Quick — name the NBA‘s all-time scoring leader. Hint: It’s not Michael Jordan. Production has begun on an HBO documentary about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the LA hoops legend who won multiple championships with the Lakers and UCLA Bruins en route to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Aside from being one of the most dominant basketball players of all time at the high school, college and pro levels, the gentle giant born Lew Alcindor has been an outspoken defender and critic of political and cultural matters. He also is an author, columnist, part-time actor — think Airplane! and fighting Bruce Lee in Game Of Death — and 2012 appointee as Cultural Ambassador for the United States. Ron Yassen is directing the untitled film from HBO Sports and Mandalay Sports Media, in association with Iconomy Multi-Media and Entertainment. It is being produced by Deborah Morales, whose credits include On The Shoulders Of Giants, the 2011 docu Abdul-Jabbar co-wrote that spotlights the Harlem Rens, a dominant all-black hoops team of the 1930s. Mike Tollin is exec producing. HBO Sports President said of Abdul-Jabbar, “While he has lived so much of his life in the media spotlight, his extraordinary story has never been explored in depth, and we are grateful to Kareem and his team for allowing us to bring his story to life.” The news comes days …
EXCLUSIVE: HBO Sports is re-teaming with filmmaker Peter Berg for another documentary series. Following their collaboration on the cinéma vérité series On Freddie Roach, HBO has given the green light to State Of Play, from Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 and Herzog & Co. Each episode will spotlight a topic or person that has had a great impact on the sports world, opening with a brief overview followed by a 40-minute cinéma vérité documentary and concluding with an in-depth, 20-minute roundtable discussion of the issue with the filmmakers, subjects and guest experts to be moderated by Berg. State Of Play will premiere on December 4 with State of Play: Trophy Kids, an examination of the obsession a growing number of parents have in the scholastic athletic competition of their children. The documentary was produced by Jake Wood, Chris Bell, Leland Anderson and Anthony Melillo.
UPDATE, MONDAY AM: A lot of great news for Liev Schreiber this morning. His deal with Showtime to star in the drama pilot Ray Donovan formally closed, and the network just made the official announcement. And, in what appears to be a change of heart, HBO Sports has renewed its overall deal with the actor to continue to be the voice of virtually all HBO documentaries as well as the 24/7 reality series, and the NFL reality series Hard Knocks. During the lengthy negotiations, HBO had considered not to re-up the overall with Schreiber and open up the field to other narrators, but in the end it extended Schreiber. I hear that the actor’s Showtime series contract allows for that.
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY PM: With a deal to star in Showtime’s pilot Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber may one day become the face of the pay cable network. But at the same time, it looks like he will no longer be the exclusive voice of the sports division of rival HBO. I’ve learned that HBO is planning not to renew its overall deal with the actor to be the the voice of HBO Sports, which has included narrating virtually all HBO sports documentaries, the 24/7 reality series, and the NFL reality series Hard Knocks. HBO is not severing ties with Schreiber, who has been voicing HBO Sports’ programs for the past 16 years. “Liev is set to start work next week on his next HBO Sports project, 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, HBO Sports said in a statement, declining further comment. I hear that Schreiber also is scheduled to do another HBO Sports project in January.
Ross Greenburg, who in July departed as president of HBO Sports, has been tapped to produce documentaries for the newly formed NBC Sports Group, which includes the NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel and NBC. He also will produce Costas Tonight, the new monthly interview show that will debut in spring 2012 on the NBC Sports Network — the new name of Comcast’s rebranded Versus channel that launches January 2. That’s also the airdate of Greenburg’s first documentary, Cold War On Ice: Summit Series ’72, which looks at a hockey series between Canadian All-Stars and the Soviet Union during the Cold War in 1972. Greenburg founded Ross Greenburg Productions after ending his 33-year career at HBO, the last of 11 of which were spent as president of the sports division. He previously worked with Costas on the premium network on the sports broadcaster’s On the Record and CostasNOW. “Ross is a master storyteller and a perfect fit to produce high-quality, relevant programming for all of our platforms, particularly NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel,” said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus. “His award-winning collaborative relationship with Bob made the decision to retain Ross to oversee production of Costas Tonight a natural.”