Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sues producer for botching documentary

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sues producer for botching documentary

Fri Jan 29, 2010 @ 05:25AM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Kareem_abdul_jabaar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has sued a New York sports film production company for $1 million for failing to deliver a documentary based on the basketball legend's 2007 book about post-WWI black culture in time to be considered for this week's Sundance Film Festival.

According to the complaint, Abdul-Jabbar and his producing partner developed a screenplay based on his book, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance," and contacted William Zagger and his B-Train Films about producing a 90-minute film adaptation. Zagger and B-Train allegedly were paid $500,000 but failed to meet deadlines or deliver a releasable final cut on October 31, as promised. When a rough cut of the film was handed over, the producers also allegedly had failed to obtain legal clearances for use of the materials.

"The version of the picture Zagger and B-Train sent to (Abdul-Jabbar) on November 2, 2009 included numerous photographs and film and music clips for which defendants had failed to obtain any license or clearance," the complaint says. 

The multiple delays have prevented Abdul-Jabbar from offering it to Sundance, inking any distribution deals or arranging to have it shown at the NBA Hall of Fame or All-Star events. He's now finishing the film himself at the expense of several hundred thousand of dollars, he says, bringing his damages to at least $1 million. 

Abdul-Jabbar's book explores the black culture in New York after World War I and includes the story of what he calls the first world-championship basketball team, the 1939 Harlem Rens.  

Abdul-Jabbar's company Union/OSG alleges causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith, declaratory relief, promissory fraud, conversion and an accounting. The suit was filed Thursday by Marty Singer and Todd Eagan at Lavely & Singer.


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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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