Short documentary celebrates KU basketball history; official release date set for November

Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self, and former coaches Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Ted Owens have a laugh while talking shop in preparation for the 60th Anniversary celebration of Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.

A four-minute video celebrating Lawrence as “the cradle of basketball” has racked up tens of thousands of views since its Monday debut on Facebook.

Directed by Los Angeles-based actor/filmmaker Blake Robbins, the short documentary is part of a larger project commissioned by Explore Lawrence that agency officials said aims to attract visitors to Lawrence through the city’s storied basketball history.

Produced in conjunction with Kansas Athletics and the Lawrence-based Miller Meiers Communication Arts Agency, the film chronicles the beginnings of the KU basketball program (the university’s first coach, one interviewee proudly points out, was none other than James Naismith, the inventor of basketball) and follows the game into modern times.

The Cradle of Basketball sizzle reel I directed. Have a look. Thanks to eXplore Lawrence and many others for the opportunity.

Posted by Blake Robbins on Monday, August 3, 2015

It’s also got a pretty impressive roster of guests. Every living KU basketball coach makes an appearance in the film (Ted Owens, who coached the Jayhawks from 1964 to 1983, all the way up to current coach Bill Self) as well as Mark Allen (grandson of legendary coach Phog Allen) and others with strong ties to the KU basketball program.

The video, it turns out, wasn’t slated for release until November, said Megan Gilliland, who serves as the city’s communications manager and the interim director of the nonprofit group that oversees Explore Lawrence.

But even without much fanfare, “The Cradle of Basketball,” as it’s being called, has certainly attracted attention from Lawrence residents and basketball fans.

Robbins — who attended Wichita State University and notably shot his 2014 film, “The Sublime and the Beautiful,” in and around Lawrence in 2012 — said on Facebook that he released the video as a sort of “beta test” to gauge interest in the project.

Less than two days later, the film had elicited more than 22,000 views and nearly 900 shares.

“The activity on Facebook has been extremely positive, but we’re hoping to roll it out in a much bigger way with opportunities for people to see it,” said Toni Dixon, manager of marketing and communications at Explore Lawrence.

You can catch the film’s official release on the Explore Lawrence website in November. “The Cradle of Basketball” will also tentatively be shown at KU’s DeBruce Center, which is still under construction.