Review – ESPN Films’ “144” is an Emotional Look Back at the Unprecedented 2020 WNBA Season

People don’t need to be reminded that 2020 was a difficult year for a lot of reasons. ESPN Films’ latest feature, 144, takes us back to the height of the pandemic and does so in order to amplify the voices of the 144 WNBA players who played their season in a bubble while speaking out for social justice. It was an unprecedented season for sure, but what this new documentary film teaches us is that it was also about a whole lot more than just basketball.

144 follows players and coaches from all 12 WNBA teams, as well as executives who traveled to Bradenton, Florida last year to play out the 2020 season in the safety of a bubble. COVID-19 of course had a major impact on the world of sports and the fear of spreading the virus resulted in all 144 players living, practicing and playing within the same area.

The focus of this documentary however is not just on the pandemic and how it affected the lives of all of these players and their families. While we do get a look at how they all coped with this new living situation, the primary focus is more on their quest for social justice. The players decided to play out this tumultuous season in order to give themselves a platform to speak out for change. If anything, this documentary gives them even more of a platform to help them get their message across.

144 is a fantastic look inside what was truly a bizarre and once-in-a-lifetime experience for so many people. While the content of this documentary is obviously incredibly heavy and important, there’s also just enough sprinkled throughout to make you smile. Moments between players and their children will put a smile on your face and exciting highlight packages from the fierce competition will get your heart pumping.

The overwhelming majority of this documentary however, is incredibly emotional. While we are still very much in the thick of the pandemic and the call for social justice, the imagery and the words from these women are certainly moving. They create a window into their worlds and allow viewers to see their unique perspectives on everything that’s been going on for the past year plus.

Overall, 144 is another great product from ESPN Films. While it can be difficult to already revisit subject matter focusing on the pandemic right now, it is still incredibly timely given the rest of the focus of this doc. This is one of those sports documentaries that remind you that the world is so much bigger than just sports, and yet athletes can do so much more with the platform they’ve received from the sport they play. And, on top of all of that, it’s also a unique look inside a truly unprecedented season featuring some of the best basketball players in the world.

144 will premiere tonight (Thursday, May 13) at 9 PM ET on ESPN and will be made available on ESPN+ immediately following its premiere.

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