Between Change Can Dunk and the upcoming series The Crossover, 2023 is turning out to be quite the year for basketball on Disney+. While the former is a compelling coming-of-age underdog story, the latter is an inspiring tale about the power of a strong familial support system.
Based on the novel of the same name by Kwame Alexander, the series tells the tale of two brothers and basketball phenoms named Josh and JB Bell. At the beginning of the first episode, we get a glimpse into the future. We are told that despite both of them wanting to make into the NBA only one of them does. Rather than give us the answer immediately, we’re transported to the “present” where both brothers are balancing life on and off the court.
Josh, played by Jalyn Hall (Hulu’s Bruiser), is unapologetically cocky – but for good reason. He knows he’s good, and he knows he’s good enough to make it to the NBA. There’s only one problem. His brother JB, played by Amir O’Neil (The Wonder Years), is just as good. In fact, if there were anyone that could give Josh a run for his allowance, it’s definitely JB. Their skills are part genetic, part discipline all thanks to their father, Chuck, played by Derek Luke (Captain America: The First Avenger). Their confidence comes complimentary of Sabrina Revelle’s Crystal, the mother and matriarch of the Bell household.
Although the school year begins without a hitch, a surprise tragedy forces all of the Bells to reevaluate their priorities. While Josh only becomes motivated to work harder, JB becomes unsure if he really wants to pursue basketball so seriously anymore. By the end of the first episode it’s clear that the title isn’t meant to just represent the dance both brothers must do on the court. It’s also a metaphor for the long journey they have ahead as they continue to navigate their respective goals and relationships into adulthood.
Now, compared to some of the other originals on Disney+, The Crossover is a nice change of pace. Not only because of its mature themes but because of its diverse characters. That’s not to discount a show like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which tackles similar themes about growing up as a teen in modern America. What makes this series feel so special though is that it’s not just told from the perspective of a few Black characters, but from the perspective of an entire Black family. As progressive as Disney is, the amount of shows it has produced over the last few decades with Black families at the forefront is in the single digits (and reboots of That’s So Raven and The Proud Family don’t count). So this series is more than just a step in the right direction; it’s a necessary and noteworthy mark of representation.
One of the best things about the series is that it’s a Trojan horse. It uses the Bell boys as a means of introducing you into this world, only to make you care about everyone else they know and everything else they do. For example, in addition to their mom and dad, you also meet their friends. One of them is a girl named Alexis (played by Skyla I’lece), who both boys fall for. Another is a longtime friend by the name of Maya (played by Deja Monique Cruz), who secretly has feelings for Josh. Granted, it is a bit of textbook teenage drama; however, getting to know these characters and how they feel keeps you invested in wanting to not only see how it all ends but to see that everyone gets their happy ending.
Having only seen the first couple of episodes, it’s obviously hard to say for sure if The Crossover will be great as a whole. Whether the entire season turns out to be a slam dunk or a missed foul shot, like any basketball game, it’s still a good watch. However, there’s no real way of knowing for sure unless you get up from the sidelines and see for yourself.