HARARE, Zimbabwe — Morganton native Taylor Sharp’s first filmmaking venture has been quite a journey, but the film itself has done some travelling, too.
In early August, Sharp returned to Zimbabwe, the site of inspiration for his film, “Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters.” He showed the film in the communities from which he drew material for the film, which first aired on NBA TV on Christmas Eve 2017.
In March of this year, Sharp, who also works with the area nonprofit organization Casting for Hope, brought the film back home to his alma mater, Patton High School, where he formerly was student body president. Students viewed the 47-minute film and then were able to participate in a Q&A session with Sharp about the project.
The film is a collection of stories that celebrates the past, present and future of basketball in Africa. It spotlights the sport’s impact on society and its development on that continent. It follows the dreams of a young Zimbabwean player and honors NBA legends who paved the way before him while journeying through the growth of the game in Africa. It centers on the basketball nonprofit organization Hoops 4 Hope in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Through another local screening and the generosity of folks in the area, Sharp was able to be true to the spirit of his film and help rebuild a basketball court in the community of Mbare, a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, with funds he raised.
The week before Sharp left to travel back to Zimbabwe, local supporters hosted a private screening and fundraiser in their Morganton home with 30 people in attendance, and the donations of those contributors went to support the basketball court project in Mbare.
“I returned to Zimbabwe earlier this month to show the film for the first time in the communities that inspired the documentary,” Sharp said. “Through funds raised at a private screening in Morganton, I actually was able to rebuild a court over there as well for kids to use for years to come.
“I've felt very connected with Morganton through friends, family and Casting for Hope — my work with CFH brings me to the area often and keeps my bonds strong. But this was a unique opportunity to bring my out of Morganton endeavors — in this case filmmaking and basketball efforts in Zimbabwe — into my hometown to let them in on this other side of my life. I feel so gracious that they were interested to hear and watch my story and felt compelled to support.”
According to Ngoni Mukukula, the director of Hoops 4 Hope Zimbabwe, both the game of basketball and the court that was rebuilt have a rich history in the Mbare community.
“The community of Mbare is the oldest township in Harare,” Mukukula said. “It is also the closest to the city. No wonder when basketball was first brought to Zimbabwe by the American Marines in the ’70s, the town was one of the first townships to embrace this fast paced and exciting game. The Harlem Globetrotters played on this court here in the early ’80s.
“Unfortunately, the court got into a state of disrepair over the years. The backboards were damaged by the weather elements and the floors were now a danger to the young people who were playing on it. So, when Taylor Sharp was fundraising for the purposes of building a new court, Hoops 4 Hope was quick to identify and recommend the Mbare court for repairs. This is the first the court was repaired in many years and the community leaders could not hide their joy at the sight of their new court. They were grateful for this help that they believe will help their kids stay off the streets and spend more time at the basketball courts learning and enjoying this incredible game.”
Fittingly, Sharp’s documentary also explores the role the African philosophy Ubuntu played in the Boston Celtics’ 2008 NBA championship. The South African concept Ubuntu translates to “human-ness” and is described as humanity toward others or "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity." The film also documents the historic 2015 NBA Africa Game.
The film features NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with playing and coaching legends like Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Paul, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine, Sam Cassell, Luol Deng, Luc Mbah a Moute and others.
“Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters” is available on both Apple iTunes and Amazon Prime.
For more information on the film, visit hoopsafricafilm.com, Hoops Africa on Facebook, and @hoopsafrica on both Twitter and Instagram.
Justin Epley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-432-8943.