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New DVD documents ‘Telfair’ for the dramatic

Tae Andrews | Wednesday, April 12, 2006

“Right here, this is MSG. We call it The Garden.”

“Through the Fire” begins with Sebastian “Bassy” Telfair dribbling a basketball on his way to play at “The Garden,” a streetball court nicknamed after Madison Square Garden where aspiring hoops hopefuls play out their dreams of NBA glory. At its heart, that’s what “Through the Fire” is- a tale of dreams.

Shot as a documentary, “Through the Fire” follows basketball phenomenon Sebastian Telfair during his senior year of high school. The camera descends on Coney Island in chronicling a gritty rags-to-riches tale of the American dream viewed through the microcosm of an urban cityscape.

Through Telfair’s thick Coney Island accent, the viewer can hear the street, the hardship of growing up poor in a bad neighborhood. However, as he struts down the street, dribbling the ball and playing with little kids, Telfair retains a sort of playful innocence that belies the rough circumstances of his upbringing.

Another interesting glimpse into Telfair’s life is the footage of Team Telfair, or the family members who surround the rising star. Telfair is the cousin of Stephon Marbury, another New York City streetballer who made it to the NBA and is currently a point guard for the New York Knicks. Obviously, Marbury is the one who “made it” and represents where Bassy is trying to go.

On the other hand, there is Jamel Thomas, Telfair’s older brother who wasn’t drafted despite leading the Big East in scoring during his time playing for Providence University. Now playing professionally in Greece, Thomas represents a different prospect – the fear of not making it, the brother whose dream died.

Somewhere in between is Daniel Turner, another of Sebastian’s brothers who works tirelessly with Bassy as personal coach and trainer. Rounding out the family is Sebastian’s mother, with whom he has a very close relationship, and his little brother Ethan, who idolizes his brother and dreams of playing in the NBA himself.

Every member of the family is involved in Telfair’s career in their own capacity. Apparently producing a straight-to-the-pros high school phenom is like trying to tackle Reggie Bush – it takes a village.

And there’s also a tremendous amount of pressure on Bassy’s sub-six foot frame to come through – the entire future of his family rests on his slight shoulders. But what capable shoulders they are.

Telfair is reminiscent of another famous Sebastian – namely, Johannes Sebastian Bach, only Bassy is a virtuoso with a basketball instead of a conductor’s wand. A child prodigy (Telfair first showed his unusual talent when he was six years old), he has a certain creative basketball genius that combines quickness with an active imagination. Telfair is frequently shown slicing his way through traffic for all manner of improbable layups and flashy no-look passes.

Throughout the film, Bassy mentions his dreams of buying his mom a mansion and leaving the projects. In one of his happiest moments, he turns to the camera and, in conspiratorial nature, lets the audience in on the secret that he has bought his big brother Jamel a brand-new BMW.

During one game, Telfair defeats fellow NBA prospect Dwight Howard’s high school team with a last-second buzzer-beater, proving Bassy’s “Telfair” for the dramatic. However, as his Abraham Lincoln High School team battles the other New York City teams on the way to the championship, Telfair suffers a scary experience with a turned ankle that demonstrates just how fragile his dream of NBA status is.

As his legend grows, Telfair signs a multi-million dollar shoe deal, lands a photo shoot for the cover of Sports Illustrated and plays in the McDonald’s High School All-American Game. He enjoys all the perks of sports celebrity in America, hobnobbing with politicians, sneaker executives and, perhaps more importantly, Jay-Z.

Playing against rival school Cardozo in the championship game, Bassy goes from dreaming on The Garden streetball court to playing in the actual Madison Square Garden. When he gets drafted into the NBA, one thing is for sure about this perpetually happy, slightly goofy teenager with the million-dollar smile – Sebastian Telfair is living the dream.