Takin' It Back

The Novel

Takin' It Back, previewed in June 2005 at Book Expo America in NYC and its hardcover edition was released in September of that year. Shaquille O'Neal and the NBA have endorsed the book along with Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton, and the Police Activities League. A CBS one-hour Sports Spectacular Pride, Passion, and Power introduced John Kuri and promoted the novel while presenting a segment about Anita Ortega. She is a UCLA All American NCAA Hall of Fame basketball player now the Commanding Officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollenbeck Division, and whose inspiring character is at the center of this story.

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4 minute segment

In 2015 the screenplay adaptation of the novel was selected for the Global Script Challenge held by the Oaxaca International Film Festival, one of the world's top 25 festivals.

 

 

The Motion Picture

Premise

Danny Smith, an LAPD lieutenant who's seen it all but somehow hasn't lost the essence of the job, "To Protect and to Serve", is talked into what becomes a passionate avocation by his new and persuasive partner, Kathy Montalvo, a mid-twenties, attractive, former women's collegiate basketball star. These two take on the coaching of a teenage ragtag playground basketball team whose coach, an off-duty officer, falls victim to a gang related shooting as the story opens.

Danny and Kathy find the reward of getting involved with this group of fatherless boys, young people who if left to streets, could also fall victim to the gangs and the drugs they deal. The irony, Danny's own teenage son, Chris, seems unreachable. Chris is walking a fine line, the wrong side of which could be fatal. Danny can't quite get Chris to see this.

Synopsis

In a low income section of Hollywood a ragtag basketball team of teens suffers the tragic loss of their coach, an off-duty police officer, when he falls to a sniper's bullet in the middle of the ball court at the city playground. One of the boy's, John Paul, a sixteen-year-old Black, is wrongfully suspected by the LAPD. Through his interrogation he meets both Kathy Montalvo, a mid twenties rookie police officer, and veteran officer, Danny Smith, Kathy's lieutenant.

Danny's unit becomes immersed in community issues, guiding distraught neighbors at a gathering organized by the police department to help rid the streets of gang influences. This gathering exposes Danny and Kathy to conditions on the playground where they see John Paul and his team.  Kathy realizes the boys need guidance and manages to convince Danny to join her in coaching the boy's floundering basketball team. Danny comes to understand that his own failings with his nineteen year old son strongly motivate him.

Kathy's love of athletics, basketball in particular, makes her quite competitive. All the boys are impressed with her skill, the one exception being John Paul's best friend, Michael. Michael is white, sixteen, and proud. He is the one holdout who resents what he considers to be an intrusion by the police officers. Roxanne, the siren, enters Michael's life like a huge tempting piece of candy. He's very distracted by her and greatly desires to impress her. In a moment of conflict with Kathy and Danny, Michael quits the team. Kathy later discovers why the boy is packing so much resentment. His single mother's life of booze and drugs is more than an embarrassment. It is apparent to all, including John Paul, that Michael is walking a line far to close to danger.

Danny's son, Chris, is a source of concern in his life. He's lost drugs and alcohol. As skillful as he is with the boys on the court Danny can't motivate any changes in his own son's life.

Through a lot of work the team comes together. Kathy pushes to get them entered into a citywide competition being held in the mountains near Los Angeles. Even though it may be way over their ability she and Danny agree that it would be a huge experience for these underprivileged kids.

Michael is invited to meet Roxanne at an underground club. She's figuring he'll bring her some "Ecstasy"; he figures it's a date. To his impressionable eyes the club is very glamorous. Roxanne appears to be very happy to see him and is all over him until she realizes he has no drugs. She dumps him like trash.

Michael heads back to the neighborhood, very alone. He spies on his old team, not allowing them to know how much he wishes he was still part of it. But the team has been incomplete since Michael quit. They badly need a center. At a team meeting Kathy suggests getting Michael back but can easily see that John Paul is hurt by his friend's abandonment.

As it happens, Crack, a dark character who sells drugs around the playground, has drawn Michael in to work for him. On a fateful night, Michael waits for Crack, innocently thinking he's going to get paid well for doing some work. Chris, who is also meeting Crack, introduces himself to Michael. Neither of them realize they're connected through Danny. The boys end up witnessing Crack's death from a gunshot fired by an angry store owner who Crack has just robbed. The boys end up in custody and in the hands of Danny. It becomes readily apparent that they had nothing to do with the crime that brought Crack's death but Danny does his best to turn the experience into a huge lesson.  Danny takes Michael home from the police station that night and witnesses what his life with his mother is about. Believing that he really has learned a lesson he makes an almost desperate attempt to change things and offers Michael the opportunity to rejoin the team, which Michael gladly accepts. Danny insists he square things with John Paul, however.

John Paul makes a deal with Michael; that he be a team player and stuff his attitude. Roxanne having heard about Michael's now famous night and Crack's death, comes on to him. As part of his new pact with himself, he steels himself to her charms and rejects her. At home, though, he's faced with a situation he can't handle. Alicia and he are about to be evicted. In what could be considered theft, he borrows money from Sanchez, his employer, without permission.

Chris voluntarily gets involved with his grandfather's life, helping out Danny without him having to ask for it. This is Chris's way of illustrating the new road he's taking.

In the mountains the basketball competition is intense. Once the boys get over the pressure of playing under that kind of stress they begin to win. The cabin in which they're housed requires a lot of team work to make it livable. Through all that the team and the two coaches grow to be a family.

In a tense final game our boys manage to win the Bronze medal. The celebration at home is the equivalent of the return of the conquering heroes from war. The local press, TV cameras and the whole neighborhood turn out. That moment of glory is almost taken from Michael as the truth of his theft is admitted. The loving and understanding Sanchez, however, makes it possible for Michael to learn the lesson without suffering the potential huge consequence.

United for a press photo we see a team, now pulling for each other, guided by two unlikely coaches who are appreciated by a community that has seen them make a difference and prove that they can take their neighborhood and lives back from the grip of the evil.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief of Police William J. Bratton, flanked by LAPD Cmndr Mike Downing and Capt Anita Ortega, after accepting his hand-carved commemorative plaque from author, John Kuri, at the book launch event in Hollywood.

We are concurrently developing a reality television program titled HoopDream Team that will present the nationwide search for the five inner city teens who will be cast to play the boys in Takin' It Back. NBA greats Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Tim Hardaway, and Udonis Haslem, in addition to Anita Ortega and NBA Hall of Famer Sonny Hill have agreed to participate as jurors with John Kuri during production of HoopDream Team.   Visit Takin' It Back on Google+

October 11, 2009 the Takin' It Back and HoopDream Team projects were discussed with Philadelphia's Mr. Basketball, Sonny Hill, on WIP 610/ CBS Sports Radio, on his morning show, "In the Living Room."  We are working closely with Sonny Hill, founder of the Sonny Hill League, who is executive adviser for the Philadelphia 76ers and member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, plus a recipient of the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

We present the conversation here in two parts, each running approximately 11 minutes.


  WIP CBS Sports Radio  
Part 1
 In the Living Room with Sonny Hill
 Part 2

 

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