Source: The Undefeated
‘I was just flattered and honored to have this come my way, and that I was entrusted with helping to tell this story’
BY MARC J. SPEARS
LOS ANGELES — When filming a walk down NBA Lane to celebrate the league’s upcoming 75th anniversary, director Rick Famuyiwa rolled cameras at Universal Studios and CBS’ backlot. But, the Los Angeles native thought — with the predominantly Black NBA in mind — that it was important to add soul, too, by bringing NBA greats past and present to South Central Los Angeles’ Leimert Park neighborhood.
“There are these Black neighborhoods in LA that are sort of a foundation of my experiences,” Famuyiwa told The Undefeated recently. “And so, growing up in LA, but also growing up a big Laker fan, when we talked about the neighborhood of the NBA and the kinds of places that both the players touch and the players would, I guess in theory, live in this neighborhood that connects 75 years of the history, it was the kind of vibe and the kind of spot that I felt would be right.”
To promote the NBA’s 75th anniversary, the NBA made a short film called NBA Lane, which is a metaphorical neighborhood fitted with the league’s personalities and top moments to help the fans reminisce about the league’s history.
Throughout the trip down NBA Lane, you will encounter some of the greats of the past, current superstars and future stars. During filming at Leimert Park, such current NBA players as Carmelo Anthony, LaMelo Ball, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Jayson Tatum took part. Former NBA greats Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas and Jerry West also were involved in the three-day shoot last month.
“Just reflecting on 75 years and all the teams and players, it is an honor to be a part of 75 years. It has always been a dream of mine to be in the NBA. I was honored when they asked. It’s a big deal,” Tatum told The Undefeated.
This season the NBA will also announce its Top 75 players in league history as picked by a select panel. Anthony, who will enter his 19th NBA season with the Los Angeles Lakers next month, was very proud to be a part of the filming.
“It’s history. Seventy-five years of anything is a lot,” Anthony told The Undefeated. “But for the NBA and basketball in general, that’s definitely a major milestone. And for me personally, to be almost 20 of the 75 is a different perspective. So I had to be a part of this.”
Famuyiwa was attracted to Leimert Park due to its rich Black history that’s still strong today. The 230-acre plot of land is known for being a historical and contemporary hub of Black art, culture and music in Los Angeles. There are several Black-owned businesses as well as a lively poetry hip-hop scene. Famous Leimert Park residents include legendary singers Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, and former LA Mayor Tom Bradley. Many of the local residents stood nearby to watch the filming.
An intrigued Davis, who is entering his third season with the Lakers, asked Famuyiwa about the neighborhood during his film shoot, a place where the Lakers and LA Clippers have hosted community events.
“There’s always been such a warm and kind of an artistic center and an energy around Leimert that I always felt was like the heart any kind of community has to have,” Famuyiwa said. “And so I was excited about bringing that to the screen, even if we weren’t saying that it was Leimert, the idea that that would be a foundational element was important. And it was great that the league and everyone sort of saw that and felt like it added the same kind of character and texture that the piece needed.
“And I was excited to be back there shooting, because going back to college, I spent a lot of time there. There was a spot called The Good Life, which was this open mic hip-hop spot that was right there in Leimert where a lot of people would come together from all walks of life as the sort of art form was really taking a foothold in the city. It was good to be back and just be in that element, but then have the NBA and these great players be there, too.”
Famuyiwa is most known for being director, producer and screenwriter of productions including The Wood, Brown Sugar, Talk to Me, Our Family Wedding, Dope, Confirmation and The Mandalorian. The Nigerian American’s inspiration for writing and directing The Wood in 1999 came from his upbringing not too far from Leimert Park in Inglewood. Famuyiwa said he sat in the nosebleeds at the old Forum in Inglewood while attending a handful of games during his youth. In junior high, he said, he also played in the championship of his junior high basketball league before a Lakers home game against the Detroit Pistons.
“I grew up playing hoops, so basketball has always been sort of a foundational element in my life,” Famuyiwa said. “It taught me a lot about life and teams and cooperation that I still use in my profession today. And then I grew up in Inglewood in the height of the ’80s and ’90s as the Lakers had a dynasty and then in the 2000s, when they had another one.”
Famuyiwa is a huge Lakers fan who wore a black Lakers Magic Johnson jersey during one day of filming. The Clippers will open a new arena in Inglewood in 2024. Famuyiwa starred as a small forward at St. Bernard High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Playa Del Rey. A childhood friend was once quoted in The Los Angeles Times saying that Famuyiwa used to be able to dunk like Michael Jordan.
Famuyiwa said he turned down some full basketball scholarships from mid-major Division I programs to attend the University of Southern California in hopes of being a part of its famed film school.
Famuyiwa walked on to the Trojans’ men’s basketball team coached by Hall of Famer George Raveling. The 6-foot-4 forward went scoreless in eight games for USC during the 1991-92 season, and scored just 2 points on two shots and grabbed 4 rebounds in 11 minutes during the 1992-93 season. The 1992-93 Trojans won a school record-tying 24 games and finished ranked eighth nationally before losing on a half-court buzzer-beater against Georgia Tech in the second round. Famuyiwa left USC’s basketball team following the 1992-93 season after being accepted into film school.
“I got hooked up after applying to film school. And my hoop dreams … well, I knew my hoop dreams had come to an end well before that,” Famuyiwa said.
During his senior year in 1995, Famuyiwa wrote and directed his critically acclaimed thesis film called Blacktop Lingo, which was a 12-minute short film about basketball. With Famuyiwa’s love of basketball in mind, it didn’t take long for him to say yes to the NBA Lane project.
“I was just flattered and honored to have this come my way, and that I was entrusted with helping to tell this story,” Famuyiwa said. “So, for me, it wasn’t even anything. It was kind of a dream to have all these things come together and to be able to bring the passion for film that I have now to it. It was almost like a perfect scenario to jump into and I was thrilled from the very beginning.”
Intelligent Automation and Football: How Lessons from the Pitch can Enhance Automation Initiatives
Neil Murphy, CSO, ABBYY
Football is the most watched sport in the world, with an international passion for the game resulting in some unexpected intersections of culture and commerce. Ted Lasso follows an American football coach’s journey to leading an English Premier League team. Although Ted’s endearing quips and southern drawl might have been mere comedic caricature, the trope of westerners meddling in European football is no longer just fiction.
American actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds bought English football club Wrexham AFC in November of 2020 for £2m, funding the club’s return to the English Football League for the first time since their relegation over a decade prior. More recently in May of 2023, professional American athletes J.J. and Kealia Watt became minority owners of Burnley Football Club in England.
Now, ABBYY is partnering with Arsenal Women’s Football Club, elevating the trend of western investment from just wealthy individuals to notable technology enterprises.
As enthusiasm for football continues to grow worldwide, these intersections become inevitable, but they’re much more than household celebrity names or mere sponsorship deals. On the surface, using advanced AI within automation solutions might seem like a concept far removed from the sport of football – but this technology has much more in common with what occurs on the pitch than you might think.
Strategy and intent – moving with a purpose
Football is all about control. Without a proper strategy in mind, the ball could easily be taken by a defender, or fall into the hands of the goalkeeper, turning the tide of the game against you in an instant.
Similarly, implementing automation without a clear objective or understanding of your organisation’s current processes will not always yield desirable results. Without proper visibility, you could unintentionally make a bottleneck more visible to the customer, dampening their experience without any gains in efficiency. This isn’t uncommon – 70% of automation attempts fail due to unclear goals.
Understanding your scoring strategy from end to end is crucial to maintain control over your processes, which requires deep familiarity with both your team dynamics and individual traits. Process intelligence, or the practice of driving process improvement through use of advanced data analytics,enables this visibility by combining process mining and task mining into a unified, AI-enhanced platform. While task mining examines individuals’ workflows like clicks and keystrokes, process mining scrutinises the larger holistic process. Much like understanding individual football players’ mechanical skill such as footwork, positioning, and ball control as well as how each player interacts with one another is key to devising an informed strategy, combining insights from task and process mining yields the most contextually accurate model of how a process or workflow can be improved.
Proving it on the pitch
Football fans’ expectations for their respective clubs can reach astronomical heights in the off season, often fueled by the acquisition of up-and-coming talent. While new promises of success can be exciting, not every team will perform as well as we expect them to.
The intelligent automation market experiences a similar trend. The constant upcropping of startup vendors trying to capitalise on the hype train of AI can be overwhelming, with each of them boasting unprecedented potential for efficiency gains without ever having experienced the real pressures of operating a modern enterprise. On the other hand, massive tech-giants will try to leverage their brand recognition and resources to win you over, despite their unfamiliarity and overall detachment from your specific business needs.
It’s unadvisable to jump the gun and sign the rising star that promises to transform your operations without any gametime experience, just as it’s unwise to shell out cash to the household name with an illustrious legacy that’s becoming weak in the knees and slow to keep up. When selecting a provider of intelligent automation solutions, you need to prioritise both innovation and experience, and most importantly, an understanding of and commitment to your organisation’s needs. Haphazardly filling your tech stack with every new tool that promises to yield the best value from AI will create a cacophony of platforms, inhibiting efficiency – take care in selecting your solutions and choose those that have proven their worth in the context of the modern enterprise.
Improving outcomes and predictability through training
There’s no denying that “practice makes perfect.” Dribbling, passing, corner-kicks; even professional players practice the basics every day to stay sharp and dependable on the pitch.
Intelligent document processing (IDP), or the application of AI and machine learningto understand, process, and extract insights from business-critical documents like a human, works similarly. By processing volumes of documents, it hones its accuracy in extracting key information over time. This improves its straight-through processing rate, or the rate at which it can process a document with 100% accuracy without any manual intervention. Leveraging IDP allows professionals to spend less time on repetitive, monotonous manual data entry, empowering them to focus on more fulfilling or customer-facing tasks.
But what if there are more advanced or specific skills you’d like to cultivate within your team, such as bicycle kicks or intricate passing maneuvers? The answer is simple – drill those specific skills, giving your team even more versatility.
With IDP, you can augment your platform with pre-trained document skills that are developed to handle a multitude of specific documents that might be crucial to the full scope of your business. From hyper-specific government forms in Japan that vary per district to US tax forms with seemingly countless variables, IDP can be trained to extract actionable data with staggering accuracy.
Weaving a strong fabric
In sport and business, teamwork is everything. Just as Ted Lasso worked tirelessly to fix Richmond’s tumultuous team culture to bring out the best in his players and weave a strong fabric from their strengths, intelligent automation solutions help drive progress forward at a unified pace.
Adopting a unified suite of automation technology ensures that no facet of your operations will fall behind. It’s impossible to fully benefit from the visibility and insight enabled by process intelligence if you don’t have the technological capability to improve cumbersome document-centric processes. On the other hand, it’s difficult and unadvisable to leverage IDP haphazardly without evaluating where it is most needed.
Bringing the victory home
Intelligent automation and the sport of football couldn’t be any more different on paper, but those with a keen eye for strategy, teamwork, and culture will see the value in applying these to innovation. Implementing intelligent automation doesn’t have to be dauntingly ambiguous – with the right coach at the helm and the right players on the metaphorical pitch, you can assure victory for your organisation.
Exploring the psychological impacts of a two-month, solo Antarctic expedition
Next month, British explorer Sam Cox will spend two months, completely alone, trekking across one of the Earth’s last true wildernesses – Antarctica.
While travelling 2,000km across snow and ice requires a huge amount of physical endurance, the mental impacts of this journey are perhaps, even more significant.
Alexandra de Carvalho from the Austrian Space Forum will be working closely with Sam pre- and post-expedition, to understand the psychological impacts of the journey.
“The first thing to consider is the sheer isolation of this challenge. Two months with extremely minimal human contact is not something to be underestimated,” she said.
“Our work is mainly concerned with space, and people usually think that space is more distant than Antarctica, but actually it’s not true. It’s much easier sometimes to come back from space, to come back to Earth if there’s an emergency.
“More people have gone into space than trekked to the South Pole.
“To come back to the mainland from Antarctica can be extremely difficult, which exacerbates that feeling of distance. You cannot just be evacuated if you want.”
The only link Sam will have to the outside world is a beacon plotting his incremental location in case of emergency, and very limited communications via satphone.
Alexandra added: “Separated from family and friends, this kind of study will help to really understand more about the psychology of people.
“In fact, this is the main reason we were so keen to work with Sam. He’s in a very special situation, being alone with nobody to share his feelings with, nobody to share his thoughts with.
“It’s rare that scientists can study subjects that are completely isolated for this amount of time, let alone in conditions as extreme as those in Antarctica.
“We really want to get an idea how a person emotionally regulates in this kind of scenario.”
Sam will be taking daily voice recordings of the experiences and emotions he’s feeling during this period of extreme isolation.
Alexandra said: “For this research to be useful, it’s really important that we hear frequent and specific audio diary entries from Sam.
“It’s common for people to look back on an experience like this and say – it was stressful, but it was nice – which is not precise enough for us.
“We’re using audio equipment to make this as accessible for Sam as possible – writing could be a challenge in extremely low temperatures.
“In similar studies, we’ve asked participants to keep written diaries as the fear of being overheard by other participants might stunt their honestly, but that’s not going to be an issue with Sam, since he’ll be completely alone.”
There will be other psychological challenges for Sam, as well as isolation.
Sam said: “An important thing to consider is the 24-hour daylight, and how my body will adapt to that.
“Because I’m travelling during Antarctica’s summer months, the sun will never actually set, meaning my circadian rhythm is likely to get pretty confused.
“A lack of sleep could be detrimental to my physical and mental well-being, so it’s something I’m having to prepare for.”
Alexandra said: “Sensory deprivation could also be a challenge. It’s an interesting environment, but it’s very monotonous, so it depends on the person and how they perceive it.
“For example, Sam might find it interesting to have the colour green. While other people would be fascinated by the sky and the sea, he might be like wow – I really miss the forest and more complex environments.”
Alexandra continued: “This research is not only helping us understand the emotional impact of extreme environments, but it’s helping us understand the type of person that’s suitable for working in these remote places.
“We want to know how people feel in these environments, which emotions are more dominant? How do these people deal with that?
“When people are stationed in distant locations, either from Earth or in polar expeditions, they have to be really trained to deal with their feelings autonomously.
“But we can only do that by understanding when happens within a person and what they’re likely to feel so we can prepare them beforehand. You can prepare, but you cannot run away from your emotions.”
Sam leaves the UK for Antarctica on 24th October, with plans to complete the expedition by mid-January.
He has been supported by Team Forces and Resilient Nutrition to embark on this epic adventure.
For more information, follow Sam on www.frozendagger.co.uk
Improve your marathon time with proper pre-hydration
Andy Blow, sweat expert and founder of leading sports fuelling and hydration company Precision Fuel and Hydration, discusses how pre hydration can help improve your marathon time.
Dehydration can seriously impact an athlete’s performance, and enjoyment of a marathon.
Yet according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 31% of amateur athletes arrive at training sessions or events dehydrated.
For those looking to shave minutes off their race time – simply starting properly hydrated could be the answer.
We caught up with Andy Blow, CEO of Precision Fuel and Hydration, to find out how pre hydration can have such a dramatic effect on your marathon, and how runners can start a race in the best possible condition.
The benefits of pre-hydrating
Optimising your hydration status before a marathon, or ‘preloading’, can increase your blood volume and significantly improve your performance.
According to Sport Nutrition by Jeukendrup and Gleeson, dehydration of just 8% of each individual’s total-body water could half their exercise endurance, based on a 121 minute session.
Research has proven that taking onboard a high concentration of electrolytes, the salts and minerals that help your body function, promotes fluid retention which in turn increases the blood volume in your body.
This increased blood volume supports cardiovascular function helping transport oxygen and fuel to your muscles, and your body’s ability to dissipate heat produced by your working muscles.
This can reduce fatigue and improve endurance performance – helping you run your best marathon possible.
On the other hand, exercising in a dehydrated state can reduce blood volume, limit cardiovascular performance and limit the body’s ability to cool itself through sweat – all limiting the body’s ability to perform.
Pre-hydration is more than drinking water
Hydration is much more than just the amount of water we drink.
Your body is constantly aiming to maintain a balance between water and electrolytes.
It’s therefore important to take on correct levels of both to properly hydrate.
Drinking just water can upset that balance, diluting the body’s concentration of salt. Always wanting to maintain equilibrium, the body’s solution to this is to expel the excess water through urine. It’s basically going make you pee!
Unfortunately, this will also take with it some of the electrolytes in your system, further diluting your blood sodium levels and impacting your performance (and wellbeing in extreme cases).
However, consuming a strong electrolyte solution in the build up to a marathon will boost your salt levels, encouraging your body to retain the water you drink, helping you to start the race fully hydrated.
How to hydrate before a marathon
The timings of a race day, particularly an event as large as the London Marathon, can be vastly different to an athlete’s usual routine.
That’s why planning your hydration strategy is key.
Athletes preparing for a marathon should drink a strong electrolyte drink the night before the race to encourage your body to retain fluid, which will boost blood volume.
Aim for drinks containing >1,000mg of sodium per litre.
The morning of the race, 90 minutes before the start is recommended, athletes should drink another bottle of strong electrolyte drink to top-up blood plasma volume.
It is important to finish this drink 45 minutes before you set off to give the body time to process it.
While this plan will enable the average marathon participant to arrive at the start line hydrated, every person’s sweat concentration and sweat rate will be different, so athletes looking to maximise their potential should know their numbers, do a sweat test and form a more personalised hydration plan.
Dangers of over drinking
As much as beginning a marathon dehydrated can negatively impact your performance, there is also a danger that athletes can drink too much water in anticipation of a race – leading to a new set of problems.
Nervous drinking before a race is common for newcomers to marathon running, and those who haven’t planned their hydration.
Drinking too much water without taking on electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia can be summarised as low blood sodium levels. This can be caused by inadequately replacing the sodium lost when sweating, compounded by drinking plain water or weak sports drinks mixed that further dilute sodium on the body.
Sodium is vital for several bodily functions like blood pressure and working nerves and muscles.
Hyponatremia can cause nausea or vomiting, fatigue, loss of energy, muscle weakness and cramps; all things you want to avoid when running a marathon.
According to National Kidney Foundation, when sodium levels are particularly low, more serious health implications can occur, even resulting in death.
Don’t waste your training
It’s probable that if you’re signed up to a spring marathon, you’ve done months of hard training.
By making sure you start the race properly hydrated, you not only reduce unnecessary discomfort, fatigue and muscle weakness, but will allow your body to realise its full potential come race day.
Training is also an ideal opportunity to test out your hydration strategy. Try running through your pre-race hydration and timings with the confidence that you are in the best possible shape.