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When HBO Max came out, it was exciting as it boasted a deep roster of films and TV show in addition to all HBO Original productions. As you do with any new service you sign up for you scroll endlessly for hours trying to find some deep cuts or new exciting shows you really want to watch. In my scoping I decided to take a dive and look for an HBO original movie I hadn’t seen in 20ish years. I typed the word Rebound looking to find an HBO Original movie from 1996 (still remember seeing the ads for it in SLAM magazine) but as per usual it just brings up the Martin Lawrence movie with the same name. Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault stars Don Cheadle as the street ball legend and Forest Whitaker as Holcombe Rucker the man who the most famous street ball court in the world is named after. The film has a 2 hour runtime and takes you through the turbulent life of the man who Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once called “the best basketball player in the history of New York City.”
Earl Manigault is a legend of basketball folklore in the late 1950’s he scored a NYC junior high record 57 points, had a purported 50 inch vertical which he used to get quarters and dollars bills off the top of the backboard and was known for his signature “Double Dunk”(getting the ball and putting it through the basketball again in the same flight). Anytime you attach the word legend, thinks can get embellished and with the lack of documentation/visual evidence some things are impossible to verify. Standing at approximately 6’1 he was known to hold his own in summer pro/am tournaments with the NBA stars like Earl Monroe, Connie Hawkins, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and according to the movie Wilt Chamberlain (oddly portrayed by Kevin Garnett).
Unfortunately this is a tragic tale which is the reason why most people (including lots of basketball fans) have never heard of Earl Manigault. Bad decisions and unfortunate breaks are abound in his the story. From being expelled from his high school to leaving college after 1 semester it was a very bumpy ride. Drugs ravaged his community and he struggled with addiction that put him in jail on a few occasions and made professional basketball impossible. Similarly the money that some were making on the streets could be as lucrative as the NBA Pee Wee Kirkland famously turned down an NBA opportunity (he would later by referenced by The Clipse in their song “Grindin”- “Legend in two games like I’m Pee Wee Kirkland”).
If you think about this story in terms of if this were to happen today you imagine somebody papered all over social media. I think of things like the And1 mixtapes videos on Tik Tok or YouTube showing his exploits. You could imagine the open challenges put out to NBA players on social media. Hopefully he would have gotten the help he needed for drug addiction, that he was able to live a better life. Was Earl better then [insert player name here]? Probably not, could he hold his own and play at a very high level? yes. The thing to me that ultimately separates NBA players above all is consistency, the ability to deliver 82 games (or for those players who go deep in the playoffs 100+ games) a year. As Steve Martin talks about with comedy “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” that is the same for those who make it to the NBAs Elite.
Unfortunately we don’t have an answer as to why this movie has been forgotten. By no means was this an academy award winning movie, but it does a good job telling a compelling story. Lucky for those interested there are lots of books that talk about streetball legends like Earl Manigault, Pee Wee Kirkland, Lloyd “Swee’ Pea” Daniels and more. Streetball and the reverberation of stories about certain players is one of the things that make the culture of basketball great. As they said in the movie the sandlot “Heroes get remembered but legends never die” and that is true about Earl Manigault.