue of sexual misconduct in amateur sports is also hinted at through the character of Jace’s friend Crystal, who finds her love for the sport draining rapidly after an uncomfortable encounter with her coach.
‘Swagger’ remains focussed on basketball but doesn’t neglect to give the story a broader social context. From the very first episode, the evils of racial profiling are seen to be a constant hurdle faced by many of the characters, including Jace, who is almost arrested after being wrongly suspected of stealing a car. The show also alludes to the Black Lives Matter movement as well as socio-economic issues faced by inner-city children.
By blending a work of fiction with instances from the inspiring true-life story of basketball icon Kevin Durant, the show creates a layered and engaging narrative that is entertaining but also heartfelt. Despite mainly focussing on the basketball circuit, the show’s creator and writers have imbibed the backdrop with contemporary issues that tie into the lives of the players. This helps make the storyline authentically complex, giving ‘Swagger’ a feeling of being even closer to reality than it already is.
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