When LeBron James announced he was taking his talents to Los Angeles this summer, the NBA hive of The Ringer thoughtfully considered how that decision would affect the NBA landscape, made all the more intriguing by the Lakers’ befuddling decision to pair him with teammates known less for their on-court talents than their penchant for inadvertently inspiring memes. But James’s decision to join the Lakers was about much more than choosing the basketball fit. It was also the next evolutionary step for LeBron James, the Media Figure.
While LeBron dipped his toes into the Hollywood pool before moving to L.A.—most notably producing the Starz series Survivor’s Remorse and appearing in a hilarious supporting role in Trainwreck in 2015—LeBron has really flexed his producer muscles this year with a series of announcements tied to his brand. In the last week alone, James reportedly added three new projects to his résumé. (Plus, there’s supposedly still a LeBron-starring Space Jam 2 on the horizon.)
While not all producer credits signal hands-on involvement, it’s clear that LeBron’s 360-degree takeover of Los Angeles is already in hyperdrive. With Media LeBron hitting sixth gear, here’s a handy guide to keep track of all his projects for the rest of this year and beyond.
Million Dollar Mile
What Is It? An American Ninja Warrior–esque competition series for über-talented athletes set to air on CBS. Though specifics haven’t yet been revealed, Million Dollar Mile’s obstacle courses will reportedly take over the streets of a different major city in each of its 10 episodes. For every “million-dollar mile” that is run, a contestant could win, well, a million dollars. The series comes from LeBron and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment, and LeBron will also serve as an executive producer.
Progress Report: The project was just announced in August, so there’s still a ways to go before this arrives on TV.
Hype Rating: 7/10. That it sounds like NBC’s American Ninja Warrior isn’t exactly a bad thing; that show has produced some of the most entertaining and viral athletic feats of the past few years. Now, these series are only as good as the people competing in them, but with LeBron’s name on the project, there’s plenty of incentive for America’s best anonymous athletes to come out and give this a shot.
What Is It? A YouTube Premium docuseries on the NBA’s YouTube channel, starring former NBA player Jay Williams and tracking Newark Central High School’s basketball team in New Jersey. The show is essentially the YouTube equivalent of Netflix’s Last Chance U, except it’s basketball instead of football. LeBron is serving as an executive producer.
Progress Report: The entire season dropped on YouTube Premium in July; you can watch the first episode for free right now:
Hype Rating: 8/10. For sports docuseries enthusiasts who have already burned through Netflix’s growing library of original sports content, this is a solid follow-up. Just don’t expect something at the level of Hoop Dreams, and you’ll come away satisfied.
Warriors of Liberty City
What Is It? A six-episode docuseries on Starz following Miami’s acclaimed Liberty City Warriors youth program, which has generated a plethora of NFL talent, including Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: LeBron is an executive producer.
Progress Report: The series premiered Sunday night and will continue airing new episodes weekly.
Hype Rating: 9/10. From The Ringer’s Kevin Clark: “Though there has been a recent proliferation of sports docuseries, few series are as gripping as Warriors of Liberty City. While most other shows of its kind deal with the drama of professional sports, this show traffics in real-life stakes for kids with uncertain futures.”
What Is It? A basketball-centric drama series being eyed by NBC, which will follow a former WNBA player as she looks to become the first female head coach of a men’s college team. The show is being written by Jennifer Cecil—who previously wrote Notorious as well as episodes of 90210 and Private Practice—with LeBron James and Elizabeth Banks among the show’s executive producers. NBC has given Hoops a script commitment plus penalty—meaning that NBC would have to pay a fee to the producers of the show if the series doesn’t make it to air.
Progress Report: This was announced Thursday, and it hasn’t officially been picked up for a series order, so there’s still a ways to go before this hits a TV screen—if it makes it there at all. (The names “LeBron James” and “Elizabeth Banks” mean it’s got a pretty good chance.)
Hype Rating: 5/10, just because the show may never happen—though a script commitment that comes with a penalty for getting axed means that NBC is at least seriously considering it. Hopefully, if Hoops becomes a series with a narrative focusing on a woman making her way through a male-dominated sports world, it will last longer than Fox’s dearly departed, deeply missed Pitch.
What Is It? A single-camera sitcom loosely inspired by the life of NBA star Ben Simmons, who, along with LeBron, would serve as an executive producer for the series. The focus of Brotherly Love would be on the “unique sibling relationship within a multi-ethnic family” in—where else?—Philadelphia, where Simmons plays ball. Like it does with Hoops, NBC has a script commitment plus penalty to Brotherly Love, so there is a built-in incentive to make this series work.
Progress Report: Since it was just announced, there’s not much to go on or any news regarding a release date just yet.
Hype Rating: 6/10. The show is also being produced by Kourtney Kang—formerly of How I Met Your Mother and Fresh Off the Boat—so it should be in good, sitcom-capable hands, assuming it gets picked up by NBC. But, again, that might just become a formality.
I Am More: OBJ
What Is It? A 16-episode series on Facebook Watch following Odell Beckham Jr. throughout the 2018 NFL season, on the heels of a gruesome ankle injury and a massive (and well-deserved) contract extension with the New York Giants. This comes to us from LeBron’s Uninterrupted media company, whose other productions currently air on Bleacher Report and its website.
Progress Report: The first episode, detailing OBJ’s comeback from last season’s injury, dropped on Friday; weirdly, it isn’t exactly clear when the other episodes will be released.
Hype Rating: 7/10. I Am More: OBJ appeals to a couple of niche markets: the NFL fans who will consume anything football-related between games, and Giants superfans who want even more exposure to their best player. If you land in one of those groups, then this series is for you.
Madam C.J. Walker
What Is It? An eight-episode limited series from Netflix starring Octavia Spencer as the eponymous self-made businesswoman who became one of the only African American female millionaires in the early 1900s. James will serve as one of the show’s executive producers.
Progress Report: The series was officially revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press tour back in July, but Netflix hasn’t unveiled a release date just yet. That said, the wait shouldn’t be too long relative to some of these other LeBron-adjacent projects since Netflix has been circling the Walker miniseries since August 2017.
Hype Rating: 9/10. LeBron sure knows how to pick ’em. Octavia Spencer is fresh off her Oscar nomination for The Shape of Water, and her next target is clearly the Emmys! Not to jump the gun, but were Madam C.J. Walker to win Best Limited Series at the Emmys in a couple years’ time, LeBron would have an Emmy to begin his (admittedly inconceivable, but maybe not) campaign to EGOT.
Lean on Me
What Is It? Speaking of EGOTs, actual EGOT-er John Legend is teaming up with James to executive produce Lean on Me, a forthcoming CW series inspired by the 1989 film of the same name. In the show, a young black teacher will take over a flailing public school in Akron, Ohio—LeBron’s hometown—and try to repair it.
Progress Report: The announcement for Lean on Me came on Thursday, so again, this one’s still going to be in the pipeline for a while. Expect some casting news to come before we hear anything about a release date.
Hype Rating: 7/10. Though it’s not sports-centric, LeBron clearly has some imprint on the series since it’s going to be based in Akron. The show’s writer and fellow executive producer, Wendy Calhoun, has worked on the likes of Empire, Justified, Revenge, and Nashville; she knows how to make a crowd-pleaser that the CW will surely want to add to its stable of superhero shows and Riverdale.
What Is It? An unscripted HBO talk series that takes the aesthetics of a barbershop and pairs LeBron with the likes of Draymond Green, Snoop Dogg, Candace Parker, OBJ, Vince Staples, Jon Stewart, and Michael Bennett for candid conversations about life, careers, handling celebrity, and being black in America. (In the above clip, LeBron talks a bit about how he gets overly pumped during his kid’s AAU games and why he regrets naming his eldest son after him.)
Progress Report: One episode of The Shop’s eight-episode first season has aired thus far, and can be watched on HBO Now and HBO Go.
Hype Rating: 9/10. Per The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy: “The Shop is another platform, but it isn’t a pedestal. It’s not a postgame press conference, where power dynamics are heavily skewed. It’s an HBO show that attempts to keep a level playing field for everyone involved. And for an athlete who is constantly asked to respond to happenings on and off the court in the heat of the moment, The Shop affords him some time to breathe. It’s a fitting segue into LeBron’s next chapter.”
Shut Up and Dribble
What Is It? A three-part documentary series coming to Showtime that will, per Sports Illustrated, look at “the changing role of athletes in the current political and cultural climate against the backdrop of the NBA.” The docuseries’ title is in reference to comments made by Fox News talking head Laura Ingraham in February in response to LeBron criticizing Donald Trump. LeBron is an executive producer on the series.
Progress Report: The docuseries is due to arrive in October, though a specific date hasn’t been announced yet. It’s likely to coincide with the start of the new NBA season.
Hype Rating: 8/10. With Colin Kaepernick’s return to the spotlight in the form of a new Nike campaign, there isn’t a better time for LeBron to continue to dig into the sociopolitical issues that concern him off the court. Also, Fox News is going to freak the hell out, as per usual when black athletes speak their mind.
What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali
The Greatest, like you’ve never seen him before.— HBO (@HBO) September 15, 2018
From @KingJames and @mavcarter’s @SpringHillEnt and director Antoine Fuqua, HBO Sports presents: What's My Name | Muhammad Ali. Coming in 2019. pic.twitter.com/OODplclxww
What Is It? An HBO Sports documentary about, you guessed it, Muhammad Ali. The film is being directed by Antoine Fuqua of The Equalizer franchise and Training Day fame, and LeBron and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment are serving as executive producers.
Progress Report: As the first teaser released on Saturday revealed, the documentary will drop on HBO sometime in 2019.
Hype Rating: 9/10. Coinciding with LeBron’s Shut Up and Dribble docuseries on Showtime, it makes sense that LeBron would attach himself to a documentary focusing on one of the greatest athletes of our time who was also one of our greatest athlete-activists.
Space Jam 2
What Is It? A long-hyped sequel to Michael Jordan’s ’90s classic, in which LeBron would play the leading NBA man who teams up with the Looney Tunes to … well, if the first movie is any indication, kick some evil alien ass up and down the court.
Progress Report: [Deep breath]. We’ve had on-and-off LeBron–Space Jam rumors for the better part of the past few years. In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that frequent Fast & Furious franchise director Justin Lin would be directing the film off a script written by himself, Andrew Dodge, and Alfredo Botello, but The Wrap reported in August that the project has since moved on from Lin, with producers now eyeing Random Acts of Flyness creator Terence Nance. When LeBron’s move to the Lakers became official, rumors also swirled that LeBron’s decision would be accompanied by a trailer for Space Jam 2—though that doesn’t really make sense if a new director was announced after he joined the Lake Show. In much simpler terms, there is, unfortunately, not much official news pertaining to Space Jam 2—including whether or when it might actually happen.
Hype Rating: 5/10. I really want LeBron’s Space Jam to come to fruition, if only to give NBA Reddit even more reasons to pick apart and compare the careers of himself and MJ. But it’s hard to become too elated for a project that, at this stage, is more a collection of rumors than a tangible, forthcoming product. Having said that, with LeBron being in L.A. for the next few years of his playing career, it’s as good a time as ever for Space Jam 2 to actually develop. If the sequel gets derailed, though, it’s confirmation: The Monstars have taken over Hollywood.
Update, September 19, 3:41 p.m. ET: Our Space Jam prayers have been answered.
The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday that the sequel is happening. Nance will direct, while Black Panther and Creed director Ryan Coogler will serve as a producer. LeBron will star in the film and be fed in the post by his new point guard, Bugs Bunny. Production is reportedly set to start during the 2019 NBA offseason.
Now, please allow me to amend my previous hype rating to a full 10. The original Space Jam is and will remain sacred art. But having a sequel with a new crop of NBA stars joining LeBron—please cast Draymond Green and let him shit-talk the Monstars—means a new generation of kids can check out a Looney Tunes–NBA mashup with stars that they grew up watching. I’m also pretty sure there are a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings who wish it were still 1996 who are going to be pumped too.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.