When it comes to basketball royalty in Kansas City, the Rush brothers are king.
Now, there’s an award-winning short documentary about their lives: “The Rush Brothers.” It focuses on the eldest Rush, JaRon, and the off-court troubles at UCLA that halted his career.
The film’s director, Jordan Haro, was working on a different documentary when he came in contact with Bonnie Jill, a former NBA scout and current broadcaster who is the girlfriend of Kareem, the middle brother.
“She said I should contact Kareem, who had an interesting family and life story,” Haro said. “So I did, and we got working from there.”
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That was two years ago, Haro said. Since then, he’s been working on the film as a side project.
The documentary revolves around JaRon, arguably one of the best basketball players to come out of the Kansas City area, and how his playing days were plagued by an NCAA suspension for accepting money from his AAU coach, as well as a drinking problem.
Haro found JaRon and his family’s story compelling to the point that he figured a national outlet like ESPN would pick it up, so he never fully concentrated on the film.
“This has been something in your back pocket that you know it’s ready,” said Haro, 24, who lives in Los Angeles. “When the time is right you can pull it out.
“It just came together in the last two months. It was kind of on the side and it’s really grown.”
The original documentary won DirecTV’s Next Great American Documentary competition this past week for original programming to be featured by the company.
Thad Matula, who produced The Rush Brothers and has worked on ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, said Haro’s work ethic and relationship made the part-time project into a success.
“It was all him and his passion because of, he had that kind of access and built that kind of trust with Kareem,” Matula said.
“Jordan would just keep filming stuff. Eventually Jordan just decided that he had all this footage that he was gonna go ahead and make a documentary about this.”
Haro said JaRon spoke sincerely and openly about his past.
“He’s pretty real about it,” Haro said. “It’s pretty cool because it’s his life and he knows it best. I think it’s obviously the nature of the story. It’s a tough thing for him to talk about, all things considered; he’s pretty cool about it.”
Haro said he hadn’t met JaRon until two months ago, when he finally had enough funds to make the trip to Kansas City.
Kareem, who starred at Missouri and played for the NBA’s Lakers, Bobcats, SuperSonics, 76ers and Clippers, also had a large role in the piece. He also spoke candidly about his brother and the family dynamic, Haro said.
“He knows what he could have been,” Kareem says of JaRon in the documentary. “After seeing all his contemporaries, who he dominated, go on and make hundreds of millions of dollars … he was hands down better than all of them.”
Brandon Rush, the youngest brother who just won an NBA championship with the Warriors and was a member of Kansas’ 2008 NCAA title team, played a smaller role in the documentary than his brothers. But in one scene, KU basketball coach Bill Self points out one of Brandon’s best games, vs. Kentucky as a freshman, was because of JaRon.
“The first time JaRon saw him play was when we played Kentucky, and Brandon turned out,” Self says during the documentary. “It was all because JaRon was there. He was proud.”
Brandon also points out that Kevin Durant, then playing at Texas, once asked him about JaRon and said he was his favorite player growing up. “That’s kind of crazy,” Brandon says.
The Rushes’ mother, Glenda, and grandmother, Jeanette Jacobs, also appear, along with several high-profile figures, including Self, former UCLA coach Steve Lavin and NBA player Nate Robinson.
The documentary, which is currently nine minutes and 20 seconds, will be extended to an 80-minute feature on DirecTV. It will include appearances from NBA player Trevor Ariza and former Kansas player Danny Manning. Production will continue through October.