Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah couldn't shake the experience of meeting a crying woman at an outdoor basketball court. After approaching her to make sure everything was all right, he found out what was troubling her: It was the very same court where her brother was shot and killed.
Noah wanted to do something, but in that moment he was at a loss. The experience, however, propelled him to produce a mini-documentary targeting gun violence.
Chicago leads the nation in terms of gun violence, and many members of the Bulls have had direct experiences with the tragedy that follows. Noah managed to recruit teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson to share their personal stories on video, resulting in an emotional but affecting nine-minute short film.
In the film, Rose describes the loss he suffered due to gun violence in Englewood, a south Chicago neighborhood where he grew up. Power forward Taj Gibson, who hails from Brooklyn, describes the experience of losing a good friend who was shot in the head -- as well as his thoughts of getting revenge.
Gibson's loss occurred between his first and second seasons in the NBA, and it brought his thoughts
"It was right before training camp," he says. "My whole mind frame changed. I didn't care about anything. I was just so mad all the time. I was short-fused."
The film also features the woman Noah met at the playground, whose personal experience helped. inspired the film. Noah explains on-camera that while his impulse was to help, he understood there was nothing he could physically do.
"As much as I wanted to help, sometimes the best thing to do is just listen," he says.
Noah enlisted documentary filmmaker Alex Kotlowitz to help make the film. Noah and Kotlowitz are now hoping to have the film played in classrooms in Chicago and elsewhere, educating kids on the dangers of gun violence -- even as the film tries and connect with the emotions that sometimes drive individuals to do dangerous things.
For Gibson, the prospect of reciprocating the violence suffered by his friend only went away after he sought out therapy and grief counseling. But the feelings and struggle to accept what happened still stick with him.
think about it every morning, every day. Even if I'm just daydreaming, I just think about him."