Dept. of Sexy Bald Men


Don’t freak out when I tell you this, but Ballers is an HBO series about the NFL. Now hear me out! 

It’s not really about American Football. It’s really about a sports agent who used to play in the NFL but is now trying to get into the business of being a sports agent. So it’s about as much about American football as Jerry Maguire was about American football. In fact, it has even less American football in it than Jerry Maguire.

But seriously though, don’t go. Did I mention that the agent is played by none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?

Dwayne Johnson in HBO's Ballers season 5

The series follows Dwayne Johnson as Stephen Strasmore, a former player turned agent who really cares about his clients. It was created by Stephen Levinson. And I am here to tell you that it is something that’s definitely worth checking out. Irrespective of whether or not you have any interest in sport.

Johnson is probably at his most “normal” here, and most comfortable. He plays Strasmore as an empathetic, strong willed, loving character. Not something you see him play very often. As a former NFL player, here is a guy who knows what it means to be in the position of some of his charges, as he tries to keep them on the straight and narrow. His own experience guiding them from jumping off a variety of personal and professional cliffs.

This is where Johnson’s acting chops really show up. He isn’t the proverbial hammer where every problem is a nail. He is an actual person, with an engaging personality, and Johnson’s performance is a breath of fresh air from an actor who is too often portrayed as either the weapon, Luke Hobbs (The Fast and the Furious franchise of movies), or the comic relief, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (the Jumanji franchise of movies).

Dwayne Johnson and Rob Corddry in HBO's Ballers season 5

As previously mentioned, the series was created by Stephen Levinson, who was also an executive producer on Entourage, the criminally underrated How To Make It In America, and the critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire. Ballers, however, is probably most akin to Entourage in its portrayal of a side of a business that isn’t as well known.

Just like Entourage, Levinson was able to showcase the less glamorous side of pro sports, as told from the point of view of an agent, and not the athlete directly. The show does have athlete characters (and a lot of actual pro athletes show up, very much like Entourage’s Hollywood cameos) but in the five seasons of the series, very little football is actually played out on screen. The bulk of the series is based around Johnson’s Strasmore as he first tries to convince his players that he is the real deal, and eventually scaling the NFL organisation as he fights off other agents, team owners, his own business partner, and of course his own personal demons.

Johnson’s chemistry with his business partner, played by Rob Corddry is just a joy to behold. Their relationship, is one of brothers, constantly arguing, jibing, and straining, with the love and respect they have for each other always bringing them back. 

Dwayne Johnson and Rob Corddry in HBO's Ballers season 5

Another notable mention is John David Washington as Ricky Jerret, the self destructing player trying his best to not to succumb to his insidious compulsions. John David Washington is a joy to watch as the cocky, always in trouble, but never at fault player trying to do right by himself. Ricky Jerret is the character that we all assume NFL players are, and he toes that line of being troublesome while still allowing audiences to empathise with his misdeeds. There’s a vulnerability that John David Washington brings to the character, as if he’s trying to right a wrong from his own past, or trying to fill a hole in his personality due to a previous injustice.

John David Washington in HBO's Ballers season 5

Some of my favourite sports movies have not really been about the sport. Think Brad Pitt in Moneyball, or Kevin Costner in Draft Day, these movies are less Friday Night Lights (another great movie with an even greater TV spin-off, but that’s an article for another time) or Any Given Sunday, they are about the people and the personalities behind the sport. The drama of sports is on the field of play and that is obvious and easy. And I personally watch enough sports to get my fill of that. The stories of agents and managers, of players and their families, of the camaraderie and brotherhood off the field is what I can’t get enough of.

Ballers recently ended its run after five seasons, and with all seasons available on HBO GO, now is the perfect time to get into it.

So if you’re not checking out Ballers because you think it’s about a sport you don’t care about, if that’s the only thing that holding you back, let me tell you right now to go ahead and give it a shot. It really isn’t about the sport. It’s about the personalities and characters that make up the sport. And that makes for some truly compelling television.

HBO, Season 5, 8 Episodes
Showrunner: Stephen Levinson
Writers: Stephen Levinson, Rob Weiss, and Jason Lew
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Rob Corddry, John David Washington, Omar Miller, Donovan W. Carter, Troy Garrity, London Brown, Christopher McDonald, Richard Schiff, Steven Weber, and Andy Garcia

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

Clive Davis and Whitney Houston
Previous Story

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Christian Bale in Adam McKay's Vice
Next Story


Latest from TV Reviews

Elite, Season 4

Can the students of Las Encinas maintain the high grades of previous