Top Class director Tevin Tavares shared his experiences about what it was like to create the documentary series about Sierra Canyon.
In the upcoming documentary series, “Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers,” releasing February 26 on Amazon Prime Video, we get an intimate look at the raucous environment that followed every move of the most famous high school basketball team in the country. Viewers are also given their first look into what it’s like to be Bronny James, approved by the James family.
Top Class Director Tevin Tavares doesn’t take the trust he’s been given from the James family lightly. He knows just how special it is to be the first person to conduct an on-camera interview with Bronny.
“He’s guarded,” Tavares said about the James family’s approach to telling the story of Bronny’s basketball career. “That’s the one thing I will say that I respect about Savannah and LeBron, they make sure that they control the story. Because the amount of questions that reporters would ask him would be wild.”
Bronny typifies the experience for many of the Canyon players. They may have massive followings, but the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers are still kids.
“I think he’s humble, he’s smart, intelligent, funny, he loves his siblings. He’s still a kid,” Tavares says. “But he takes the pressure so well. And he’s respectful. Every time he saw me and the crew he would say what’s up. He would always joke around on camera. Sometimes he would have the VHS, sometimes Bryce would have the VHS recording stuff. Good, good kid.”
But as Tavares conveys in Top Class exceptionally well, Bronny is one part of an incredibly unique moment in time and a unique program in the country. Sierra Canyon’s basketball team operates almost like a European soccer club, finding players from all over the country and even China, to win at the highest level.
But it’s also a high school, one which the kids like Amari Bailey point out, that is geared towards the success of their students by having small class sizes.
“One day these kids are in Biology class and then the next day they’ve got 17,000 people screaming at them,” Tavares said.
Among some of the more poignant moments in the documentary involve Bailey, who puts on a show when the TrailBlazers make their trip to China after reflecting on how incredible it is to have made it all the way around the world because of a basketball. At 15 years old. Tavares felt a special connection with Bailey.
“Amari is an Aquarius and I’m an Aquarius as well. We didn’t even know if he was going to be featured on camera when we started. But as the season went on and on, the camera started getting more of him and when we sat down with him, he’s so smart. And he was only a sophomore, he was giving me so many gems and I was saying, this kid is light years ahead of his age.”
Perhaps if there’s one constant thread in the story is the struggle these kids face as basketball players with more fans than NBA teams and also the desire to simply be a kid.
And for Tavares, 26, he still finds himself in awe of the moment he was able to capture because of what started as his 18-year old dream. He first got inspired to become a filmmaker because of the legendary “Ringmaker” commercial that Nike made after LeBron James won his first championship ring. That he’s now directed a documentary series executive produced by LeBron, featuring his son, makes it feel “full circle,” as he experienced things he’d ever seen before in sports.
“In Virginia, there was an energy there that was like a college basketball game and a Super Bowl. There was an MC. Like NBA Street type of stuff. It felt like I was at a concert. I played sports all of my life and I had never experienced anything like that before at an NBA game.”
Of course, the Life and Times of the Trailblazers were not all increased followers, adoring fans and a lot of fun. We get to see the not-so-great side to being the son of a superstar with Zaire Wade, but we also see the heartwarming moments when his teammates hold him up.
We also see the team at a time of tragedy across the world following Kobe Bryant’s death, including an intimate look at LeBron James during his first public appearance after Bryant’s death, at a Sierra Canyon game in which they honored Bryant. The team also comes to grips with having their opportunity to win a state championship canceled due to the coronavirus.
There’s been no shortage of coverage of Bronny or Sierra Canyon. But what Top Class is able to do is cut through the noise and bring you an authentic and artistic look at a special group of kids, who both belies the maturity of professionals but also the natural desire to still be a kid while they can.