One of the most recognizable names in the New York basketball world will now be featured on the big screen, as Skyscraper Films, BMG Brokers, Executive Producer Barry Greenstein and Director Jill Campbell have chosen to create a documentary about former New Jersey Nets star and high school prodigy Kenny Anderson called ‘Mr. Chibbs’.
In an interview with Nothin’ But Nets, Anderson noted that he had considered broadcasting his story before the idea of a documentary even came about.
“I have a great story. Being a child prodigy and coming out of New York and all of the obstacles that I had to overcome, I thought that this was the right time with this generation and everything going on. All of these kids want to be sports figures or rappers and I thought that I could tell my story and give some hope to these inner city kids,” Anderson said.
The stars aligned for Anderson’s plan when he met Campbell, who had been doing some work on a different film for Skyscraper. Though she had interest in a movie surrounding him, an eventual meeting with him sealed the deal.
“I met Kenny Anderson when I was working with SkyScraper films on a different script. Skyscraper does documentaries and at the time they were doing one on Leon Spinks, the former heavyweight champion. They had asked if I was interested in doing a documentary on Kenny, and given that I grew up in New York and my family was crazy about basketball, I was very interested. Once I did get the chance to meet him, I found him to be such an interesting and complex person and I knew it was something that I wanted to do,” Campbell said.
Though she had an idea for the direction that she wanted the movie to go in, being able to spend time with him allowed her to be able to get a peak into the type of person that he is, as well as some of the struggles that he had been through.
“We flew him into New York to sort of meet him and do a week of shoots to see how it would turn out. I gathered some camera personnel and once we met Kenny, he was off and running and it was an invigorating, exhausting and amazing experience. We shot him in all of the places throughout New York that he had grown up in and as I got to know him, I started to figure out what the story was that I was going to tell because I didn’t want to just be a story about the athlete that made a bunch of money and lost it, because there’s so much to his story.”
Campbell continued, “He had the abuse, the drinking, the time in the NBA, the fact that he was a prodigy and that there were people saying that his high school and college years were the best. I saw all of this and saw him in a midlife crisis trying to figure out what his next move would be. He was trying to find a coaching job and given his career on the court I figured it would be really easy, but there ended up being a lot of variables to it. The main story that we were trying to tell was him grappling with his life on his pursuit of trying to find a job and trying to connect with his kids.”
Throughout the process of the film, Campbell realized that while his basketball abilities were what he was known for, his personality away from the court is what makes him truly special.
“He is such a good guy. He is not spoiled, he’s very down to earth and very loyal and ridiculously honest. Following someone like that, every shoot was a present. He wants to give back and tell his story so that young kids coming up who are playing ball or are just going through issues can learn from him. He realizes that he’s not perfect, but he’s so honest about it and he’s in therapy now and he has a great wife now and he’s an amazing father. It was great to work with someone that’s so open about it.”
Shooting the film was a positive experience both for Anderson and Campbell, but there were some bumps in the road along the way. For Anderson, it was coming face to face with the abuse that he had experienced in his childhood.
“I went public about three years ago about being molested when I was a child. I sat with my wife and she told me that I should open up and tell the truth. I wasn’t going to do it because I was scared and I had held it in for thirty years, but I thought that I could be a voice for those that have experienced the same thing. I had basketball to help make me feel important, but some of these kids turn to drugs or alcohol or commit suicide. It was challenging for me, but my thought was that maybe these kids will see, ‘Wow, Kenny Anderson came out about it, so maybe I can come out and get some help,” he said.
For Campbell, the challenge of trying to direct a film about someone’s future while his public image is so directly tied to his basketball career in the past was something that she had to overcome.
“The challenge that he faced throughout the film was that he was not finding any luck getting a job and we had to figure out why. We found out throughout the filming that he had a reputation for drinking and partying throughout his playing career, which presented us with a bit of an issue. We didn’t want to make this film about his old issues though and we wanted to figure out how to portray him as someone that is trying to move on from his past and build a bright future,” she said.
Not many people in the country will be as talented as he was at basketball or grab national spotlight at such a young age, but Anderson’s story is one that he believes can connect with people from all different ages and backgrounds.
“I think this film will appeal to everybody, from players and coaches, to parents and even people that aren’t sports fans because it deals with things that so many people have been through. With everything that I was going through, I still managed to go on to play professionally and do all types of things that I loved and it could have been a lot worse for me. My mother would love this movie because I think that it might help some kids that are coming up today.”
Though an official release is not yet set, Campbell noted that the film will be at festivals within the next five or six months and would be fully released after it runs through the festival circuit.
With an inspiring story that can reach people from every background, ‘Mr. Chibbs’ looks to be a must-see film.