Double Dribble: The Story of “The White Shadow” (Part 3 of 5)

The White Shadow depicted issues concerning Coach Reeves and his players without being preachy, moralistic, or condescending to the audience.

In Just One of the Boys, Raymond Collins transfers from Palisades High School to Carver High School.  Collins’ father hoped that a transfer to Carver would toughen up Collins, branded a homosexual at Palisades High.  Collins has an aggressive playing style, piquing Reeves’ curiosity.  The issue reveals itself when Salami and some other players spot a basketball game while cruising in Salami’s car, affectionately nicknamed Motel California.  Thorpe challenges the team with his usual loquaciousness.  “Excuse the interruption.  We’re from the Carver Academy of Basketball and other fine arts.  We’ve been traveling throughout this fair community, teaching the sport to those less fortunate than ourselves.  We were observing your play from our company car and we thought that you might benefit from one of our clinics.”

Knowing Collins, the other team offers not-so-subtle hints about his sexual preferences.  In turn, word spreads and Buchanon thinks Reeves revealed the information.  Reeves rebuts her.  “Forget it.  Unless I was whispering in my sleep when some of Carver’s finest were robbing my place.”

Hayward explains the issue further for Reeves.  “Look, nobody down here owns a lot of stuff, except cockroaches and a reputation.  If you score down here, the reason’s simple.  It’s cause you’re strongest.  I mean if you get in a  fight when you’re six or seven years old, ain’t nobody gonna try to stop it.  They might bet on you.  Or bet against you.  See who’s gonna win, who’s gonna come out on top.  Who’s gonna get a reputation.  That’s the way it is.  Down here, gay dude’s on the bottom of the totem pole.”

Collins reveals the truth, which has to do more with sexual confusion than sexual preferences.

In Sudden Death, Randy Judd tries out for the basketball team with fatal results.  A freshman with high potential, Judd’s raw talent inspires Reeves to approach Judd’s parents about letting their son play.  During a practice, Judd remarks on his fatigue.  Thinking it’s the usual complaining from a player, Reeves dismisses it.  “What do you mean to tell me?  It’s gonna kill you to run ten laps after twenty minutes on the court?”  That’s exactly what happens.  Judd collapses from an aneurysm and dies.  Reeves’ guilt over the death is misplaced as Willis tells him that the aneurysm probably could not have been detected.  While Mrs. Judd blames Reeves, Mr. Judd praises him.  “I never knew Randy to be happier than when he made your team.  I’m glad he had a chance to experience joy.  It was a gift.  Thank you.”

In Bonus Baby, greed seduces Coolidge when an unscrupulous agent tries to sign him to a contract.  The agent employs a beautiful woman who intensifies Coolidge’s vision of money, women, and fame.  But Reeves saves Coolidge from himself by introducing him to one of the agent’s former clients, now a dishwasher whose story about the agent and the woman parallels Coolidge’s.  In Georgia On My Mind, Coolidge has delusions of grandeur, again, when he wants to quit high school to play professional basketball.   The Harlem Globetrotters guest star in this episode, teaching Coolidge that he’s not ready.  This is the second appearance of the Globetrotters in The White Shadow.  They first appeared in the episode Globetrotters to teach the Carver High players a lesson in humility.

The White Shadow showcased disabilities in the episodes A Silent Cheer and Mainstream.  In A Silent Cheer, a deaf player joins the basketball team, though his deafness is not immediately discovered.  He reveals to Reeves that he just wanted to hear the crowd cheer again.  Reeves tells him that he knows exactly how he feels.  In Mainstream, an autistic boy is on the Carver High team as an experiment.  He steals the Carver High peanut mascot costume, consequently causing chaos on the court by dancing around.  At the end of the episode, Reeves puts him in the game while the Carver High players form a perimeter so he can take a shot.

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