A riveting doc of hoop dreams realized, Through the Fire follows Coney Island legend (and current Portland Trail Blazer) Sebastian Telfair through his final high school season, focusing on his decision to skip college and go pro. An ESPN production (scheduled to air on March 12), it’s slickly shot and structured like a Bruckheimer sports weepie, but director Jonathan Hock also shows the image-production of Telfair as star. Living in the projects, Telfair sees his cousin Stephon Marbury hit it rich in the NBA, while his brother Jamel Thomas, a starter at Providence, is left undrafted and has to join a European league to pay the bills. Jamel takes every precaution to ensure Sebastian’s success on and off the court, coaching him to convey a “Tiger Woods” image, clean and smiling. Media and player are mutually manipulated—Telfair puts up a front, Sports Illustrated gets its cover boy, and the sneaker contract gets signed. Various other mentors want a piece: his vociferous coach Tiny, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Adidas execs, his oldest brother Daniel—even Jay-Z shows him some love. Despite all the distractions, Sebastian remains committed to basketball, as the reams of eye-popping game footage attest. The kid’s got a sick hesitation move. Jumper’s still spotty, though.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 31, 2006