by Will Selva
Several years ago, I interviewed television and movie star Will Ferrell. The former Saturday Night Live cast member came to our ESPN studios to promote his 2008 basketball comedy Semi-Pro.
Written by Scot Armstrong and directed by Kent Alterman, Semi-Pro is set in the 1970s and tells the story of Jackie Moon, a former singer (played by Ferrell) who buys the (fictitious) Flint Tropics, the worst team in the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA). The ABA only existed from 1967 to 1976, when it merged with the National Basketball Association (NBA). Only four of its teams made it to the NBA: the Indiana Pacers, the Denver Nuggets, the New York (now New Jersey) Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs. This merger serves as an important plot point in the movie, as Moon learns that the ABA Commissioner plans to allow the four best teams in the league to join the NBA. As the team’s owner, head coach, and power forward, Moon brings the Tropics to the top of the league by introducing the alley-oop shot. The film co-stars André Benjamin (also known as Andre 3000) of Outkast, Woody Harrelson, and Andy Richter, along with regular Ferrell collaborators Rob Corddry, Tim Meadows, Ed Helms, and David Koechner.
In 2008, Semi-Pro won Best Sports Movie at ESPN’s ESPY Awards. Also in 2008, Will Ferrell released Step Brothers, in which he played a “man-child” along with the Academy Award-nominated actor John C. Reilly. In 2010, he starred in the dramedy Everything Must Go, which is about a man who conducts a garage sale of all his possessions after losing his job and his wife on the same day. Ferrell also temporarily replaced the departing Steve Carrell for four episodes on NBC’s The Office.