With basketball fans focused on March Madness, Hyperobject Industries and Three Uncanny Four Productions, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, have just dropped a basketball-focused documentary series. Death at the Wing is a new series that focuses on the intersection of basketball, politics, and socioeconomics in the 1980s that led to an extraordinary number of untimely deaths of rising basketball prospects.
The series is developed and hosted by film and television director Adam McKay who produces a succession of one-episode documentaries. Each will focus on one player, one tragedy, and the big forces that shaped the story. Death at the Wing begins with an overview of the rapidly changing NBA of the 1980s. And throughout the series, McKay spotlights the league’s drug policies, the impact of Reagan Administration policies on the country, specifically in cities, and the failings of the mental health care system.
“I’ve been an NBA junkie pretty much my whole life and have always been haunted by the amazing young talents we tragically lost in the 1980s into the 90s,” says McKay. “Once we dove in, it became obvious the tragic stories of these young, mostly African American men, are really the story of what happened to America over the last 40 years. A forty years that would see the NBA become a global powerhouse while the U.S. slowly came apart."
In reporting the series, McKay conducted interviews with experts, journalists, and former players, including NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, journalist Jackie MacMullan, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, professor of critical stories Dr. Todd Boyd, and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer to talk about this lost generation of young basketball players.
Death at the Wing begins with an overview of the rapidly changing NBA of the 1980s after the ABA, a renegade basketball league of the 1970s, merged with the larger, more powerful league. Future episodes will focus on the Len Bias Law, which sparked the decades-long “War on Drugs,” the shooting and murder of Chicago’s up-and-coming star Benji Wilson who first responders labeled as a gang member, the NBA’s attitude of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” towards players’ cocaine use, and the NBA’s shift to one of the most socially conscious employee bases in the U.S.
Death at the Wing is executive produced by McKay and Harry Nelson at Hyperobject and Laura Mayer at Three Uncanny Four. Jody Avirgan is producer and series editor. Raghu Manavalan and Brian Steele are producers.