Home » The new movie “Sweetwater” tells a wonderful story of Chicago

The new movie “Sweetwater” tells a wonderful story of Chicago

by Stewart Cole

Photo courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment

ONE new movie about one of the NBA’s first black players, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, is playing in select theaters in the US

Why it matters here: “Sweetwater” tells an important, but often overlooked, story of how one Chicagoan played a pivotal role in changing basketball forever.

Details: The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, Kevin Pollak, Jeremy Piven and Everett Osborne, who plays the title role.

What they say: “Sweetwater was key to the innovative game we love today,” Osborne tells Axios.

  • “It’s a wonder to see how one man’s journey to challenge limitations and overcome personal obstacles has become an immortal triumph for a global sport like basketball.”

The background: Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Clifton played high school basketball at Chicago’s DuSable High School in the 1940s.

  • He became a star with the famous Harlem Globetrotters. But it wasn’t in the NBA, which at the time didn’t allow black players.
  • In 1950, the New York Knickerbockers brought in Clifton to change that.

Context: Clifton was technically the second black player to play in the league, after Earl Lloyd (played by former Bulls player Bobby Portis). Lloyd started four days before him.

  • Clifton played eight seasons in the NBA with the Knicks and Pistons.
  • After his NBA career, he returned to Chicago to drive a cab. He died in 1990.

How to watch: The movie is showing tonight in Oak Park and tomorrow in Highland Park. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with Osborne.

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