ESPN Documentary to Spotlight Dunbar’s Legendary ’81-83 Basketball Team

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Still via YouTube/Maryland Public Television

The historic basketball program at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is getting the national spotlight again, courtesy of ESPN.

The network yesterday announced the premiere of the upcoming documentary “Baltimore Boys,” which chronicles the journey of one of the greatest high school basketball squads to ever take the floor. From 1981 to 1983, the boys’ team at Dunbar High School in East Baltimore couldn’t be stopped.

Led by future NBA stars Muggsy Bogues, David Wingate, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis – three of whom were picked in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft – the Dunbar Poets racked up a 59-0 record over two seasons, winning a citywide championship in 1982 and a national one in 1983. They also benefitted from having an incredible coach in Bob Wade, an ex-defensive backs coach in the NFL who grew up in Baltimore and decided to steer the school’s hoops program in a second wind.

The film appears to try to capture the environment in which the players came together – one replete with rampant drug use, violence, segregated poverty – to thrive. It also covers some of the tragedies that befell them later on, such as Lewis’ sudden, tragic death during a summertime practice for the Boston Celtics in 1993.

Much of this was chronicled in Alejandro Danois’ 2016 book, “The Boys of Dunbar,” but ESPN knows when it sees a good story. Maryland Public Television also ran a short piece on Danois’ book back in January:

“Baltimore Boys” co-director Marquis Daisy offered this take on his latest work for ESPN in this statement from the network:

What’s special about this tale is, despite the bad hand that Bogues, Williams, Wingate and Lewis were dealt, in the backdrop of a time when the place that they called home was at its most dangerous, they were able to make it out of that environment and ascend to heights that hardly anyone gave them a chance to, thanks to the people who helped steer them in the right direction.

Click here to watch the trailer, which features some poignant drone shots of the city at the beginning.

The film premieres Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 8 p.m. on ESPN. It’s part of a twofer, preceding another doc about  a boys’ basketball team from Inglewood, Calif., in the early ’90s.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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