Damn it. It pains me to say that I liked and rooted for Giannis Antetokounmpo (Uche Agada) in RISE, the movie based on his life. I have nothing against any underdog coming out on top of the world… unless it’s at the expense of my favorite basketball team, the Phoenix Suns. As a diehard Suns fan my entire life, it isn’t easy to cheer on Giannis when I know the result is that he wins the NBA championship with the Bucks over the Suns.

Luckily, the story of RISE is more about Giannis’s immigrant family trying to make it in Greece than it’s a story about the NBA. And that family narrative is perfect sports cliches done right. Giannis’s parents, Charles (Dayo Okeniyi) and Veronika (Yetide Badaki), give soulful performances as they try to steer their family in the right direction. With quotes like, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Charles is a Monty Williams-like inspiration teaching his kids not to play basketball but to show up as good human beings.

I didn’t know the story of how Giannis got to the NBA Draft in 2013. But, after watching RISE, I’m glad that I do. The movie is one I will proudly show my kids when they take things for granted. It doesn’t revolutionize the sports genre, but it packs an emotional punch worthy of your time. In other words, it’s a slam-dunk.

RISE is available on Disney+.

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud parent and dad joke enthusiast.

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