Going Big, the next installment of ESPN Films’ SEC “Storied” series, will premiere on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The film chronicles former basketball player Sam Bowie’s trying career, which was plagued by injuries in college and the NBA and overshadowed by his draft placement.
About Going Big
In high school Sam Bowie was considered a potential franchise player. Arguably the top recruit in a national class that included Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Dominique Wilkins and Isiah Thomas, the 7-foot-1 center out of Pennsylvania got off to a strong start at the University of Kentucky and as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
After Bowie resisted pressure to jump early to the NBA, he continued to raise his level of play as a sophomore. But in a game against Vanderbilt late in the regular season, he suffered what would later prove to be a stress fracture in his left leg. Soon plagued by a long recovery that forced him to sit out two consecutive seasons, he struggled to get healthy. Still, Bowie bounced back as a fifth-year senior in 1984 and helped lead Kentucky to the Final Four.
Just three months later, despite his previous injuries, Bowie was still seen by many as a franchise center when he was selected by Portland with the second overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, just ahead of Michael Jordan. But injuries again limited his success while Jordan helped the NBA reach new heights as perhaps the best player of all time.
Bowie actually had a long and relatively productive pro career despite recurring leg injuries, yet he got labeled as a bust because of the lofty expectations. Going Big will tell Bowie’s story of perseverance and determination. Now a successful horse-owner in Lexington who never let his run of bad fortune deflate his spirit, Bowie has found success and happiness.
*Digital screeners and images available upon request*
A film by Jon Fish and Tom Friend, Going Big features interviews from Bowie’s family members, former coaches and teammates, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, John Thompson, Kyle Macy, Joe B. Hall, Ralph Sampson, Jack Ramsay, David Stern and Clyde Drexler, among others.
Quotes from Going Big
Sam Bowie on his college injuries: “Every time I looked up, Ralph [Sampson] was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he was awarded the John Wooden Player of the Year [Award], I watched when Dominique Wilkins left Georgia…James Worthy, Isiah Thomas get drafted. I’m nowhere close to hearing my name called. And looking back on it now when I took off for that last alleyoop that was the last time that I was 100% sound physically. It’s been a nightmare ever since that play.”
Bowie on being examined by Portland prior to 1984 NBA Draft: “I can still remember them taking a little mallet, and when they would hit me on my left tibia, and ‘I don’t feel anything’ I would tell ‘em. But deep down inside, it was hurting. If what I did was lying and what I did was wrong, at the end of the day, when you have loved ones that have some needs, I did what any of us would have done.”
Bowie looking back at his career: “A lot of memories run through your mind. Kid from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, makes it all the way to a program like the University of Kentucky… I’m 51 years old now and my legs are broke down. I’m very proud, don’t feel like I owe an apology to anyone. The bottom line is: Sam Bowie was drafted before Michael Jordan and you’re gonna have to accept that.”
ESPN Films launched the “Storied” documentary series in September 2011, presenting fans the opportunity to explore the rich athletic history of the Southeastern Conference. From extraordinary athletes and coaches to defining games and moments, the “Storied” series features films from the SEC’s recent and more distant past.
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing compelling sports stories. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. Additional projects from ESPN Films include, among others, the critically acclaimed and Television Academy Honor-winning 16th Man, Cannes Film Festival official selection The Two Escobars, and the Peabody Award-winning Black Magic. More recent projects include Catching Hell, from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and The Announcement, from filmmaker Nelson George. 30 for 30 Volume II has featured documentaries Broke, directed by Billy Corben, and 9.79*, directed by Daniel Gordon. For more information on 30 for 30, go to espn.com/30for30/.
SEC on ESPN
ESPN, Inc., and the Southeastern Conference entered into a landmark 15-year agreement for extensive football, men’s and women’s basketball, Olympic sports and conference championship content across multiple ESPN entities beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. As a result, ESPN Regional Television became the over-the-air syndication home for Southeastern Conference programming and the largest college sports syndication television package in the country. In 2012, SEC Network basketball games were distributed in 77 local television markets, representing 50.4 million homes, which is 44% of the U.S.; 2011 SEC Network football games were distributed in 99 local television markets, representing 79.1 million homes, which is 69% of the U.S.
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