Derek Fisher and Malik Yoba Talk New Basketball Series 'Baselines'

We chatted with both to learn more about the series

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If sports mixed with a little bit of drama is your jam, then we’ve got the perfect show for you to add to your summer watch listBaselines, a new series that showcases just how much basketball can be more than a game. In fact, for some it can be a matter of life or death. Starring Jarrett Ellis, Derrick A. King, Malik Yoba, Myles Brewer and Felicia Pearson, Baselines tells the story of Jamiel Chambers, a blue-chip high-school basketball recruit from Los Angeles looking to escape the desperate poverty that has berated inner-city America.

The series was executive produced by NBA star Derek Fisher, and much of the main character's story draws parallels to the real-life experiences of the five time champion. To hear about the series, we caught up with Fisher and actor Malik Yoba to chat about their experiences putting it together.

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After a doomed-from-the-start plan to capitalize on Jamiel's notoriety ends in fatal results, family members from both sides are pulled into a series of events that will not only affect Jamiel's career but will set up one of the most intense family feuds LA has ever witnessed.

Baselines is the first original series from Mansa, the newest free, ad-supported streaming platform delivering Black culture to the world, which according to Yoba is a “no brainer” as to why you should support. In fact, Mansa is one of the reasons he decided to take on the role of dad/coach. “It was simple,” he says referring back to a conversation he had with the show’s producer Nate Parker.

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I love the classic stories and the drama, and when you think about it, sports stories being told in this format is no different than something like Wu-Tang: An American Saga.

- Malik Yoba

 “Nate and I had lunch together one day and he told me about the series and that he wanted to play the role of the dad and the coach. I loved everything about it from the sports angle to how it addresses the gentrification in Los Angeles. I love the classic stories and the drama, and when you think about it, sports stories being told in this format is no different than something like Wu-Tang: An American Saga.”

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I asked Yoba how this role is different from any others he’s portrayed, and if more athletes should look to film and television as a way to tell their stories as opposed to documentaries. “You’re looking at the guy who did Cool Runnings! Of course I’m always going to say yes for stories being told like this. As far as this characterI’ve never played anybody from Inglewood. There’s a certain cadence that people from Southern California speak with, and it was cool to experiment with that. It wasn’t hard for me to play a dad because I am one.”

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Similarly, Fisher says that he studied a lot of the NBA players who are making biopics about their lives… specifically his former teammate and friend Kobe Bryant, whose Dear Basketball documentary he studied. “I really spent a lot of time watching Dear Basketball to prepare for Baselines. Baselines is the culmination of the team's incredible talent, creative depth and commitment to telling the real stories of the Black community for all audiences. Each episode’s end credits will feature an up-and-coming artist and song, providing another platform for creatives to reach new heights and audiences."

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Black culture and creatives have been influencing pop culture for decades, and now curated Black cultural content can be accessed by anyone for free with Mansa. I end the interview asking Yoba what makes Baselines different from any other series. “There might be other series, but they don’t have my Black ass in it!”

Fair enough.

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And as for whether or not Derek Fisher's classic 0.4 seconds will be depicted"not exactly," he says. "There will, however, be some sort of cliff hanger though."

A new Baselines episode will drop every Wednesday at 10pm EST on Mansa. Viewers can watch via the App Store, Google Play Store, Roku, Amazon FireTV, iOS, Android, Samsung, Vizio, LG and on the web.

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