I like the fascination of entertainment,” says Kevin Edwards, NBA player turned film producer. “Basketball is pretty much an entertainment business and I was looking to move away from it at the time, so I thought [investing in a movie] was a nice transition into doing something different," Edwards says. "I really liked the idea of creating something on film. I had never thought about it until then, but the fascination and excitement of filmmaking is pretty much a standard for everyone.”
During the 11 seasons that Kevin played in the NBA with the Miami Heat, the New Jersey Nets, the Orlando Magic, and the Vancouver Grizzlies, he also began developing a collection of African-American art. It was during a discussion with his art dealer that he first heard of a film—eventually called Joy Road—that was looking for investors. “Once I became an investor, I was going to castings and doing all of the due diligence when you’re preparing for a movie,” says Kevin. “I really enjoyed it. Day by day, I started getting more involved, calling vendors, learning the business of the film industry.” He suddenly went from being an investor to actually producing the movie.
Joy Road is a drama about a successful lawyer from a bad neighborhood (Wood Harris, The Wire) who returns to defend a gang leader facing a murder charge at the behest of his sister (N’Bushe Wright, Blade). Over the course of a volatile investigation, he has to discover the truth about the crime and come to terms with the life he may have had if he never made it out of the neighborhood. It’s also a look at how the modern justice system operates when private prisons are run for profit by corporations. The movie was accepted to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival as a rough cut, made it to theaters across the country last November, and is now available for purchase on Amazon.
Did he find any similarities between playing pro ball and producing a movie? “They both rely on teams,” says Kevin. “In sports, relying on teamwork is obvious. In the film industry, everybody has different specific areas of expertise and they work toward the same goal. It’s very teamwork-based.”
After production on Joy Road, Kevin returned to the court as part of the coaching staff at DePaul University, his alma mater. His official position is Director of Community, Corporate, & Professional Relations, where he acts as the liaison between the former players in the professional world and the current program, as well as using his life experience to mentor the student athletes. “When the chance came up for me to do something [with DePaul], I jumped at it,” says Kevin. “I’ve been the place where [the college players] all ultimately want to end up. So I tell them about my experiences in the NBA and hopefully it helps them.”
A career in the film industry is as coveted an occupation as a career in professional sports. Kevin is one of the few people to have had enough success in both industries to say which job is more fun. “I would have to say being an NBA player,” says Kevin. “I really enjoyed the competitiveness of the NBA and the camaraderie you have with your teammates. In the movies, it’s like a little family for three or four months, but I spent four or five years with the guys I used to play with. They are your family.”