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The Independent Critic

Raymond Lewis (archival footage), Jerry Tarkanian (archival footage), Kamilah Rae Lewis, Dr. Harry Edwards, Sonny Vaccaro, Lorenzo Romar
Ryan Polomski
82 Mins.

 "Raymond Lewis: LA Legend" Arrives on VOD 
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If you're a lifelong basketball fan like me, there's a decent chance you're already familiar with the name Raymond Lewis. He's long been worthy of a feature doc and that's exactly what happens with Ryan Polomski's Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend, a shortlisted flick for the prestigious 2022 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film that had a week-long theatrical run in Los Angeles before arriving on most major VOD outlets this past month. 

Raymond Lewis was one of the greatest players of the game to never actually play a single game of pro ball in the ABA or NBA. A phenom from Watts, California, many believe Lewis, drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, was blackballed by professional teams following an ugly contract dispute. The shy first-round pick from South Central waged a decade long battle to make his way into the NBA. Lewis still made his name in street ball, however, Lewis never did get into the NBA and, equally as tragic, ended up passing away at the young age of 48. For many, Lewis's treatment was undeniably racially motivated and Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend puts forth this argument with disciplined precision. 

In addition to the Ken Burns prize nomination, Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend was a Special Jury Selection for Best Feature Documentary at the 2021 Pan African Film Festival, won Best Documentary at the 2021 San Pedro International Film Festival and was an official selection at the 2021 Black Harvest Film Festival, 2021 Bronze Lens Film Festival, 2021 Houston International Sports Film Festival, and 2021 Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival.

While I knew pieces of Lewis's story, Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend is a complex exploration of Lewis's life including his high school years where he led Verbum Dei High to an 84-4 record over his high school career. By the time Lewis arrived at Cal State LA for what would prove to be a short college stint, Lewis's reputation as a fantastic pure shooter was already settled leading to his being drafted in the first round by the 76ers. 

Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend is the kind of film that both basketball fans and those who appreciate stories about civil rights will love. Lewis's life story is without a doubt iconic in both areas and if you don't know a thing going into the film you'll be profoundly moved from beginning to end and likely even more enraged. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic