Celtics at the Crux of New ESPN Documentary – ‘Basketball: A Love Story'

In 1957, 8-year-old Dan Klores introduced himself to playing the game of basketball. Instantly, he fell in love.

Using only a dodgeball and the bottom rung of a Brooklyn schoolyard fire escape, Klores and a friend exercised their innocent imaginations and wandered off into fantasy.

“We escaped,” Klores, now an award-winning director and producer, recalled in an interview with Celtics.com. “And as children do, they pretend. Right off the bat, one of us was Bill Russell and one of us was Bob Pettit.

“This,” Klores explained, “is where I fell in love for the first time – before there was a girl.”

Unlike many love affairs, this one never died out. Klores’ obsession for the game only intensified as he grew older, and it ultimately inspired him to create the work of his life: “Basketball: A Love Story,” which is set to premiere at 7 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN.

The 10-part, 20-hour documentary is comprised of 62 short stories, which collectively portray the evolution of basketball in a non-linear, yet logical fashion.

To create the film, Klores and his crew compiled roughly 500 hours of interviews with 165 basketball legends from the NBA, ABA, college basketball, women’s basketball and the international hoops scene.

“It’s intricate, it’s tender and there’s tons of new revelations,” claimed Klores.

The documentary should appeal to all types of basketball fans, but particularly to supporters of the Boston Celtics. Many of the short stories revolve around, or touch upon the NBA’s most renowned organization.

Although he is a native New Yorker, Klores has always had utmost respect for the Celtics and everything they stand for as an organization. So, he made sure to have the franchise to play an integral role in his film, with it featuring 26 interview subjects who were all involved with the C’s at some point in their respective careers.

“I consider the Celtics to be a revolutionary entity,” said Klores. “I think they’ve had the greatest positive impact on professional basketball, period.

“Now, I’m not talking about the first to do this and the first to do that; what I mean is that they did things largely in the way that a champion in life is to do things. That, to me, is the legacy of the Celtics.”

Former team beat writers Jackie MacMullen and Bob Ryan came on board to help with the interviewing process of former Celtic greats, but Klores saved the film’s most glorified subject for himself.

Bringing his love story in full circle, Klores sat down with Bill Russell for a five-and-a-half-hour interview session. The 11-time NBA champion went into elaborate detail about everything from his challenging upbringing, to the racial tension he faced throughout his NBA career.

From this interview, Klores was able to pluck out what is perhaps the most intriguing bit of information from the entire film, which he shared with Celtics.com.

“I have a whole story on what’s called the ‘Genius Gene,’” explained Klores. “And my question is: When you’re that great – when you’re Russell, or Michael Jordan – are you born with the genius gene, or is this a gift that you just develop?

“So, I asked Russell that and he says that he doesn’t consider himself a genius. But, he says, ‘For many years, I remembered every play of every game I ever played.’ Now, what is that if not a form of genius?”

Along with Russell, the film features interviews with Celtics Legends such as Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Don Nelson, Paul Pierce, Satch Sanders, Bill Walton, and many others.

Through this dialogue, viewers gain exclusive access to insight on some of the greatest triumphs in Celtics history. For example, it dives deep into Boston's first NBA title against the St. Louis Hawks in 1957, highlighting the Russell-Pettit rivalry, which, later that same year, would play a major role in forging Klores' relationship with basketball. The film also freshly details Boston's unparalleled rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, and it explores the revitalization of the organization in 2007 with the construction of its Big 3 super team.

Basketball: A Love Story reminds all basketball fans why they fell in love with the game in the first place, just like Klores did more than 60 years ago in a Brooklyn park, where he and his friend escaped reality to become Celtics and Hawks legends.

This love story brings us closer than ever to those legends who helped establish our relationship with basketball, and it offers plenty of reasons to love it even more.