Following an award-winning run on the film festival circuit, the powerful story of a basketball phenom from Watts, California—who many believe was blackballed from the NBA in the ’70s—Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend premieres theatrically and on VOD, from prize-winning documentarian Ryan Polomski (State vs. Reed) and co-director/producer Dean Prator.
One of six finalists on a short list of nominees for the prestigious 2022 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, a national award for historical documentary filmmakers (winners to be announced Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C.), this compelling documentary will enjoy a one-week theatrical run at the at the Lumiere Music Hall Cinema in Beverly Hills Oct. 27, before premiering Nov. 1 on VOD on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Microsoft, InDemand, Plex, Roku and Fandango.
A “once-in-a-generation” hoops talent who broke scoring records and thrilled packed gyms, the shy, first-round NBA draft pick from South Central Los Angeles quickly faded from the national spotlight when his professional dreams were dashed. However, Lewis waged an epic, decade-long battle to get back into the league and achieve his life-long dream of being a pro. An extraordinary, heartbreaking and ultimately tragic story (Lewis died in 2001, at age 48) that left an indelible mark on the game of basketball, helped progress the equitable treatment of Black athletes for generations to come and forever touched those lucky enough to have seen Lewis’ awe-inspiring performances.
Told from the personal and powerful perspective of those who knew him best—friends, family, coaches and former teammates—including daughter Kamilah Rae Lewis, famed NCAA basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, former L.A. Laker Michael Cooper, sports marketing icon Sonny Vaccaro, NCAA College coach Lorenzo Romar and civil rights icon Dr. Harry Edwards, among others. The film also features an array of never-before-seen archival film dating back over 50 years and rare, uncovered photographs that bring to life this touching and unpredictable story that transcends sports and will appeal to all audiences.
In Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend …
From the playgrounds of Watts in South Central, Los Angeles, to astounding and unprecedented, record-breaking performances in high school at Verbum Dei High School and college at Cal State L.A., Raymond Lewis was deemed a “sure bet” for NBA stardom by everyone who saw him play.
Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers as a 19-year-old, college sophomore in the first round of the 1973 NBA draft, his future seemed predestined … yet he never played in an NBA game, derailed by an ugly, racially motivated, contract dispute with the 76ers and an epic, on-the-court battle with the team’s other first-round pick, Olympic star Doug Collins, who was White.
Allegations of league blackballing began to circulate and, for the next decade, Lewis continued to dominate on the playground and in gyms back home while simultaneously and stubbornly chasing his NBA dream. Sans professional advice in a racially charged climate, Lewis was considered and rejected in other NBA drafts … leaving many to wonder, Whatever happened to Raymond Lewis?
Now, an award-winning filmmaking team unravels this powerful and historically significant story, a personal journey from young hoops phenom (who was interviewed by iconic, NBC sportscaster Bryant Gumbel at just 19 years old) to NBA pariah and examines the lasting impact the battle had on Lewis, his family and on the South Central L.A. community … as well as the enduring imprint his struggle had on the game of basketball for Black athletes for generations to come.
This one-of-a-kind documentary tells the unforgettable story of a man who never abandoned his dream and, along the way, became an all-time basketball legend.
Documentary, Sports, History, Biography / 82 Minutes / Not Rated
From Beach City Media and Retro Bros. Productions, Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend was directed by Ryan Polomski and produced by Kamilah Rae Lewis, Ryan Polomski, Dean Prator, Anthony Samad and Renard Young. Executive Produced by Ryan Polomski, Dean Prator, Brian Panish and Ed Gordon. Cinematography by Travis Auclair. Edited by Ryan Polomski
In addition to the Ken Burns prize nomination, Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend was a Special Jury Selection for Best Feature Documentary at the 2021 Pan African Film Festival, won Best Documentary at the 2021 San Pedro International Film Festival and was an official selection at the 2021 Black Harvest Film Festival, 2021 Bronze Lens Film Festival, 2021 Houston International Sports Film Festival and 2021 Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival