Does Laurence Fishburne Know Basketball in Real Life?

In FX on Hulu’s sports drama series ‘Clipped,’ Laurence Fishburne portrays Doc Rivers, an NBA All-Star as a player and one of the greatest as a coach. When Doc joins the Los Angeles Clippers, the team is nothing but a laughingstock in the city. He not only motivates the players and the franchise’s staff to do better but also leads the team to the playoffs. Fishburne portrays Doc with a sense of authority that can be seen in the latter in real life. His character masterfully teaches basketball to the players as a legend of the sport. The actor’s expertise in the game, however, is limited to the show!

Laurence Fishburne and Basketball in Real Life

‘Clipped’ is not the first project in which Laurence Fishburne’s path crossed with basketball. The actor made his film debut with the 1975 coming-of-age drama film ‘Cornbread, Earl and Me,’ which unfolds in the backdrop of the sport. Still, Fishburne didn’t learn basketball. He made his acting debut at the age of eleven and he was focused on the art to learn the sport. “I am left-handed, and I got into acting really, really early. You know, basketball was only important to me while growing up in New York in the 1960s, when we had the championship,” the actor told BlackTree TV. Even though Fishburne didn’t learn to play basketball, he remained connected to the sport as a fan.

Fishburne met Doc Rivers and spent time with him before he portrayed the NBA legend. “I also had the good fortune of having the opportunity to meet Doc before I got to work. I actually had a small gathering on Labor Day in my house, and Doc came and hung out with me and some of my friends. One of whom is a real sports aficionado. […] It was really wonderful to watch the two of them argue about, let’s say, Bill Russell. […] Just observing the two of them go at it was all the research I needed,” Fishburne said about preparing for the character.

Gina Welch, the creator and one of the executive producers of the series, wanted Fishburne as Doc because of his sense of authority rather than his basketball knowledge. “Once I started learning more about Doc and that it was his first year with the team, and for me, it was always Laurence Fishburne because, in part, he brings an immediate authority into the room,” Welch told The Playlist. “And so, the idea that Donald Sterling should show up and say, ‘I’m your owner,’ is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous with Laurence. And I also knew, because I grew up watching Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee Herman, that he could carry the show’s silliness too,” the creator added.

Fishburne was not the only cast member who played an NBA figure without knowing basketball in the series. J. Alphonse Nicholson, the actor who plays the Clippers’ captain, Chris Paul, also didn’t learn the sport for his character. Even though he plays basketball “very little” or “recreational,” the ‘P-Valley’ actor had to rely on a stunt double to perform several of the scenes. Having said that, Nicholson researched extensively about his character’s real-life counterpart by communicating with people who were close to the NBA player or individuals who knew him. Since he was not encouraged to talk to Paul directly, he portrayed the point guard with his own interpretation.

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