We see them all the time on TV, in commercials, and playing basketball. They're the NBA superstars. From Kevin Garnett to LeBron James, 'When They Were Young' is a look back at how today's NBA superstars came to be.
'When They Were Young' is pretty standard fare when it comes to a sports documentary. The players are shown in the best possible light. We see them grow up from high schoolers, to college players, and then their transitions into the NBA. For players like Lebron, Kobe, and Garnett, they made the transition straight from high school into the pros. One of the most interesting snippets of the movie shows Kobe Bryant giving a press conference as an 18 year-old as he tells everyone he's heading to the NBA. Believe it or not LeBron wasn't the first person to use the phrase "I'm taking my talents to…" Almost word for word Kobe Bryant says the same thing except he replaces "South Beach" with "the NBA" after he snickers and pretends like he forgot where he was going.
The movie doesn't stop at their induction into the NBA. We get to see snippets of their careers too. We get to watch in ultra-speed, through montages, how they are able to mature as players. One thing to keep an eye on is to look at how skinny Dwight Howard and LeBron James were when they entered the NBA, and then compare them to what they look like now. It's a pretty crazy transition they've gone through.
One of the first players profiled is Shaquille O'Neal. They have the famous footage of him meeting Amahad Rashad for the first time. They play one-on-one, O'Neal jumps up, dunks it, and shatters the backboard. It's interesting to go back and realize just exactly how dominating Shaq was. He was an amazing physical specimen who could control games because of his size and strength. He was huge and intimidating, but you can watch as the needless pounds pile up on Shaq's body as he gets slower and slower in his older age.
Another fun story is about Dirk Nowitzki and his journey to the NBA. This is a recent movie, but not recent enough to include the highlights of Dirk's recent NBA championship. Here we see Dirk as a scrawny kid from Germany who had absolutely no basketball moves to speak of. He could shoot it and score, but that was about it. His parents actually pushed him to pursue tennis, thinking that basketball was a girl's sport. When Dirk first got into the NBA he was pushed around like a ragdoll. This "skinny white kid from Europe" as he put it, was getting thrown around so much that he didn't think he'd last in the league. If he hadn't had the leadership and friendship of Steve Nash he might not have lasted.
Any basketball and NBA fan would enjoy this hour-long documentary about the game's best players. It's fun to look back on their lives and see what brought them to this point. Obviously this isn't an in-depth 'ESPN 30 for 30' documentary so you're not going to hear about the lowlights of their careers or life. You're not going to get any juicy gossip or coverage of Kobe's rape case here. This is simply a glossy promotional movie for the NBA, but it's well put together. Fans will enjoy it and that's all that really matters.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'When They Were Young' comes packaged as simple as possible. This disc is housed in a green-friendly Blu-ray case from Image Entertainment. The movie has been pressed onto a BD-25 Blu-ray Disc. There's no indication on whether it is a region A locked release or not.
'When They Were Young', like most all of Image Entertainment's NBA releases, features all kinds of source material. Image has provided a 1080i picture that's been framed at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. However, the aspect ratio is constantly changing depending on the source footage they're using. The picture routinely crops at a 1.66:1 ratio in order to include older television broadcasts.
The interviews with the players are fairly recent, most of them done in 2010. Those interviews are crystal clear. Fine detail is wonderful. Pores and hairs are distinctly visible. Then, right after those interviews we're treated to soft videotaped NBA games from the mid-nineties that looks exactly like old video tape from that era. There's nothing much that can be done for source material of that nature.
I was surprised at how clear most of the footage from the NBA drafts was. It didn't really matter which year we were talking about, the footage from the drafts looked clearer than most of the game footage. To be fair, the footage that we do have here is very clean. There is some color bleeding and noticeable wear and tear on the video tapes they're using, but overall it looks good considering its limitations.
'When They Were Young' severely lacks in the audio department. Partly because of the older sound recordings, but also because of the simple Dolby Digital 2.0 track that's been provided. The only thing clear here is the movie's narration, everything else comes out as varying quality.
Many of the older recordings feature crackles and hissing. High end brashness is a common occurrence. As with most 2.0 mixes the sound smacking you in the ears instead of surrounding and engulfing you in the presentation. I understand that many of the older audio recordings wouldn't allow for a surround sound experiences, but this 2.0 mix sounds week and underdeveloped.
This type of sports documentary isn't something you've never seen before. It has a very promotional feel about it, but it does have some interesting tidbits about the game's best players. If you're a basketball fan you'll enjoy seeing the old footage and watching these guys grow up in the blink of an eye. The video and audio presentations are pretty much beholden to the worn quality of the old game tapes. The special features are a group of short snippets that don't shed much more light on the players than the movie did. As a basketball fan, I enjoyed this movie, but I'm not sure many other people will. For fans only.